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Crafting content that works

There’s a growing chorus against content marketing, and with good reason. For too many marketers, content marketing doesn’t work. Too often that failure is caused by one thing: an emphasis on quantity over quality.

Certainly, one blog post a year is not going to reap you the marketing rewards you seek, but the “we have to publish 3 blog posts a week, come hell or high water!” approach may actually be more damaging.

That focus frequently means a lowering of standards, resulting in content that damages your content marketing standing, if not your brand. Even worse, in a world of limited resources, the focus on creating new content means other key parts of the content marketing process are ignored.

Here’s a guide to crafting content that really does work.

Make it Relevant
If your audience doesn’t care, your content doesn’t matter. So make sure your content is relevant to your audience’s needs. That’s Content Marketing 101 stuff and it’s not often overlooked, but being relevant doesn’t end there. Your content also has to be relevant to your expertise and services. Otherwise, you’re not marketing; you’re publishing free public service announcements.

Make it Interesting
There are a lot of different approaches you can take to making your content interesting. Graphics almost always spice things up, assuming they’re relevant and of reasonable quality. (Crappy stock imagery doesn’t count.) There’s humor, though that’s a bit of a dangerous play, so proceed with caution. Most of all there’s establishing and writing with a particular personality. Create a voice and make it a part of your content creation exercise.

Make it Personal
Never forget that the decision-makers you’re trying to reach are people. Yes, they represent businesses, but they are people and you should treat them as people. Add the personal touch wherever you can, making sure it’s authentic. A hugely important note on this: marketing automation. Don’t overdo it. Think of what comes to mind when you think “efficiency expert.” That’s marketing automation. (Or can be, when done wrong.) Make sure to keep that efficiency balanced with the personal touch.

Make it Engaging
Here again, you’ve got a lot of latitude in how you can fully engage your audience. For Seth Godin, keeping things short is the key to success. (Not always, but he does publish a lot of short, interesting, insightful content.) What’s also important are visuals, as noted above, and headlines, of course, because you have to grab their attention – literally, engage them – before you can prove that you’re interesting and relevant.

The surest path to engagement, though, is telling a story. If you can weave a narrative through the individual items you publish and through your work as a whole, you’ll grab your audience’s attention in a way few other approaches can match. Easier said than done, but the time you spend crafting a story strategy rather than pumping out more mediocre content will be rewarded.

Make it Shareable
That doesn’t mean you expect your content to go viral. (Hint: it’s almost certainly not going to.) But you do want folks who are your fans to be able to share it easily. And as valuable as the broad shares are – getting your audience to send it out to their network increases your network exponentially – the real value is in the more intimate share. As in, your contact sharing it with her counterpart in another division with a note saying, “Weren’t you just talking about trying to solve this problem? Give Andy a call. He knows his stuff.”

Make it Actionable
Does your content encourage your audience to take the next step? It should. Whether that’s commenting or sharing to help you grow your audience or taking the next step down the buying process, you want to keep people moving forward. Great content is designed with the steps of the buying process in mind.

Make it Promotable
OK, this isn’t about crafting the content itself, but it’s just as important. Actually, it’s probably more important. Because great content poorly promoted is not going to gain traction. You have to promote your content if you want it to market your business.

That’s a long list of ways to craft compelling content. And you will likely forget 90% of it before the day is out – hey, I’m a realist – but if you remember one thing, it should be this: focus on quality, not quantity. We’re all drowning in content. None of us wants more to drink from the firehose. We want more useful stuff. Provide it, and you’ll develop a loyal following who turn into customers and advocates on your behalf.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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  1. Avatar Niraj

    Excellent article, Andrew. My personal favourite – make it actionable, it certainly helps in easing prospects down the sales funnel. Thanks, Niraj (Founder at hiverhq.com)

    1. Avatar Andrew Schulkind

      That’s it exactly, Niraj: the goal of content marketing has to be to move prospects through the buying cycle. (I’m going with “buying” instead of “selling” since we want to be client-centric, right? ) Thanks for your thoughts.

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