Are you overwhelmed by the never-ending lists of best practices for content marketing? If so, you are not alone. There’s a TON of information out there! Everyone claims they can boil it all down for you, yet every opinion is different. So what do we do? How do we prioritize? How do we know where to start? We need to know that with every piece of content we produce, we’ve at least covered the FUNDAMENTALS.
Good news: I’ve been studying the content marketing experts—learning what they do, how they do it, and why they get results. What principles of content creation are being practiced, proven, and recommended by these?
In this blog post, I’ll tell you about three common threads I’ve found among the experts’ advice. Content that applies all three of these principles will function like a rock-star employee—creating value for your business day in and day out, building relationships, bringing in new leads + increasing revenue.
I’ll address some common roadblocks that may be keeping you from applying these principles and suggest some tips to overcome them. So lean on my research to cut through the noise, and read on to find out how to put the fundamentals of expert content creation to work for you!
Content Marketing Principle #1: BE AUTHENTIC.
Authenticity is what will get you noticed + remembered.
Think you’re not original, smart, witty [insert any adjective here that’s holding you back] enough? You’re wrong.
Remember this simple formula: YOUR expertise + YOUR personality = ORIGINAL content that will offer VALUE to your audience.
And if you’re reading this post, you already know what offering real value to your audience free of charge will do for your business.
Need help with words?
- Hire a writer, proofreader, or writing coach.
- As you’re writing, visualize yourself having a conversation with your reader, a friend, a colleague, or someone you know very well.
- Try telling your story out loud—alone or to a friend—and using a voice recorder. Have the audio transcribed, and voila! All you need is a little editing.
Need help figuring out which platform(s) to use to deliver your content? Find out where your audience consumes content and go there. How? Just ask them.
- Ask your existing clients as you communicate about other matters, or send out a quick survey.
- Look at the platforms your competitors are using, and pick the ones that appear to be working well.
- Hire a content marketing strategist.
As a busy professional service provider, you want to cut through the digital noise and go straight to the minds of YOUR prospects and clients. It’s not that you mind other folks reading, but you’re creating content for people who can benefit from your products or services. The good news is there’s no need to get caught up in trying to get the most “likes” or “shares;” in most industries, those counts don’t matter to your audience. So, focus on QUALITY leads + engagement by foregoing hype in favor of honesty. Be transparent about your intentions + be vulnerable. There’s no quicker way to increase your “know, like + trust factor” through content than to just BE YOU.
Bottom line: As Simon Sinek said so eloquently, “People respond to honesty with honesty. People respond to manipulation with manipulation. People respond to lies with lies…When we trust people, we see them as loyal partners and we want to be honest back because it’s in everybody’s best interest.”
Content Marketing Principle #2: BE CONCISE.
The name of the game these days is SIMPLICITY. You absolutely must be able to convey your message quickly—almost instantaneously—or it’ll be lost forever in the infinite noise of the digital revolution. And this doesn’t just apply to written communications; you have less than 30 seconds to engage someone in person, too.
Think about how busy you are and how that impacts the way you respond to all the people trying to communicate with you. Think about how quickly you duck out of a conversation with someone who drones on about their own business, delete an email with a brief scan of its subject line, ignore a text from an unrecognized number, unsubscribe from a blog you just don’t have a free minute to read anymore.
Your own audience is no different. If you’re not FAST + FOCUSED, you’re not getting through. Period. There are just too many other communicators out there competing for your readers’ time and attention.
Make your message CRYSTAL CLEAR. Don’t cloud it with unfamiliar terminology, irrelevant stories, filler words, or technical jargon. Don’t leave your readers searching around for the VALUE in your content. Tell them upfront what they’ll get if they read on; then deliver on that promise.
Here are a few suggestions that’ll help you get to the point, clearly + concisely:
- Use an outline to build a logical structure and reign in your focus as you write. Having trouble getting started? Answer three simple questions recommended by writing coach Alexandra Franzen: What do you want your audience to KNOW? How do you want them to FEEL? What do you want them to DO?
- Write in first person, and use active voice; it’ll make your content easier to read.
- Use visual cues to alert your readers to the most important points. Think white space, bulleted lists, font variations, etc. Digital content consumers often SCAN content, rather than reading every word. Make sure your key points jump out at them.
- Edit, edit, edit. Scratch anything that strays off-topic. And if you just can’t seem to boil it down to one unmistakable point, consider dividing up your single piece of content into multiple pieces. (BONUS: Breaking it up might give you more bang for your content creation buck, too.)
Bottom line: Keep it simple. Your audience has questions. You have answers. Fantastic! Get to the point quickly, and sign off. They’ll appreciate your respect for their time + be more likely to read future communications from you.
Content Marketing Principle #3: BE RELEVANT.
You know your clients. You’ve read their RFPs, met them for coffee, listened to their problems + questions, heard their complaints. You KNOW what they’re looking for, so give it to them! It’s that simple. If you focus on your clients’ needs instead of your own, I can almost guarantee you’ll win their attention.
Once you have their attention, don’t waste it! Follow up with more relevant content. SHOW THEM you can solve a pain or problem they’ve been struggling with. Offer more VALUE; give away more answers.
Bottom line: Be thoughtful. Put your clients’ needs ahead of your own. They’ll appreciate your generosity + view you as a trusted resource.
How are you applying these principles in your content, and how are they working for you? I hope you’ll share your stories in the comments below.
If you’re struggling with a particular content marketing issue, please feel free to reach out to me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help you!