2014: The Year of the Rainmaker

A year ago almost to the day, I wrote 2013: The Year of the Online Writer. The basic premise was that we had reached a tipping point. Companies of all sizes that wanted to succeed now knew that:

  • Content is what people want.
  • Content is what people share.
  • Content is what makes buying decisions happen.

Those realizations, in turn, require great content creators. Notably, great writers.

This coming year will continue the trend, with an added twist.

Great content is, well … great. But what is that content accomplishing in terms of business objectives?

Before we get into that, let’s look at those three powerful forces I talked about late last year, and see how they affected online writers in 2013.

1. Online Marketing is Driven by Content

Last year I maintained without reservation that content marketing wasn’t a buzz phrase or fad. 2013 showed this to be true. Content remains the driving force behind any effective online marketing.

As Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter Group eloquently says:

Content is the atomic particle of all digital marketing.

If anything, the content marketing industry has matured remarkably this year. In addition to the continuing big consumer brand shift toward a media company model,

This audience-centered movement is easy to explain: Content marketing is more effective than traditional methods while costing 62% less.

Apart from those businesses that truly enjoy spending more to achieve less, the shift to content will continue next year, the year after, and beyond.

This is serious business, folks — a multi-billion-dollar industry that grew in part out of our grass roots business blogging space. And it’s still wide open for most companies and entrepreneurs.

2. Google Elevates the Online Writer

Heading into this year, Google was clearly one of the primary drivers of quality content as an absolute requirement. The Panda update demanded quality content, and Penguin did quite a good job at making naturally-attracted links (from great content, naturally) the only ones worth having.

Google Authorship ties quality content to its individual creator, and paves the way for author identity to become a ranking factor in the algorithm. In 2013, more businesses and startups caught the clue that who creates the content is now important — and highly compensating those people becomes a strategic advantage.

The biggest Google news this year was Hummingbird, a complete overhaul of their algorithm that incorporates Panda, Penguin, and other past updates while strengthening semantic and conversational language capabilities.

(Meaning: Google is now much better at understanding how real people talk.)

Hummingbird signals a continued progression away from awkward keyword phrases toward audience-focused language patterns, which only helps artful writers.

Perhaps the most satisfying news for the online writer was the fall of Demand Media — the publicly-traded company that exploited Google with content farming on the backs of severely underpaid writers. No company is “too big to fail” in the new online environment, and the collapse of Demand’s model is more than just a symbolic victory.

3. The Writer as Entreproducer

2013 was packed with stories of entrepreneurial success stories stemming from online content production. From the content marketing strategy that propelled the startup Buffer to millions in revenue, to the podcasting prowess of Srinivas Rao, building an audience first builds a successful business.

And don’t forget the entrepreneurial authors. Hugh Howey’s bestselling Silo saga made him this year’s self-publishing poster boy. Non-fiction author James Altucher embraced a more professional level of self-publishing and successfully swore off the traditional route. And Joanna Weibe and Lance Jones created a thriving startup by teaching other startups about copywriting and conversion with ebooks.

The content creators who are most in demand are the ones who don’t need to take clients or jobs. They’re able to start their own companies, make money on their own terms, and live the lives they want to live.

So why would they work for someone else? I suppose because someone would make it so worth their while that they can’t say no.

What’s Next? The New (Media) Rainmaker

It’s somewhat unbelievable that it took this long to get to the point that great content is (almost) the norm. You’d think that quality media production would be the original baseline.

Now that we’re essentially here, don’t expect a nice cozy period of creative content production without accountability. Creative content production that crushes business objectives is more like it.

It’s time for everyone’s game to elevate.

Can you create content, whether yourself or by directing others, that educates, engages, and entertains all the way to the bank?

If so, then you’ll be one of the big winners of 2014. Because the one who makes it rain makes the rules.

But that’s next year.

For now, I’d like to wish you happy holidays and a joyous new year. The blog will be taking the rest of Christmas week off, but we’ll be back again with a full calendar starting Monday the 30th.

And thank you, once again, for your support. As always, none of this happens without you.

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Reader Comments (38)

  1. says

    Insightful post, Brian.

    Being able to prove that you’re crushing a company’s business goals seems to tie in with an obsession our society seems to have lately with numbers.

    I think content creators today almost need to be as comfortable with numbers as they are with words, since it’s not enough to say ‘everyone is doing it.” You’ve got to prove that what you’re doing will work for that particular niche or client.

    I wonder if this is really part of a bigger trend – obsession almost- with using numbers to prove a point, or guide our decisions.

    Growth hacker, for example, is a relatively new term/job position that seems to be popping up everywhere. One of the key elements of a growth hacker is just this – being able to use numbers to prove that what they recommend will (or won’t) work.

    It’s a method that might offend some pantsers out there though.

  2. says

    Thanks Brian! First, love the title, as one of my business ventures is Rainmaker Consulting! Second, I agree that making it rain will matter in 2014 more than it ever has. As the rules of economic engagement continue to shift, as small shopkeepers and online educators and a host of others increasingly have a world-yet-niche audience, as we become less able to hide the Wizard Of Oz behind our business curtain, we have more than an opportunity to get real with our engagement. We have a responsibility to make the engagement worthy of the time, energy, and money involved. I don’t want free (a hallmark of 2012-13, because I don’t value what is offered. I have countless free downloads that never got real airtime. At the same time, I don’t want to pay for a rehashing of other material already out there for free. If I am paying a premium (and I am willing to), I want to walk away with what I came for. Convincing the customer/client that this will occur is the task I see for myself as a business owner, as well as anyone seeking to sell to me.

  3. says

    Now that content creation is the norm it is time for companies and individuals to raise the bar as far as quality and usefulness goes. It’s time to stop “authoring” Kindle books as direct lead gen vehicles (giving you the supposed credibility of a true author) and focus on the quality of writing and content provided which will earn you an audience. Let’s face it – not everyone is an author or writer.

    Companies that sponsor content webinars need to stop having their sales force blitzing every registrant just because they signed up. The sales cycle in content marketing takes longer and permission and relationships are not earned as the result of consuming a single webinar (which in most cases is a veiled sales pitch for the company).

    Make your white papers informative and full of useful, actionable data. Repeat after me – a white paper is not a brochure!

    Your content funnel needs more teaching and less selling.

    The best writers and content producers in 2014 will create in such a way that the audience will have to look hard to find any self-promotion. Earn the trust of your audience and the sales will follow. Hard for a rainmaker to hear (especially if you have monthly quotas) – but the good ones have a longer term perspective on selling and know that the investment of time, energy, and knowledge up front will pay large dividends in the future.

    Brian – you do a good job of modeling that.

    • says

      The longer-term perspective is key. And it’s not a sacrifice ultimately, because the accelerating returns that continue to come from having an audience are well beyond the lead generation that was the initial goal.

      Thanks for the comment John, and happy holidays!

  4. says

    “The one who makes it rain makes the rules.” – love the phrase!

    2014 is going to be awesome! Thank you for all the great content and education in 2013. Copyblogger has definitely “elevated the game” and I hope it’s going to keep doing so.

  5. says

    The kids say email is old school, but I still think it is working. What’s your prediction for using that medium effectively in 2014?

    You’re right about content, but connecting and building relationships will be about context. Each medium channel has a way to communicate that is unique.

    I guess we’ll see how it all unfolds in 2014. Thanks for your leadership.

    Make it rain!

    • says

      I’ll let Brian chime in with his own wording, but email — when it’s combined with content worth consuming, which it often isn’t — shows no signs at all of becoming less effective.

    • says

      It’s always been about context, but it’s good to see that concept making the rounds.

      As for email, it’s still the highest converting sales channel by far. Social media doesn’t even register, because in that context, people are not looking for sales messages. As for why some people struggle with email, it’s like I said a week ago on Twitter: “Email’s not the problem. Your copy is.”

      Happy holidays Rex, we’ll see you next year!

  6. says

    Hi Brian,

    The year 2013 witnessed major tsunami and of course, it is the year of content marketers that knows how to marshal the basics of copywriting. I never knew about the collapse of demand studio, just getting to know of the news.

    I align myself with the belief of Brian Clark, his predictions and strategies are like forex signals to any wise online marketers.

  7. says

    Interesting concept.

    Concept Marketing itself can be very beneficial but only if the right content is marketed.

    For example I was researching for problems I’m having in my lawn, “dollar weed” and when I Googled it I found useful tips and education from none other than Scotts lawn who sells lawn stuff. The content I found was helpful and high quality so it was effective at making me seriously consider buying their product.

    However if Scotts spent their content marketing budget on ranking #1 for “scotts” then maybe this would not result in sales for them.

    I guess this is what the new “making it rain” is all about, business results from content.
    (the old one involved throwing money and strippers, no?)

  8. says

    Thank you, Brian, for giving content creators something to cheer about with the new year.

    I was definitely doing the happy dance when Google released Hummingbird. My intuition was that it would be the dearth of the ubiquitous Writer-Needed-5-Paise-a-word postings on LinkedIn.

    With so many writers on a fast race to the bottom these past few years, it’s difficult to prove let alone gain one’s Authority.

    Copyblogger’s blog, My.Copyblogger resources, Authority (which is in my 2014 budget), and now the possibilities of Rainmaker are giving me the confidence to market my worth in 2014.

    Many thanks for that peace of mind. I don’t think Santa could put a better present in my stocking.

    Everyone at Copyblogger, thank you for what you do. Have a very Merry Christmas week off.

  9. says

    Love, love, love the holiday rallying cry! Can’t believe it’s been a year since the last one. Leaving the day job and going full time freelance as a copywriter at the beginning of 2014 is scary, but reading this fuels that fire which led to me getting into this amazing business in the first place. People need us. We are the rainmakers. Thank you Mr. Clark. Thank you Copyblogger. Thank you to the irreverently amazing writing community and the conversation you’ve continued throughout the year. Here’s to 2014. Let’s make it rain.

  10. says

    I think what is next is that life is continually getting better for Brands as opposed to mom and pop “websites” or “businesses”. Looking at all of this from an SEO Company perspective, the risk for doing business with entities that do not already create “buzz” or “social” content on it’s own is continually to separate the gap between risk and cost of rankings in the Search Engines.

    Thank you again Brian for this insightful piece. It is always a pleasure to read and share your work.

  11. says

    Hi Brian

    What a great sum-up of this year, and I’m really looking forward to what New Rainmaker will be doing in 2014.

    Thank you for Copyblogger Media.

    You’ve had a significant positive influence on our small but growing business during 2013 – in particular the invaluable content marketing teaching of Authority and Copyblogger, the Entreproducer Podcasts (esp. the hyperlocal topic) and Studiopress’ Genesis framework which is now the core of our web design and development business .

    We hope to be contributing back into the community (Studiopress/WP) in 2014 – and making it rain for us and our clients… with your guidance of course!

    Happy Holidays!


  12. says

    I keep improving my content, but still struggle to gain new traffic. For me 2014 will be a year where I focus more on content than traffic. My goal is less to create a big blog than it is to be creative.

    • says

      Hey Dan, I just wanted to chime in here.

      Great content is great – BUT if nobody is viewing your content, then you might as well have just written it on paper and then thrown it in the trash.

      The “build it and they will come” approach only works in movies – if you want more traffic then you will have to work on methods that specifically build more traffic.

      Its great that you want to focus on quality, but you MUST focus equally on marketing your blog and getting more eyeballs and then converting those views.

      Just my 2 cents anyway

  13. says

    As an SEO copywriter, I’m concerned that with tablets and mobile taking over the social media landscape–and the web landscape as a whole, for that matter, as 60% of social media time is spent on tablets/smartphones–that good, old-fashioned content (WRITING) is disappearing or at least not as important as it once was.

    People want to see images, memes, infographics, short videos, etc. I’m concerned that the web simply isn’t the place for any content that isn’t visual. Of course there will always be some copy on websites, but I think the 300-600 word articles are waning in importance.

  14. says

    Quality content creation has picked up steam in 2013 as more topics and blogs are talking about it.

    Let us hope more bloggers and content creators are creating more for their audience than for anything else.

    I hope to see the use of social media as a place to share bits of content with each other.

    I want to use social media for myself as a medium to connect and share content with each other.

    Entrepreneurs are content creators is becoming more of an option with them? Hopefully we will see more start-ups like that.

    Is the rainmaker involved or related with Copyblogger in any way?

    Thanks for the year end article!

    – Samuel

  15. says

    Hey Brian,

    I LOVE this post.

    But I think there are still a lot of companies that need to “come in from the cold”

    Companies that don’t understand or realize the importance of great content, and how informing and educating their readers can position them as an authority and thought leader in their relevant niche.

    When you do THAT, then converting your readers, those who are genuinely interested in what you have to say, becomes soooo much easier!

    That’s my 2 cents anyway.

    (PS – hope this isn’t a double post, as my previous one seems to have gotten lost on it’s way through the internet!)

  16. says

    I enjoyed reading the comments too and especially the thoughts on email. Yes, email needs to be our best content ever. And our track record totally determines if our emails continue to be opened and read! Thanks for these thoughts. Blessings, Amy

  17. says

    As a beginning blogger, I feel honored by learning how to create content using ideas from great writers like Brian. Good content not only catches my attention, but makes me come back for more. The Google algorithm has worked to weed out the manufactured crap and forces us to write from the heart as well as the mind. Thank you Brian.

  18. says

    Thanks Brian..and I hope you have a very happy new year.

    Also, I just wanted to say thank you for the pluses and retweets this year of my own content and, for those that have not yet… take 2014 and spend the year inside the AUTHORITY program… It has truly helped catapult my own presence online to a height I never expected.

    Thanks to Sonia and the other contributors as well….God Bless.

  19. says

    Yeah, 2014’s going to be what many of us have been doing all of this year. Content’s important but, depending on your business size and type, it’s not as vital as has been made out with regard to blog posts. Guest posts are as vital as ever and the more inventive and fun the better.

    Arbitrary business spiel needs to be dropped a lot next year – I’d love to see that from regular business posters. Plain, concise English is what we could do with. No more “at the end of the day” or “what it boils down to”.

    Have a great New Year, everyone!

  20. says

    As a starting blogger, I feel regarded by figuring out how to make substance utilizing plans from extraordinary essayists like Brian. Exceptional substance not just gets my consideration, I continue enhancing my substance, yet at the same time battle to increase new activity. For me 2014 will be a year where I center more on substance than activity. My objective is less to make an enormous blog than it is to be innovative.

  21. says

    Great content was always the key when it comes to online success but the last years as you mentioned everyone started realizing it. For me the big winners of 2014 will be those who will not only produce great content but they will also take advantage of their connections with other people to make their content even effective!

  22. says

    “…that educates, engages, and entertains all the way to the bank” – Agreed. If your content lacks any one of the three elements (education, engagement and entertainment), you are not going to the bank.

  23. says

    Awesome post Brian! I’m looking forward to the New Rainmaker emails. Funny enough, in 2007, when I was in my first marketing job, there used be media owner that called himself the rainmaker. He even had it on his business card!

    Talking about 2014 and beyond, in my opinion, the future belongs to people who consistently deliver remarkable online experiences for their audiences. It could be through a blog post, infographic, Twitter message, video or Vine.

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