Forget ‘Best Practices’: How to Be a Creative Content Marketer

Marketing pop quiz:

Q: How do you create a content marketing strategy that’s exactly like 90 percent of your competitors?

A: Google it. Look for best practices. Find lists and must-do’s and expert guides and follow them closely.

Q: How do you create content that’s actually helpful, interesting and inspiring for your audience?

A: Forget best practices. Create your own. Find white space. Do what your competitors aren’t doing. Focus on the craft of content marketing.


If that all sounds lofty and unrealistic, then you haven’t met Jay Acunzo. I’ve been following Jay for a while now for his fresh, down-to-earth ideas about how to be a better marketer. On his podcast, blog and social feeds, he encourages marketers to think beyond lists of best practices and start thinking like creators.


I’m always interested to hear what Jay has to say, so I tuned in to his webinar hosted by Curata this month. He knocked it out of the park. Most webinars have me yawning (or closing the GoToMeeting window) about 10 minutes in, but not this one. I was glued to the screen for a full hour.

Jay didn’t just preach abstract ideas. He shared several examples of marketers who are thinking differently and creatively. I was inspired by those stories, and I think you will be too.

Here Are 3 Stories of Creative Content Marketing That Breaks the Rules.

1. Rethink Gated Content.

David Cancel is co-founder of Drift, a customer messaging app. He looked at the company’s content marketing campaigns, which were driven by gated content and long lead forms. The forms were bringing in leads for the sales team. Everyone was happy. But David decided to ungate everything. No more lead forms. No more hidden content.

Drift removed all the forms and published a blog post about why they were doing it.

The results were immediate and huge. Beyond a big jump in important numbers (150% subscriber increase, 35% customer increase), Drift started getting a ton of positive earned media praising the decision.


David told Jay about the experience: “You can’t build something big by doing things the same way as everyone else.”

The takeaway: Think about your customer. What can you do to make their lives easier? How can you help them? What about your current marketing, sales and customer service processes are more about you and less about the customer? How can you change that and focus more on the customer?

Read more: Learn why Red Hat is ungating its content, led by marketing exec Jackie Yeaney.

2. Make Stuff People Want.

Jay shared his own story as a marketer. Jay loves sharing big, emotional stories, and says his career goal was to tell stories about athletes like the ones he loved on ESPN.

As a new college graduate, he landed a job managing customer ad accounts at Google. The job was all about very specific best practices: Call your list of advertisers. Get them to expand their buy. Earn “points,” raises, promotions. Jay was good at the job. But one day he gathered his friends to show them a YouTube video he loved, and they had to wait for a pre-roll ad. That experience was so frustrating and annoying — the ad was blocking him from the thing he loved — that he had an aha moment: His job was to sell ads like that. Through his work, he was making people have worse moments in their day instead of better ones.

He wanted to make stuff people wanted, not make people want stuff.

He quit the job at Google (even though the best practices told him to never quit a job at Google) and has gone on to use his storytelling skills as a content marketer. He hasn’t followed the listicles and best practices that dictate what to do in his work. He focuses on finding the story, since that’s what people connect with and love.

3. Think About the Content You Love. Figure Out What Makes It Great.

Finnegan Dowling is a writer the Humane Society of Silicon Valley. She’d been working for months on getting a dog named Eddie adopted, without success. Then she flipped the script — instead of writing about why someone should adopt the dog, she wrote a hilarious article on why someone shouldn’t adopt him: A Full Disclosure Blog: Three Reasons You DON’T Want to Adopt Eddie the Terrible.


Suddenly her blog post on a small nonprofit website blew up. Through social shares and news stories, the post reached 7 million people. Eddie was adopted within two days.

The takeaway: Write what you enjoy. Look at the content you love the most and pick apart why you love it. Is it funny? Unexpected? Heartfelt? Sarcastic? Then go off and do what you love — make great stuff.

Thanks for sharing these stories, Jay! For more stories and ideas about creating better content and rethinking your content strategy, watch the full Curata webinar or subscribe to the Unthinkable podcast.

Get marketing inspiration delivered to your inbox every Monday. Subscribe to the Rep Cap blog.

Reputation Capital Media Services is a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, marketing agency that helps B2B companies and their marketing agencies produce high-quality digital content, including blog posts, email newsletters, white papers and multimedia. Our editors and writers are experts in their fields, which include HR technology, employee benefits, and financial services and accounting. Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation to find out how great content can help you attract and retain your customers.