The recipe for professional success reads as follow:

Learn a lot, fail fast and always move forward.

No rush, no pressure but no stops.

This is the “1% better every day” mantra.

Here’s how to do that in 3 “simple” steps:

  1. Study: read a lot from people in your industry, thought leaders, experts.
  2. Do: put your learnings in practice, make mistakes, hit the reality brick wall.
  3. Talk to mentors: people running 5 or 10 years ahead of you. The “been-there-done-that” kind of guys, who can help you face your challenges and move forward.

I read a lot, making an effort to practice 5 hours of deliberate study a week.

Over time I also learned to do a lot and be comfortable with mistakes, that’s inevitable when you work at a startup.

But definitely need to step up my mentor game.

That’s why I reached out to Yadin Porter de Leon, head of content at Druva, to learn a bit of the secret mojo that allowed him to be the great marketer he is today.

We had an amazing chat, full of ideas, resources and insights.

Below I’m sharing the 7 lessons I learned from this talk, hope you’ll find them useful.

Lesson 1 – A diverse background will give you great strength

Yadin didn’t start his career as a marketer.

He started as a project manager. Then switched to account management and, finally, became the head of content.

Why was this helpful?

Because each experience gave him new insights and competences.

A skill-set he wouldn’t have acquired by working with marketing alone.

Being a project manager, for instance, made him very process oriented. A must have skill for any marketer, especially if your goal is to coordinate a large team.

Even more crucial was his experience as an account manager.

It gave him the chance to work side by side with his customers and learn how they think, talk and want.

All you need to know to write content your target audience will engage with.

Takeaway: diversify your background. It will help you gain a unique skill-set and stand out among your peers.

Lesson 2 – There’s no content without passion

Content marketing is not a project. It’s not something you simply stop doing.

It’s a long journey that requires vision, determination and, most of all, passion.

And passion is what drove Yadin’s toward content, making him the professional he is today:

I started listening to podcasts and got really interested into the whole content community. What appealed me the most was the common drive: giving back. And that’s what I wanted to do: I wanted to blog and put information out there, in the community, share knowledge. So I started writing, created our podcast for the company and co-hosted another podcast. All this combined made it natural for me to move in that [marketing] direction.

Takeaway: write about things you’re passionate about. This will give you the motivation to keep going in the long term.

Lesson 3 – The secret to creating great content

Here’s the golden rule: design your content around your readers’ problems and goals.

No matter the format, channel or goal, your content has to help your readers move forward in their personal or professional life.

If that seems easier said than done, keep reading.

There’s a framework that can help you hit the spot 99.99% of the times (100% doesn’t belong to this world).

It the Jobs-to-be-done framework (JTBD).

Developed to guide product development efforts it can guide innovation in any area.

Marketing included.

The essence of this framework can be summed up in one statement:

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” (Theodore Levitt)

Your goal is to find a better way to get that hole and tell your audience about it.

How?

1 – Transcend the way things currently get done.
2 – Break the process to into the most basic steps.
3 – Find ways to take those steps in a faster, cheaper, more effective way.

Takeaway: everyone has one (or more) job to be done. Find what it is and help them get it done.

Lesson 4 – One company, one voice

Once you identify your readers’ JTBD you need to align all your marketing assets towards them.

Blog posts, ebooks, white papers, sales material, banners, webinars, podcasts. They should all convey the same message.

Show your target audience that your company understands and can solve their problems.

Below, 3 steps to reach such alignment:

1 – Follow the JTBD framework to spot the problems.
2 – Make sure everyone in your team understands them clearly.
3 – Design a system that makes it easy to know what each department is working on at any given time.

Takeaway: alignment is key. Don’t confuse your readers: send out a unique, coherent message they can resonate with.

Lesson 5 – Processes shouldn’t stop innovation

Often times, processes are just efficient ways to do inefficient things.

If you find yourself nodding, keep reading.

When designing a process:

1 – focus on goals,
2 – transcend the way things are being done
3 – find better alternatives. Where better means faster, cheaper, more effective.

Sounds familiar? It’s the JTBD framework.

Here’s a 2-step “process” you can use:

a) Sit with everyone involved in the process. Ask them what their individual goals are at each step are and what they need to achieve them.

b) Think from basic principles. Drill down to the most basic components, focus on the whys and get ready to challenge everything.

Here’s a post about how Elon musk thinks from basic principles.

Takeaway: make sure your processes are not an efficient way to do inefficient things.

Lesson 6 – How to get content published on time

a) Clear planning: this allows your team to have a holistic view of what’s going on at any given time. This allows you to better coordinate and prioritize, avoiding misalignments and delays.

b) Constant monitoring: keep an eye on your content production. Make sure your reporting system reflects what’s going on. This allows you to spot bottlenecks and keep your production always flowing.

Here’s Yadin’s weekly review process:

Let’s look through each and every item. Check the status, make sure it’s reflecting where it actually is at. If it doesn’t, update the status, ping the person who’s currently in that fold. Ask him if content can be passed to the next person. If so, do that communicationThen repeat the same process with each item in your list...”

c) Team involvement: your team’s knowledge is the key to creating original content that resonates with your target audience. Provide your team members with detailed content briefs. Then, pass their work to a professional writer to get it refined. This will make it more digestible and useful to your readers.

d) Content Lock-in: establish production checkpoints, so that once reached a checkpoint, content can only move forward. This will help you avoid back-and-forths and delays.

e) Post-publishing review: a specific feedback session taking place after content gets published. This makes the approval process much smoother. Your team will approve content faster, aware that there’ll be room for further improvements after it gets published.

The process should then look something like this:

Takeaway: content is no easy job. Tackle it strategically to reduce the hurdle and increase results.

Lesson 7 – The secret to fast forward your career

Resilience, effort, hard work: all key factors for one’s professional success.

Given that, what else can help you speed up your career?

Simple, a mentor.

A mentor is someone who’s been walking your same career path a few years more than you. Who can help you navigate the hard times thanks to his / her experience.

When looking for a mentor, beware: don’t get blinded by the lights of success.

Choose someone you deeply trust, at a personal and professional level. Someone you respect and admire and shares your same values and principles.

Find one and he / she will help you find more so you can keep filling the gaps.

Takeaway: don’t try to reinvent the wheel every time, everything you do has already been done before. Find who did it and learn from her.

Bonus: 3 key resources for every marketing professional

If there are only 3 components you could leverage, and nothing else, let it be:

1 – Getting things done, by David Allan. A book about self-management. After all, you can’t achieve anything if you don’t know how to manage yourself.

2 – Competing against luck, various authors. It contains a framework for innovations, implementing the JTBD methodology. According to Yadin,

A must-read to every single marketer on the planet.

3 – The Content Marketing Institute podcasts. Content marketing advice by the best marketers and thought leaders.

Hope this interview gave you as many insights as it did to me.

If so, share your thoughts with us in the comments below.