The Content Marketing Genius of Napoleon Hill

I had an opportunity to read an article this weekend titled “The 7 Traits of Successful Content Marketers”. It just happens to be by Joe Pulizzi, one of my favorite content marketing experts and writers. He’s also the founder of the Content Marketing Institute. I highlighted a few of my favorite passages from his article below along with a link to read the rest. I would have never thought I would write something titled “The Content Marketing Genius of Napoleon Hill,” but here I am doing so now.

Content Marketers

Content Marketers or even just marketing people as a rule of thumb prefer to point out the many differences that exist between marketing and sales. I started my career in sales and then added marketing skills as the years went on. So I’ve always enjoyed the ability to see both sides of this argument. It boils down to marketers tend to see their job as a nuanced approach to gently persuading a potential customer to buy. They look at sales people as the sledgehammer in the sales and marketing process to close the deal. Salespeople look at marketing as the people who make the brochures and commercials and not much else. Both departments have been historically indifferent to the plight of the other while completely ignoring how important the other is to achieving their end goal of selling stuff to the customer.

Background in Marketing

Personally, I don’t see how you can be a great salesperson without having at least a half decent background in marketing also. Maybe that doesn’t work for a large company that is very touchy about their sales and marketing departments blending their boundaries. But small business does it all the time. The big companies that still wall off units tend to be dinosaurs in today’s close-knit relationship building sales environment.

In this article, Pulizzi shows how an iconic “sales” book, Napolean Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” can help content marketers grow their businesses. I say it’s a “sales” book because it’s one of the first books that new salespeople are told to read. That and watching movies like “Glen Gary Glen Ross,” “Boiler Room” and “Tin Men.” There are many others, but those are the top one’s usually told to new recruits. I usually added a few others to my favorites list like Will Smith’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” (yes, that’s how the movie is spelled). Sales is all about persistence and being focused on a goal. There aren’t many movies that portray this better than this.

The Book that Most Salespeople Consider to Be Their Sales Bible

I spent nearly 20 years in the insurance industry, so I did a ton of recruiting during that time. So imagine my surprise as I’m reading this article and it starts talking about THE book that most salespeople consider to be their sales bible and how it’s now being applied to marketing. Sacrilege! But it’s really not. It’s a great comparison. And now that I’ve read this, I completely agree. 

It may be because I also have decades of marketing experience that I have used to enhance my sales career. Maybe some people who have always been all sales would disagree. But this also goes along well with my personal belief that Napoleon Hill wrote “Think and Grow Rich” to be one of the first self-help type motivational books. I don’t think naming his book the content marketing genius of Napoleon Hill would have done much for sales back then. At the time when he wrote it back in 1937, there was no such thing as content marketing and motivational books were also very rare. Regardless, he did such an excellent job with this classic that it’s hard to think of it as being focused on any particular career.

So enjoy the article and let me know if I’m on the right track with my thinking here. I have read Think and Grow Rich so many times that I consider myself somewhat of an expert on Napoleon Hill’s writing. But I’m also open-minded to points made during a substantial discussion regarding the merits of this post. 7 Traits of Successful Content Marketers Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich was first published in 1937. Now, in its 80th anniversary year, Mr. Hill’s lessons are still extremely relevant and valuable.

I had the opportunity to dust off my copy of Think and Grow Rich (from 1960, with dog-eared and coffee-stained pages) a few weeks back during the holiday break. In its relation to content marketing, I noticed some clear takeaways that most corporate marketers simply do not embrace. In the book, 15 powerful chapters are helpful to all individuals, but seven chapters were spot-on relevant to content marketing. Here are quotes from the seven chapters with my notes for each one.

You can talk about all the things good content marketers should do to attract and retain customers – content strategy, content documentation, content integration, etc., but desire is numero uno. Everywhere I travel I hear the objection – most marketers simply do not have the desire to be THE informational resource for their customers and prospects – they don’t want it enough. They talk of content marketing as a chore … as a checklist of things to be done during the day, not as a core service to customers necessary for the company’s survival.

Look, you are competing not only with your competitors, but also with the media, Google, Game of Thrones, and every other distraction in your customers’ lives. To be THE go-to resource for them, you have to want it more than anything or anyone else. This is never easy, but it is much easier for smaller businesses headed by passionate people. Simply put, there is little to no politics to deal with, and a change agent can push through and make change happen.

In larger enterprises, there must be a content marketing champion who has the real desire to be the best and be given enough latitude to experiment and possibly even fail multiple times. Most large companies aren’t willing to do this, which is why smaller businesses have the ultimate opportunity when it comes to content marketing.

Wanting it is one thing, but actually believing you can be THE informational expert for your industry is another. When we started Content Marketing Institute, we firmly believed that we would be the informational resource for our industry. It was unquestioned. It was only a matter of time, energy, and persistence.

One of the biggest failures when it comes to content is a lack of specialization. I see HVAC companies blogging about the town festival. I see manufacturing companies creating articles on best HR practices. It hurts to see this.

Remember, if your content is for everybody, it’s for nobody.

“It has been said that man can create anything which he can imagine.”

Folks, there is no one way to be the leading content expert for your industry. That said, if you have the opportunity to apply resources from a number of areas, internal and external, do it. Brands doing it right have a chief content officer (leads the content strategy), a managing editor (oversees the process), content creators (internal and external), content producers, and content listeners.

Right now, we are in the midst of a marketing department revolution, where the marketing department is starting to look and feel more like a publishing operation. As a marketer, you need to not only recognize this trend, but also begin to operationalize your storytelling for the future, including developing a business model that drives direct revenues from the content you create. (Note: Robert is working on this for our next book coming out in September.)