What Content Marketing Can Learn From Backpacking

Thoreau went to the woods “to live deliberately.”  Melville’s Ishmael accounted it “high time to get to sea” in Moby-Dick.  And, as for me, I’m starting to feel a little bit of both those sentiments.  Perhaps it’s the impending fall weather; or, perhaps I’ve just spent too much time staring at a computer screen.  Either way, I’m itching to break out and go camping for a few days.

While that’s not going to happen today, maybe I can persuade you to listen to a few trail stories and backpacking tips that might just help you out with your content strategy.  I’m itching to get to the woods; you’re itching to boost your content strategy; let’s talk!

Your Content Strategy Needs Pacing

If you’ve ever gone hiking, then you know how important pacing is.  Walk too slowly, and you won’t make it to your desired campsite by nightfall.  But, when you go too fast… well, I have a story for that one…

Two summers ago I went backpacking at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee with a couple of friends.  It was just a casual weekend trip, so we weren’t in a hurry to cover much ground.  More than anything, it was a chance to get away.

I suppose we thought it was funny to run in backpacks.  And, when I say backpacks, I’m talking 25 pound, two feet tall packs carrying food, water, sleeping bags, tent gear, and more.  You can probably see where this one’s going…

While running, one member of our exceptionally bright party did the inevitable.  Striking a rock in the trail with his foot, his entire body launched up into the air and became perfectly parallel with the trail, hovering a few feet or so above the ground.  It was a beautiful moment.  There he was, suspended in the air, out of time, 140 pounds of man-boy and 25 pounds of camping supplies.  He came crashing down onto the trail in a form that would have sufficed for a 10.0 belly flop.

The lesson?  Pace.  Yourself.

Likewise, your content strategy has to have a good pace – an editorial calendar.  If it doesn’t, you’ll end up halfway down the trail, flat on your face (or, on the contrary, half way down the trail when the sun sets).

I know of no better source to direct you to than Copyblogger when it comes to developing your business’s editorial calendar.  Don’t miss this great post if you aren’t using any editorial calendar at present!  Equally important is the social media editorial calendar, which Lisa Buyer of Search Engine Watch can walk you through.

Some Little Things That Are Really Important

The next trail lesson is this: backpacking can go from fun to miserable – and even dangerous – if you don’t have the “little things.”  Ever tried to step out of your tent in the middle of the night with no moon and no flashlight?  You literally can’t see your hand in front of your face.  Always take a flashlight!

Have you ever gone backpacking without carrying a water purifier or iodine tablets?  You probably didn’t make it very far.  When it comes to content marketing, you can’t forget about the details.  They can be easy to leave out.  But, without details, you’re never going to boost your bottom line.

I’m thinking of a few “small things” in particular that are actually a really big deal: strong CTAs, thoughtful lead nurturing, and smart use of analytics.  Oftentimes, the more “glamorous” aspects of your content strategy get all the attention: blog posts, Infographics, Facebook contests, etc.  But, all of these things are worthless without the boring details of the iodine tablet variety.  Here are a few outstanding links for help on the not-so-small-stuff:

Sharing Valuable Information on the Trail

One of the first things most people learn about content marketing is that sharing valuable information is the essence of content marketing.  If your content strategy doesn’t provide quality information, then what are you doing?

If you’ve spent much time hiking remote trails or trails that don’t have a lot of funds for maintenance, then you know how poorly marked some areas can be.  I know I’m not the only backpacker who’s gone a mile or two down a trail only to find out that it’s been closed off or doesn’t go where I expected.

Then again, I know I’m not the only backpacker who has avoided this situation by chatting with other hikers.  If you haven’t seen someone in six hours and you suddenly cross paths with a stranger, then it’s natural to exchange a few more words than a simple “hello.”  In these exchanges, you oftentimes learn about trail conditions, hazards, challenges, and more.

As a business, you’re coming to an industry from the opposite side of the consumer.  When your paths cross – which will hopefully be often because of your great content strategy! – make sure you share valuable information.  Don’t just tell your customers the same info they could find from looking at a trail map or guidebook.  Let them in on the scoop!  By sharing valuable information you:

  • Become viewed as an authority.
  • Are appreciated as a valuable resource.
  • Have the chance to save your customers from a bear attack.

Enjoy the Trip

Lastly, don’t forget that it’s the journey that counts – not the destination.  I know that’s as worn out a cliché as the rest of them, but it’s especially true of backpacking.  If I wanted the exercise, I could walk around the block 400 times or hop on a treadmill.  But, that’s not the point.  The point is to have an experience; to challenge myself; to see some new land.

Likewise, your content strategy is about the journey.  Obviously, you want to increase sales with intelligent content marketing.  You should want that, and you should make boosting that bottom line a goal (or else it’s not going to happen).  However, that’s not the whole picture.

Focus on delivering valuable information to your audienceNot your customers.  Right now, those groups might not be one and the same, but with time, those people who soak up your valued information will become your customers.  Keep your eyes on the trail ahead, enjoy the hike, and share everything you can at a steady pace.  Happy trails!

What other lessons have you learned while backpacking or hiking that can help others improve their content strategy?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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