There are tons of books about content marketing. Heck, there are probably books about books about content marketing. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the blogs.
Bottom line…there’s enough content about content out there that it would take a lifetime to read. And a lot of it is really, really good. But not everybody has the time or inclination to spend every spare moment researching content marketing best practices. So for those of us who have businesses to run and lives to live, here are six content marketing hacks you can do right now to make tomorrow’s content better than today’s. And I’ve included resources for those of you who want to dig a little deeper. (Confession: A lot of them are from my own blog, but….hey, this is what I do, and you’re who I write for.)
Know your audience
The PhD-level strategy is to develop one or more customer personae that include everything from where your target customer lives to what kind of car they drive to how many kids they have. But here’s a much more practical hack: Who buys your stuff? And why?
A word of caution: A lot of businesses — especially B2Bs — write for people who do what they do rather than the people who buy what they do. I did it myself…when I first started my business, I was writing for writers. Until I realized that other writers weren’t going to hire me. That’s what a former boss of mine would have called a “blinding glimpse of the obvious.”
Once you know who your audience is, it’s time to make sure you’re speaking their language. There are a couple of big mistakes a lot of businesses make here:
- Talking over their heads: When you live, breathe, and eat something every day, it’s hard to remember that not everybody else does that, too. It can become almost impossible to remember not knowing what you know. But you pretty much have to.
- Starting too far down the sales funnel: If you assume readers are ready to buy when they’re really just learning what they don’t know, your content won’t resonate. Again, you have to meet them where they are.
Have a purpose
Have a purpose both for your overall content strategy and for each individual piece of content. If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, how will you know whether you’ve succeeded? If you’re not sure of your purpose, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What do you want them to think, do, or feel after reading your content?
- Why is that important?
- How will you know if you’ve accomplished that goal?
Breaking it down: What do you want your content to accomplish?
Remember that you’re writing for people.
For B2C businesses, writing engaging content that reaches readers on an emotional level is pretty easy. B2B businesses, on the other hand, tend to struggle with this. After all, they’re writing for a business, not a person…right?
Wrong. Every purchasing agent is, above all, a person, fully equipped with the hopes, fears, goals, and dreams that the rest of us have.
Maybe he’s in the running for a promotion, and buying and implementing your product or service could make him look like such a genius that nobody else would stand a chance. Maybe he has to stay late twice a month to run payroll, and by the time he gets home, his wife is mad, his kids are cranky, and the dog just threw up on the carpet…again! And if he could just find a way to outsource payroll without creating more problems than he solves…well, life would be dang near perfect.
Or maybe the last vendor he picked didn’t work out so well, and he’s worried that, if he makes a bad choice again, his boss will conclude that he’s useless.
Stop thinking of your customers as logos and letterheads, and start thinking of them as people — people who want to look smart, make their job easier, scratch an item off of their to-do list, etc. For most people you write for, their job is not their life. The trick is to find out how the job affects their “real” life and address that with your content. They want a reason to say “yes” to your offer, so publish content that gives it to them.
Do your homework
It’s critical that your content is based on what you know rather than what you think you know. Base your writing on facts, not assumptions. Or, if you are writing from your own experience, say so. What you don’t want to do is present something as fact that can be easily disputed.
If that’s not reason enough, Google gives you brownie points for including outgoing links to your sources. They like it when writers do their research instead of just making stuff up.
Don’t talk about yourself too much.
Even if you have an audience of raving fans waiting breathlessly for your next post — yeah, they still don’t want to read about you all the time. You’ve got to give them a “what’s in it for me” goodie.
Pay attention to basic SEO.
Dive too deeply into SEO strategy, and it can start to feel like you’re concocting some sort of magic potion. It’s intimidating enough — and seems just hocus pocus-y enough (although it’s not) — to make you want to ignore it all together. But there are some basic things that are easy to do and pack a big punch. Something as simple as including your key word in the file names of your images can make a difference. That trick and a few others are just too easy not to do.
I’m not knocking best practices by any stretch of the imagination. It’s the people who pursue best practices who end up making us all better at our jobs. But I’m also a pragmatist, and, in contrast to some of my fellow content marketers, I think there are times when you should accept that “good enough” is better than nothing. The tips listed here are easy to implement and won’t gobble up your resources.
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