Think Big, Start Small, Act Fast.

It’s busy isn’t it?  We just started the second half of 2018, and so I ask….

How’s your content marketing coming along?

I visited a client last week to help with their content marketing planning. The team was pressed for time with the start of their new fiscal year (July 1) approaching fast, and they unenthusiastically shared their plan for a new six-month campaign with me. (Already you content marketing experts see the challenge.)

It seemed … fine. You know, it was an ordinary, achievable set of content marketing assets. They even described it as “what we always do.”

The plan started with the creation of a lengthy e-book that would be rolled out through a series of blog posts to support demand generation campaigns. If possible, they’d create a few infographics in conjunction with the e-book to feed their social campaigns.

When I asked about the idea (or the story), the team told me it would feature some thought leadership around new innovations from their product R&D team.

The whole thing reminded me so much of a mantra I used to hear during my Silicon Valley startup days: Think big, start small, act fast. Except this team was doing the exact opposite.  They were thinking fast, starting small, and acting as if they were doing something big.

The challenge with this approach to content marketing is that it typically produces a lot of small marketing assets that never challenge the industry, affect audiences, or move the needle on business results.

So, I encouraged the team, instead, to reverse the approach, by starting with some brainstorming around an idea or story that might change their industry. I’m not kidding, the energy of the room changed almost instantly. As we started thinking about a big idea, instead of one they could execute quickly, the team members bubbled with excitement about the potential of the company’s new innovation; a monumental shift that might just change the landscape of their entire industry.

But when we started talking about creating a new content platform that could become the go-to educational resource for this new approach, the mood soured again.

“We don’t have time to build this,” they said.

“You’re probably right,” I admitted. “But, if we start big, we can figure out how to phase into it.” The key is to make bets on fewer, bigger ideas. Thinking big from the get-go changes how we start small.

Sure enough, as we started to map out the future, we quickly moved away from creating an e-book for one campaign. Instead, we moved toward creating the initial courses for an online university that would educate and build their audience.

The team could act fast to develop the online course, which they could repackage as an e-book to solve their shorter-term needs, as it worked on the longer-term platform.

I realize that sometimes you’re just trying to get through a campaign or create an asset to meet an immediate need. But, as you approach the half-year mark, maybe you can also make time in your planning to think big, then start small and act fast. As the imitable Ferris Bueller said, “Life can move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I’d add that if we don’t think bigger once in a while – we’ll never be bigger.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.