The Cogs of Content – Explained in 10 Minutes

If you’re in the early stages of marketing your startup, or you need some fresh ideas for marketing a more established business, then this marketing model is for you.

But wait, why do you need a marketing model?

Good question.

I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses on various marketing projects and have witnessed roaring success stories as well as abject failures. 

The success stories usually spring from a healthy mix of research, planning, experimentation, analysis, and adaptability. 

The failures, on the other hand, always result from the absence of any or all of those components. 

So why not increase your chances of success by using a model that incorporates them?

Enter the Cogs of Content.

It’s designed to get the cogs turning in your mind, give you an endless source of ideas, and a framework for creating, deploying, and testing them.

1. Analyze Audience

Do you know what your customers want?

How do you know that?

And how do you apply that knowledge? 

You must answer these three questions before even thinking about marketing.

Because if you don’t, you’ll most likely:

– Waste your time and money

– Ruin people’s perception of your business

– Become more frustrated than a teenager who “can’t even.”

That’s why it’s important to analyze your target audience to identify their frustrations and desires.

So how do you do what?

You could survey your existing or potential customers by asking them directly. 

That’s primary research.

You could also go through the Internet with a fine-toothed comb to see what they look for on the likes of Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Reddit, and Quora.

That’s secondary research.

Analyzing your audience removes much of the guesswork so you can focus on content creation instead of content ideation.

2. Compare Competitors

Do you go to work with a top hat, monocle, and cane?

Probably not.

That’s because you don’t have a monopoly, which means you have competition.

Competitors can be super annoying, but they can also be incredibly useful.

Competitors are useful because they’ll do much of the legwork for you. Since you’re targeting the same audience, you might as well let them do the heavy lifting.

So sit back and relax while they…

– Research what your potential customers want 

– Create content to meet those demands

– Make hilarious mistakes you can joke about with your friends

But whether your competitors’ marketing strategy is working or bombing, you should take notes.

Look at their web copy, SEO scores, blog content, social media posts, email newsletters, landing pages, lead magnets, paid ads, infographics, videos, and whatever else you can find.

Identify their strengths and weaknesses so you know how to beat them.

3. Position Perfectly

Why should customers choose you over your competition?

Or, put differently…

What makes you so special?

Are you cheaper, faster, bigger, better, funnier, more diverse, or more reliable? Do you care more about the environment? 

What is your unique selling proposition?

You must be able to answer that question because it can make the difference between selling a little and selling a lot. 

It’s even better to get specific and write a single sentence summarizing your target audience, why your product appeals to them, and what makes it superior to your competition.

For example:

“Our clientele is environmentally conscious, which is why our product is 50% more sustainable than other products on the market.” 


“Our customers don’t care about the environment, and neither do we, which is why our product is 90% cheaper than our tree-hugging competitors.”

Make sure you position yourself perfectly in your market.

4. Choose Channels

How do you choose the best marketing channels for your business?

There’s SEO, email, paid ads, and a bunch of social media platforms to choose from – so where do you start?

Start by asking yourself these five questions:

1. Where is your audience?

2. Where is your competition?

3. What’s your budget?

4. What content can you make?

5. Which channel has the highest ROI?

It’s important not to make too many assumptions.

Just because some demographics use certain platforms more than others, you shouldn’t assume your grandmother isn’t on TikTok. 

She could be looking for recipes or participating in dance challenges. 

It’s worth considering all possible channels, analysing what the competition is doing, evaluating the engagement they’re getting, and experimenting with your own content before you commit.

While you’re at it, look for opportunities to repurpose content. Text, images, and video can easily be distributed across multiple platforms.

Case in point: this video.

5. Create Content

What kind of content should you create to market your business?

Easy: valuable content.

But what makes content valuable? And valuable to whom?

Your content is valuable if it can:

1. Attract potential customers.

2. Convert them into customers.

3. Retain them as customers.

Not only is that kind of content valuable to your target audience – it’s also very valuable to you.

Many businesses still work under the assumption that people want to hear about what happens inside their business, such as what the CEO had for lunch.

That kind of content gets swiped on quicker than a creep on Tinder. 

That’s because people mostly care about:

1. Themselves.

2. Their problems.

3. Potential solutions to those problems.

Analyzing your audience will tell you what those problems are. Analyzing your competitors will tell you how they’re addressing those problems and in which formats they do so. 

Your job is to make better content.

6. Set Schedule

How often should you publish content? 

Some marketers say a few times per week. Gary Vee says 642 times per day. 

I’d say as often as you can.

The key is to remain consistent, so you don’t publish a bunch of content, burn out, and leave people with nothing but the sound of crickets.

I’ve been guilty of that — you shouldn’t. 

So take stock of the two resources required: 

1. Time

2. Money

Can you only create one LinkedIn post per week? Then do that.

Can you create a blog post per week? Then do that.

But because attention spans are short, I’d recommend you publish shorter and more frequent pieces of content.

That’s where content repurposing comes in handy.

Let’s say you can write one blog post per week. Could you break it up into seven shorter LinkedIn posts? 

Then you have yourself seven days’ worth of content.

7. Test, Test, Test

What’s the most important part of your marketing plan?


Here’s why:

When you do market research, you’ll inevitably have to make some assumptions.

Even if you base your strategy on hard data, you can’t know for sure whether some cool piece of content that made millions for another company will do the same for you. 

That’s because you won’t have the exact same:

– Product

– Brand

– Location

– Budget

– Following

… and many more factors that influence whether something will work or not. 

Even if everything else is equal, the timing will be different — and the marketing space moves fast.

What worked yesterday might not work today. 

By the end of this video, whichever platform you’re watching it on will have updated its algorithm. 

So make sure to test your assumptions. 

Anyway, try out different platforms and experiment with different content formats within those platforms to see which pieces yield the best results.

8. Evaluate Engagement

How do you know if your content works?

By measuring the engagement.

So what’s a good level of engagement?

That depends on three things:

1. The channel.

2. Your following.

3. Content quality.

Different channels provide different levels of organic reach. For example, TikTok will give you decent organic reach, whereas Facebook won’t.

The larger your following on the platform, the more likes and comments you’ll get, and the higher your content will rank in people’s feeds. 

(Substitute followers with website visitors and subscribers if you do SEO and email marketing)

Finally, the quality of your content will also determine the level of engagement. Obviously, if your content sucks, no one’s gonna engage with it.

(Except for trolls – if you’re lucky.)

So pick some metrics to measure:

– Impressions

– Views

– Clicks

– Likes

– Comments 

– Follows

– Open rates

– Click through rates

– Website visits

– Conversions 

… and see what moves the needle.

9. Adjust Accordingly

How do you optimize your content marketing to get the best results?

By adjusting your strategy according to your results.

Some of your content may hit home, and some of it may fall flat on its face.

Now what?

It’s time to identify why some pieces worked, and others didn’t. Sometimes, a small detail can make or break your content. 

Let’s say you’ve written what you think is killer copy for an email, social media post, or paid ad and didn’t get any response.

Don’t throw it in the trash (or your laptop out the window) just yet.

Instead, consider this:

– Could you change the headline or the call to action?

– Could you use a different image?

– Could you tweak the targeting a bit more?

Or maybe you need to change your expectations of how well it can realistically perform at your current level.

Just remember that the more you adjust, the better your content will perform.

Rinse and Repeat​

So that’s it. We’re back at the beginning with a lot of valuable insights. Now we can update your buyer persona, change your USP, optimize your content, or choose a different channel entirely. 

The advantage of this model is that it can be applied to any kind of business or industry. And every time you go through the three phases, your content will be better along with your ROI.

rinsing soapy hands in water