Why You Should Treat Content Marketing Like Going to the Gym

September 21, 2022

I was at the gym with my wife and son this morning, working off the delicious kolaches that we indulged in for breakfast.

To be clear, I’m not a gym rat—and never have been. However, I’m determined to work my fifty-year-old body back into some semblance of shape and reach a BMI that makes my doctor nod appreciatively instead of raising a concerned eyebrow.

As I pounded out a few miles on the treadmill, I contemplated the reasons I find going to the gym difficult—mentally and physically—and noticed some interesting parallels with the content marketing challenges I help clients overcome.

Here are six ways the content-marketing-as-gym metaphor works for me.


Getting There is Half the Battle

Unless you developed a regular exercise habit at school or college and have kept it going amid the overwhelming world of adulthood, visiting the gym probably isn’t part of your daily routine.

According to the active living website realbuzz.com, around 45 million US adults have a gym membership. That’s roughly 14 percent of the population.

The average gym member goes to the gym twice a week, but around 12 percent of gym members sign up in January and have stopped going by June.

A study commissioned by the leisure gear manufacturer Kettler discovered that 13 percent of gym members admit to going somewhere else when they say they’re going to the gym.

Fully 50 percent of Kettler’s respondents admitted that they go to the gym to check out the opposite sex or to meet friends, with a third admitting they never break a sweat.

In short, most of the population either doesn’t have a gym membership or doesn’t make regular use of it if they do.

Getting to the gym requires considerable mental effort.

Our days are busy and the process of traveling to and from the gym and showering and changing afterwards makes adding it to the calendar a feat unto itself.

This is also true for content marketing.

Our workdays are full and our to do lists overflow from one day into the next. The prospect of adding the process of ideating, drafting, editing, rewriting, polishing, and publishing content is overwhelming.

In both cases, we might have to get out of bed earlier or sacrifice an hour of leisure time to make the new thing happen.

That’s a tough pill to swallow when we’re already uptight about working from home, supply chain disruptions, AI taking away our job, and a bajillion other existential threats.

We must also overcome the fear of being the only person there who doesn’t look like a professional athlete training for the Olympics.


You Don’t Have to be a Freak

The fear of looking like a dweeb who doesn’t know his lats from his delts is real.

I’ve been working out at large gyms for over twenty years and it still amazes me how intimidated I feel when I walk between the rows of grunting bodybuilders and women on Stairmasters with thighs like Flo Jo.

The stupidest thing is that I know it’s all in my head.

Those people don’t give a crap about me. They’re focused on personal bests and defeating their own internal demons. If they care about anyone else in the gym, it’s the guy or gal one machine over who seems to be finding that two-hundredth rep easier than they are.

I experience the same sensation when I write and publish content.

Big time content creators and content marketing thought leaders flex their writing muscles on every channel, every day. It’s intimidating to read their stuff and then contemplate publishing my puny, underworked piece in the same place.

The reality is that they don’t give a crap about me either. They’re focused on pleasing their audience and monetizing that attention via whatever business model they’ve chosen.

I’m writing content to please my audience, not theirs.


Learn Technique and Form

One thing I have learned from experienced gym-goers is how to work out properly.

Even better, I‘ve worked with fitness professionals to learn which exercises to perform and how to properly make use of the equipment arrayed across the gym floor.

Unless you execute your exercises with the correct technique and form, you won’t derive full benefit from them. Worse, you risk injuring yourself in the process.

Something similar applies to writing.

If you invest the time—and sometimes money—to learn how to write effective content, you’ll derive a lot more benefit from it than just leaping into action and trying your best.

You will also avoid mistakes that turn potentially deal-winning content into something that’s off-putting and harmful to your brand.

Readers expect certain types of content to be structured in predictable ways. For example, a blog post is written differently from a whitepaper.

This aligns with the way human brains create pattern-based rules to help them efficiently process the torrent of inbound information they receive every day.

If your content is formatted in an unexpected way, it risks being deprioritized or ignored by the triage mechanism in readers’ brains.

Learning good writing techniques and appropriate form—for example, following the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style—is as important to effective content production as working with a personal trainer is to maximizing the benefits of your gym time.


Focus on Intensity Rather than Duration

I’m also struck by how effective a 30-minute workout can be when you focus on the right combination of exercises.

It’s the intensity of the workout that matters, not the total time involved.

I’m naturally skeptical of the buff fifty-something actor claiming that I too can have a six-pack like his in only fifteen minutes per day (if I purchase his program), but there’s a lot to be said for training smarter not harder.

In the content marketing world, this means making your content more relevant and complete rather than longer.

Top performing blog posts are usually between 1,000 and 1,500 words long.

Even pieces in the 500- to 1,000-word range can attract a lot of attention if they pack the informational punch of a seven-fruit smoothie.

Yes, longer pieces generally rank higher than shorter ones on search engine results pages, but that has a lot to do with giving the search algorithm more to go on when it’s gauging the significance and relevance of your content.

Condense the same amount of relevant information and links into a shorter piece and you’ll have something that performs even better because more readers will remain engaged to the end.


The more content you write, the easier it will become - just like exercise reps at the gym

Repetition Builds Stamina

This one is a no-brainer. The more often you go to the gym, the easier it becomes and the more you get out of the same length of visit.

Add one rep each visit to your dumbbell curls and by the end of the year you’ll wonder why you ever struggled to finish three sets of ten with those baby weights.

Work through the same circuit of machines every Tuesday, keeping track of your settings and reps, and you’ll quickly become confident in what you’re doing, stronger and more capable.

Writing content is no different.

Although it’s tempting to believe that some people are natural-born writers, there’s abundant evidence that it’s a skill anyone can learn.

It just takes practice.

Yes, it comes more naturally and easily to some people than others. There are more and less athletic people in every gym, but nothing stopping the less athletic from reaching an amazing level of performance if they decide that’s what they want.

The more content you write, the easier it will become and the better and more confident you will feel about publishing what you’ve written.


Make it Part of Your Day-to-Day

When I silence the inner objector, get my gear on, and go to the gym, I always come home feeling rewarded and slightly foolish.

After the short-term endorphin buzz has subsided, I can still tell that my body appreciates the investment I have made in its wellbeing.

So, I wonder why a smart guy like me finds it so hard to make this a regular habit.

And there’s the answer to my rhetorical question: It must become a habit.

If I persuade myself to visit the gym on a regular basis for several months—or, better still, a year—there’s a strong possibility that it will become a habit that sticks.

And, guess what? It’s the same story (pun intended) when it comes to writing content.

Those who produce content at a regular, sustainable clip are much more likely to still be producing content a year later than those who barrel ahead with gusto but don’t make it part of their routine.

Carve out time on your calendar for writing and block it with repeating appointments that run for at least twelve months.

Pick a place where you feel most comfortable working on content production and sequester yourself there whenever it’s time for content work.

Give content production the same level of priority as any other mission-critical aspect of your work. After all, that’s what content marketing has become for any B2B business—mission critical.

A few months from now, as you admire the fruits of your labor in the content mirror, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without content writing as part of your day-to-day life.

And now it’s time to find the foam roller. No pain, no gain, as they say.


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Image credits: Adobe Stock


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