How This Fitness Expert Mastered the Subtle Art of Content Marketing–Without Marketing

Many small businesses — and all “influencers” — use some form of content marketing. Too bad most do it poorly. Think about it: Content marketing is a strategic approach to marketing that emphasizes the creation and delivery of valuable content to attract, retain and convert a clearly defined audience. Or, as HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah calls it, selling to humans.  That means you

Many small businesses — and all “influencers” — use some form of content marketing.

Too bad most do it poorly.

Think about it: Content marketing is a strategic approach to marketing that emphasizes the creation and delivery of valuable content to attract, retain and convert a clearly defined audience. Or, as HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah calls it, selling to humans

That means you must create content that people not only love, but also share. Which means your content can only solve your problem — attracting more customers — by first solving your customers’ problems. Becoming an authority, demonstrating broad expertise, building trust in your audience, that only happens when your content puts your audience first.

Hold that thought.

Now, check out YouTube fitness videos and you’ll notice most follow a similar pattern. A few “hero” shots to establish credibility, a little scene-setting, a little self-disclosure to encourage us to feel the presenter is just like us, a rambling discussion about the video’s topic, a few thinly-veiled product placements and sales messages sprinkled throughout… think five or ten minutes of conversation before any workout advice is given.

And then there’s Ryan Humiston.

Normally, this is where I would provide a bio of Humiston. But I can’t unless I do some digging. In his videos, he never talks about his background, his credentials, his professional or personal life.

Instead, he clearly states a simple problem, and then provides a clear solution.

Take this pull-up video. In the intro, Humiston says he’ll share his three favorite pull-up variations, plus tips to help people who can’t do any pull-ups build the strength and technique to do one, then five, then ten, etc.

The entire intro — including his catchphrase, “Let’s get after it,” takes 15 seconds. 

And then you’re off to close-grip pull-ups: Why the variation is great for beginners. The underlying physiology behind the movement. A clear description of the benefits. Humiston performing a few close-grip pull-ups to illustrate proper form. 

Less than a minute later, he shifts to describing tweaks to a standard pull-up. Then he turns wide-grip pull-ups into an attempt — because they get really hard, really fast — to pull back and up, rather than straight up.

Then he describes how to use assist bands if you can’t do a pull-up and lays out a simple program to go from neurological adaptation, to increased strength, to eventually not needing any bands. Four minutes later, after as always encouraging viewers to “get after it and get growing,” he’s done.

No fluff, no filler, no sales pitches. Just clear, concise, helpful advice.

It’s hard to create innovative content that attracts an audience, tells the story of a brand, and helps an audience connect with that brand.

Of course, that’s the essence of content marketing. 

That’s why doing content marketing right is really hard. And that’s why why getting people to genuinely support a brand is so hard.

Unless the brand genuinely supports those people first — not by trying to ride the latest trend or dream up an unusual way to capture the attention of a mass audience, but by helping that audience solve their problems, meet their needs, and achieve their goals.

What will Humiston do with his 440,000-plus YouTube subscribers and 32 million-plus video views? Maybe he has a long-range plan. Maybe he doesn’t, at least not yet. And that’s okay — because you can’t serve an audience until you actually have an audience.

Want to be a great content marketer? Figure out how to help your audience.

Then you can figure out how your audience might help you.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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