Want an honest appraisal of how your content is going? Content Machine author Dan Norris is your man.
D an Norris is the bar-room brawler of Australian content marketing. Not to be confused with his namesake Chuck Norris, the author, speaker and entrepreneur is punch-to-your-face blunt when it comes to delivering content home truths. From his writings to his podcasts and social media posts, you get the sense he doesn’t know any other way.
Norris’s most recent book, Content Machine, promises to teach us “how to build a seven-figure business with zero advertising”. He writes about the things that helped him build his successful businesses on the back of simple content processes and strategies.
It’s raw, it’s simple and it’s direct. And it’s just the kind of practical advice that business owners and marketing managers should pay attention to if they want to find content success.
Perhaps because he’s from Australia, or specifically Queensland, Norris isn’t one for subtlety. He doesn’t tend to throw around fairy-floss language such as “epic” and “awesome”, and doesn’t seem to worry if there isn’t a lot of finesse to his message, either. Wham! Smash! Norris just tells it like it is, one jab at a time.
Content Machine is a valuable contribution to content marketing because it just says what needs to be done, based on solid real-life evidence.
In just mid 2013, Norris co-founded WP Curve, an all-hours support facility for the gigantic WordPress community. WP Curve now has more than 1000 active customers and completes more than 1000 jobs every week, and Norris says that content marketing continues to play a major role in its growth. Its easy-to-read blog carries stories from the mainstream (“10 hacks to blow up your Instagram account”) to the niche (“How to recover up to 87% of lost sales from WooCommerce cart abandonment”).
Norris’s latest project is Black Hops Brewing, a craft beer producer on the Gold Coast. Norris and two mates decided to start the business (“over a few beers”), with the aim of supplying bars in Queensland. Its website follows their story, and includes a 10-part podcast about their adventures in opening a brewery and cellar door called “Operation Brewery”.
“To build a real content machine you have to nail content quality, differentiation and scale.”Dan Norris
Content Machine looks at the basics of business building with content and identifies the mistake he says many owners and marketers make when they go about trying to grow an audience: “You have assumed that your job is to create content when really your job is to market a business”. He says the key is to find the “monetisation logic” to sit between “great content” and “a great business”. This is the sweet spot that justifies your content’s existence.
“Your content doesn’t have to be Red-Bull-sideways-driving video level, but it has to be high quality,” he writes. “You get there by understanding the fundamentals, playing to your strengths and being in tune with what your audience wants.”
Norris lists his “10 characteristics of a high-growth business”, tapping into his own experience and what he observed while doing his first book, The 7 Day Startup. Though slightly off-topic, the list of attributes is a typically straightforward and highly useful guide to what it takes to build a sound business. In brief, he says successful businesses need to be fundamentally profitable, are built by a team (rather than an individual), have a specific point of difference and must be regarded as a long-term proposition.
He says those businesses willing to take the content marketing “leap of faith” have to stick with it even when success is difficult to see. “Content marketing is about building trust, and you can’t build trust overnight,” he writes.
The bulk of Norris’s book aims to help readers understand how to create content that builds trust, grabs attention and can be done to scale. He also spends some space explaining how to come up with ideas, promote content (via email and social media), manage influencers and build a list of your very own brand “ambassadors”.
What Norris does very well is offer sensible step-by-step advice on which tools to use, including an invitation to use templates through his companion website (contentmachine.com). These include a 10-minute marketing strategy, style guide, guest writer submission template and ideas board. Like Norris, these are straightforward and offer pretty much everything you need.
As a service for those starting out on the content marketing journey, Norris also offers excellent examples of businesses doing it well and why. He says you could be a “hustler” like John Lee Dumas (Entrepreneur on Fire), a “pioneer” like Pat Flynn (Smart Passive Income) or a “giver” like Noah Kagan (AppSumo). He cites great Australian examples, too, such as Frank Body, which has used Instagram (#thefrankeffect) to create a global business selling coffee scrubs.
“To build a real content machine you have to nail content quality, differentiation and scale,” Norris writes. “Constantly monitor your progress and revisit your strategy if it’s not working . . . Make sure there is a logical step between your content and your business and don’t forget your business fundamentals. Great content can’t grow a fundamentally bad business.”
He then asks his reader to “be part of the 5 per cent that gets shit done”. “If you DO something after reading this book, then I’ve succeeded,” he writes. “If you don’t, then I’ve failed.” Wham! Smash!
Dan Norris has spoken. Best to listen.