A couple of days ago I wrote a post about exposure and visibility and how quality content that is valuable takes time to create. Everyone agrees with that sentiment. However, when push comes to shove, with very few exceptions, people tend to spread content that is more popular -- even when popularity means less helpful, sometimes incomplete.
The ability to think critically is a gift -- it's also the underpinning of an effective business strategy, where you work from your core competencies. I worry that much of that ability gets lost to the desire to fit in and become popular -- to make the quick list, in blog parlance.
Popularity doesn't equal value to your customers, the messenger is not the message.
It's counter intuitive because there is so much more content online than just a few years ago, however content that addresses the needs of your customers is not plentiful. You get that, and you're ready to put some resources against content creation.
Here are 18 ways to walk the talk on content for your consideration:
(1.) Have a clearly defined goal before you start on the writing assignment -- what is that white paper or case study for? What part of the buyer's decision journey does it map to? Does your PR read like this, for example?
(2.) Eliminate jargon or minimize it -- some industry talk is part of what endears you to search. However, make sure you're using terminology your customers are using to find services like yours and not inside-speak.
(3.) Map the proof points and benefits to the selected phase in the buyer's decision journey -- if there are opportunities to make it specific, you should take them.
(4.) Match the benefits to the specific needs of an industry vertical -- if you're looking to attract a specific group, it pays off to know the industry and play back those issues. Expertise is a sought after quality.
(5.) Build context around your content -- either articulate what is already there, or provide a framework to guide the reader, in your case the customer. Your narrative overall can help guide you with context.
(6.) Develop a sense of timing -- know when to be opportunistic in joining an existing conversation, and offering your expert advice and information. This is easier to do when you've established a presence in networks. Hire people who can seize the moment and time you well in social networks.
(7.) Get creative -- is there a unique approach you can take? Is there opportunity to make clarity in a space where there is a lot of information that is hard to digest? David Weinberger does it with the Internet as a topic. I should do more of this. Here are 50 content ideas that create buzz.
(8.) Be more authentic -- this goes hand in hand with clarity. Is there an opportunity in your industry or niche for a business that communicates what it stands for? Could you be communicating more from your core beliefs and values?
(9.) Use your platform for your customers -- I'm liking what Dave Winer is doing with the announcement of a proposed panel Sources Go Direct. He's gathering a talented group of speakers around a topic where there is a lot of passion: news that serves users/readers.
(10.) Organize the distribution system to appeal to your customers -- in a fragmented media landscape, having a media strategy helps you tremendously. First you figure out where your customers and prospective customers are, then you learn what they're talking about, what engages them, etc.
(11.) Put people in front -- although we see many examples of this point in social media and blogs, I think content overall can use a refresh to be less stodgy and more accessible, to have a point of view. Bring forward the personality of the expert with the expertise.
(12.) Embed ways for them to talk back when they share -- downloading a white paper after registering on a form is not the only way to learn if your customers like your content and share it. Embed share this widgets in your newsletter, for example, and learn where they share it.
(13.) Hire good writers and pay them well -- everyone can write just like everyone can do marketing and communications, right? Writing that sells is a whole new level of skill, and you should appreciate the difference. Online, you can measure it all the way to the cash register, metaphorically speaking.
(14.) Refresh your content with what you learn -- although evergreen content will give you a lot of mileage, more specific content needs a refresh. Remember you're writing to zero in on needs and specific is a good thing to support conversions. Monitor what gets shared and what doesn't and test new iterations.
(15.) Include what your customers say in your content -- with permission, please. What Jonathan Fields points out here is a common trend. Permission marketing should include asking for permission to quote.
(16.) Recycle the best, with something new -- when you've invested in a piece of content, you want to make sure you leverage it across multiple media. There's nothing wrong with recycling the ideas and concepts in forms that are appropriate for the medium and the goals you're looking to achieve. You'll know what's best from sharing and downloading numbers.
(17.) Make it easy to find -- how many layers are there on your Web site? Do you have an intuitive site architecture? Is it linked to from pages that are natural complements or high in search? Are there simple calls to action begging to be followed?
(18.) Write with the future opportunities you have in mind -- much of the current activities undertaken in marketing communications focus on the present opportunities and learning from the past. The biggest opportunity stands undiscovered in the future.
Well written and effective content that is tailored to the needs of your customers is worth gold to your business -- it's your online body language, and it cannot easily be duplicated by other businesses.
How easy is it for you to write helpful content? What do you find challenging about the process? What tools do you feel you're missing to make it work?
© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.