Do you want to learn about marketing or how to grow a business? Do you read a lot of content but find you’re hitting brick walls when it comes to taking action off the back of it?
If you do, you’re certainly not alone.
There is so much content online about marketing and growing a business, you could probably get your MBA in marketing just by reading content on growthhackers.com. Unfortunately, very few people take action on what they read, or even comprehend it – they’re either looking at the wrong problem, or not absorbing the information.
You can get around this by following a process similar to my own. This is what I do to ensure I’m getting as much value as possible out of the content I read.
Step 1: Article Discovery
A big thing for me is staying alert for great content – all the time. I’m always discovering stuff – whether I’m on Slack, Growth Hackers, or just scrolling through Twitter on my phone. There’s a little part of me that’s permanently on the lookout for new ideas and information.
The ability to spot something potentially worth reading is key (after all, you want to limit the time you waste reading crap content as much as possible). This is about much more than the title of the content. For me, I’m looking at the site it’s published on, and if I’m on Twitter, who’s sharing that content.
If the title catches my eye and someone I trust and respect has shared it, it’s probably worth my time.
Saving content for later
Something I very rarely do is read content as I find it. That’s because when I find content I want to read, my attention’s usually somewhere else – like while I’m working, or when I’ve got two minutes to spare so I’ve opened Twitter.
If I try to read that content then and there, I’m going to rush through and I’ll probably forget what I’ve read. I’ll always get more out of it if I wait until I can give it my full attention.
For this, I use Pocket – an app that makes it really easy to save things I want to look at later.
The obvious way to use Pocket is to find something you want to read and save it straight to the app. I don’t do this. To stay organized, I use tags to categorize everything I save – things like “growth” and “churn.” This helps me prioritize content according to how closely it aligns with my current needs.
I also have a tag called “current problem.” This is where I save anything I find that relates to my most immediate concerns. Anything in there gets read first.
Step 2: Consuming Content
As you now know, I rarely read content as I find it. This is because I wholeheartedly believe that when you consume content is super-important.
You have to be able to give it your full attention and you need to be in a position to record key points. Trying to read an article when you know you’re about to be called into a meeting is pretty counterproductive. I’m all for being agile in the workplace but I also believe that when you’re working on something you should be 100% focused on the task at hand.
So when should you consume content?
When you’re relaxed and free from interruptions.
I can’t tell you when this will be for you, but for me it’s first thing in the morning and just before bed. I find traveling and commuting to be pretty productive times for content consumption, too – however, it’s generally easier to listen to content than read it when I’m on the move.
Podcasts are great for this. Unfortunately, I often have articles queued up that I want to read, but know I’ll never get around to if I wait until I can actually “read” them. Pocket’s text-to-speech function is invaluable here, but I imagine similar apps offer comparable features (leave a note in the comments if you have any recommendations).
Step 3: Note-Taking
If you want to start taking action on the content you read, you need to take notes. You might think you’ll remember the important stuff, but unless you’re jotting that stuff down you will forget things – I guarantee it.
How you take notes is up to you. I use Evernote, and I’d totally recommend it, but really, just choose a method that’s easy and convenient for you.
This is because it’s far more important that you’re taking notes on the right things than using the “right” tool for recording them. Heck, take notes with pen and paper if it works for you.
So what do I actually take notes on?
As I read an article, I’m always looking for actionable points and takeaways. Anything of interest gets jotted down.
What I do after I’m finished reading is more important. I’ll go over the notes and delete anything I’m not totally sold on (mainly because I think the more points you take away, the less likely you are to take action on any of them). I then move on to step 4…
Step 4: Further Research
So you’ve read a great article and you have a (refined) list of action points. What happens next?
Very rarely will I read an article and take action right away. I will almost always do some further reading before I decide exactly what I want to take action on and more importantly, how.
For this, I regularly use clarity.fm. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a site that matches entrepreneurs with experts in their field. You can either ask questions in the forum or set up a call with an expert of your choice. These are charged by the minute and will cost anywhere from about $2 to $15 a minute.
Alongside this, I’ll almost always Google concepts that are new to me so I can find out what, if anything, other people are saying about them.
I might also reach out to the writer directly and ask them to elaborate on a suggestion they’ve made, or tell me more about their experiences implementing it (pro tip: this is also a great way to start building relationships with influencers).
Step 5: Taking Action
I’m exposed to hundreds of articles every week, although I don’t read all of them in their entirety. I might scan through the content initially, or just read the opening paragraphs before deciding whether it’s worth continuing.
Still, I read at least a couple of articles a day in full – so let’s say 14 a week, give or take a few. Of all the ideas and information I consume within these articles, I only take action on one or two things.
This is in part because I’m time-poor. While testing out new channels and concepts is a key component of what I do as a growth marketer, realistically I can only play around with a couple of them a week (if I want to test them out properly – which I do).
So how do I decide what to take action on?
I figure out what’s most likely to move the needle.
Step 4 is key here. If someone I know and respect has recommended a new tactic or channel, that’s a good sign. It’s even better yet if my additional research shows that other people are getting results from it, too.
That said, every case is different. A startup’s not going to leverage the same channels in the same way as an enterprise company, and vice versa. In addition, your industry, target audience and goals all affect which channels are going to be a fit for you, and what you need to do to get the most out of them.
If I can get any hard data on the expected costs and ROI of something I’m considering trying, that’s a huge plus. This can help me estimate the impact I can expect this thing to have, and at what cost.
From here I can filter down my list of 10 or 20 takeaways from that week’s reading to just one or two things that I’m now in a position to take action on.
Do you usually take action on the content you read? Are you going to start based on what I’ve said here? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.