Even though New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite holidays, I’ve never really ascribed to the whole “New Year, New Me” adage and I don’t think I’ve made a resolution since I was in grade school. What I do believe in are lessons and using what you’ve learned to do better next time. 2017 was my second year of my first real job in a marketing department. So, needless to say – plenty of lessons were learned and I’m so excited to share a few of them with you today.

Content Marketing is a Big Deal

Probably the biggest lesson I learned (and one I’ve kind of always knew, deep down), is that content matters. Most people are perplexed when I tell them I’m a content manager. I get it. It’s pretty ambiguous to those outside the industry. In reality, it’s super simple. If you think about it, content is a part of everything that we do. I remember one time walking through Total Wine with a friend pointing out all the different types of content I saw (what can I say – content pumps me up!). Signs, ads, books, flyers, websites, blogs, newspapers – you name it. To me, content is anything that helps people figure something out. Even if they aren’t actively searching for information, it all goes back to content. Talk about job security.

Not All Content Has to Take Forever to Create

One of own biggest misconceptions about content creation is that for it to be successful, you have to be willing to spend a lot of time and resources. While this is most certainly true for some projects (I’ve heard of some people spending weeks just to get a blog post just right), it’s more the exception than the rule. Some of the most successful pieces of content that I created in 2017 were quite simple and took the least amount of time to produce. For a social post or a blog post to do well doesn’t always equate to the hours spent on it. It’s about being smart.

Eventually, the more I learned, the more confident I felt about my opinions. Therefore, the less afraid I was to back myself up.

It’s Not My Job to Tell You What Your Business Is

In addition to my full-time gig, I freelanced for a few different companies in 2017. There are many things one must learn about the freelancing lifestyle to make it work for them. One of those things is knowing what your responsibilities are – and what they aren’t. A lot of the time, business owners (or rather, potential business owners) know they need a website and ultimately content for that site. But from my experience, I’ve noticed that they want you to “just make something up” which is the worst thing you can do if you want to market your business online effectively. It’s not enough to just throw together a website, type up some random text, and call it day. In fact, this is why I think so many people think that content marketing doesn’t work. The best content marketing is smart and data-driven. It’s about asking all the whys. If you, as a business owner, can’t articulate in some way what your business does and why then do you have a business? I now make a point of asking a series of questions to every client or business I work with that will not only help me understand (and do my job better) but often it helps organize the web of ideas and thoughts that are usually floating around in the creative minds of business owners. Once you understand your “why” it makes it so much easier for other people (customers) to latch on and follow along.

Know When to Say “Yes” and When to Say “No”

Every team needs yes people as much as it needs no people. The key, I think, is to aim to be a little of both. I have struggled with the latter. Whenever I knew in my gut that we shouldn’t do something a certain way or if an idea was maybe better in theory than in practice, I would say so, but as soon as someone challenged me, I backed off. I was in my first year or two of my first job in a real marketing department. I knew I was lucky to be there. And I didn’t want to squander that. I didn’t want to be that person on the team deemed difficult to work with. So, I did as maybe too many other women do in the workplace. I shut up. Eventually, the more I learned, the more confident I felt about my opinions. Therefore, the less afraid I was to back myself up.

What are some things you learned about content marketing last year? What are you hoping to learn this year? I’d love to hear all about them in comments!