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The Best Content Marketer? An Orange Cone

When I played college soccer, my coach, Larry, said something that has stuck with me for the last 25 years: the best defender a forward will ever face is an orange cone.

“The orange cone doesn’t actually do anything, but immediately the forward is more likely to make a dribbling mistake, because he’s got to go around the cone.”

Larry’s point was that when it comes to defense, the forward is the one under all the pressure. He’s the one with the ball, he’s the one in control, he’s the one the scoring drive depends on. The cone just has to sit and wait for the person with the ball to make a mistake.

Similarly, a good defender just had to be patient and waited for the forward to make a mistake. A great defender could move and force the forward to make a mistake, but if you really wanted to make him cough up the ball, just be patient.Kellog Community College soccer

What Does Soccer Have to do With Content Marketing?

If you want to succeed at content marketing, sometimes you only have to be an orange cone. You only have to put in a little bit of effort. You only have to write a blog post once a week, and tweet a few times a day, and dabble on LinkedIn or Facebook.

That’s because your competition isn’t actually doing anything at all. They’ve got the ball, they’re running in an open field, and then suddenly, BAM!

Orange cone.

Now, things are going wrong, they overkicked the ball, it bounced off their foot, or they took their eyes off the ultimate goal, and the other team has the taken the ball away.

So it goes with your competition. They’re going along, doing their thing, showing up at the office, making phone calls, having meetings, going to trade shows, and BAM!

You started blogging once a week. You tweet 3 times a day. You joined a LinkedIn group or attended a networking event.

It’s not a big deal. You’re not getting thousands of visits every week. You’re not rocketing to the top of the search engines, landing big speaking gigs and book deals. It’s a quiet little blog or Twitter account in your own quiet little corner of the world, but it’s getting results.

Why?

Because you’re doing the bare minimum, while your competition is doing nothing at all.

I’ve worked with clients in the past who were being totally dominated in search, and our content marketing plan was an all-out game of catch-up. But I’ve also worked with clients who were in an industry where no one was doing anything at all, and by doing a bare minimum — by being an orange cone — their content marketing efforts dominated. We won search, we helped them become a leader in the industry, and their business exploded.

For some industries, you have to play like it’s the last five minutes of the championship game, and you’re down by 1. You pull the goalie, and you mount attack after attack on the goal, and hope that something goes in so you can go into overtime.

But for most industries, you don’t have to do much at all. That’s because your competition sucks at the Internet. They barely have a website, they certainly don’t have a blog, and they still think Twitter is the little yellow bird from Bugs Bunny.

For those industries, the first company to start doing social media marketing is going to be the company who dominates that industry online. It doesn’t take much effort at all. But the dividends will be huge. And as your competition starts to play catch up, like when they finally launch their blog, or start (and then abandon) their first Twitter account, you’ll be ready to take it to the next level, and start doing more on the social media front.

You’ll be the one they’re chasing after, as you bear down on their goal, with no one standing in the way.

The goal’s open, so take your shot.

Photo credit: Kellogg Community College (Flickr, Creative Commons)

About Erik Deckers

is a professional blogger and author of several social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media (Pearson, 2011) and Branding Yourself (Pearson, 2010). He is a professional speaker and consultant who works with companies on content marketing and blogging issues, as well as crisis communication and citizen journalism.