For me, just about the worst feeling in the world is when I put out a piece of content and people don’t respond to it. If they respond negatively it’s one thing, at least I know they’re paying attention. But there’s nothing more terrifying to a marketer than the echo that comes from shouting down a well.
It could be a lot of things. Maybe you’re trying to appeal to the wrong market. Maybe you didn’t publicize your work enough. Or maybe, just maybe, people don’t think your content’s amazing.
Rough, I know. But the world’s a very different place than it used to be for content providers and content marketers. We work in an incredibly crowded marketplace where there’s enormous competition for the increasingly fragmented attention of every individual. Content marketing was created in order to give potential customers a clear return for their time investment, but the market’s become so flooded with it that expectations have gone through the roof. If your content is just good it’s just not good enough.
Making things is hard work, and making high-quality things is even tougher. But there’s no doubt that optimizing your content and maximizing its appeal to your consumer base will result in dramatic returns for your business. With that in mind, it’s time to buckle up and focus on producing amazing content. Here are seven quick tips to help make your “meh” content amazing!
1. Amazing content speaks through the screen
Every writer has a style and every brand has a voice. This voice is expressed largely through your content, and helps the consumer connect to the material on a human level. Developing a consistent, relatable voice is an absolute key to amazing content.
With the exception of a very few industries, we’ve gotten past marketing-speak as a culture. Corporate brochure language is dense, unrelatable, and uninteresting. It prevents you from connecting with your following on a human level, and makes it easier for them to ignore your content as you blend in with the crowd. Whenever possible, let your content speak directly to your following through the screen. Relate personally and intimately, and let them know that you understand and have empathy for their problems.
Cross-posting and promotion has become an enormous part of internet marketing, and you want to make sure that your content can stand on its own and direct back to you regardless of context. Consistency in the voice and presentation of your content will make it instantly identifiable and help you carve out a clear niche in the minds of your following. People are comfortable with and expect consistency, while inconsistency creates a state of discomfort that they’ll start to associate with your content if you constantly change voice and presentation style. We’ll cover experimentation later; you need to find the box before you start going outside it.
This level of consistency requires a highly-skilled content provider. If you don’t have the time to produce a lot of content with a consistently high level of quality, consider hiring a professional freelancer to give you a leg up.
2. There’s always a fresh angle
If I could give only one piece of advice to a struggling content marketer it would be this:
Ask interesting questions.
There’s always a fresh angle, and interesting questions about your supposedly “boring” or “played-out” topic are what maintains your audience’s attention. The right questions make virtually any topic interesting, and delivering clear and coherent answers to them will almost certainly build trust and new interest in your subject matter.
To be or not to be, that’s one heck of an interesting question
Let’s work from a concrete example, and use the area of “content marketing” as our fairly played-out topic of choice. This article itself is an answer to a simple question:
How do I turn my ‘eh’ content into amazing content?
That’s a pretty good question, but at the point that this article is finished hopefully you know some of the answers. There’s more room for exploration, but not all that much more. Let’s see if we can go back a step, and find the question that question comes from:
What are some of the things that content marketers are struggling with right now?
Now that’s a much more interesting question. You could easily create 5 – 10 high quality pieces of content based off of it. By using this process of “backward-engineering” the questions beget questions, which tend to lead towards interesting and more unexplored lines of thought. Content built off of these questions tends to be the most unique and impactful.
3. What don’t your readers know already
A central step towards asking the right questions and staying fresh with your content is understanding the questions your readers are interested in. What don’t they know already, and how can you best deliver the answers to them?
Getting right into the head of your potential audience is actually much simpler than it once was. There’s an amazing tool virtually custom designed for that purpose: Quora.
It looks a bit like this
Quora.com is a Q&A site where anyone who signs in can ask or answer a variety of different questions. It’s incredibly intuitive, just plug a topic into the search bar and immediately be taken to a page with common questions associated with that topic. When I used “content marketing” here’s what came up:
- What are some good case studies for content marketing?
- Which blogs/articles are strong examples of content marketing?
- What is content marketing?
- Who’s doing a good job of using user-generated content in content marketing?
- Is content marketing personal promotion?
These are real questions on the field I’m examining authored by real people that have real interest. If I compose pieces related to these topics there’s a good chance that they’ll appeal to my target audience, increasing relevancy and maximizing my chances of a positive response.
4. Deliver the ever elusive “eloquent expert”
At the most basic level, customers are looking for content that does two things:
- Answers their questions and solves their problems.
- Is easy to read and entertaining to engage
Most brands tend to be good at one or another, but are rarely good at both. There are plenty of brands that are highly informative, they deliver well researched and thought out content but have the literary appeal of your average high school math instructor (and are about as likely to put you to sleep). Then there are those who attempt to conceal their lack of expertise in a field by using flair, energy, and a few too many run-on sentences. It may be engaging, but most customers are looking for a bit more value with their entertainment.
The ultimate goal is to become an “eloquent expert,” someone who is both well versed in their field and sufficiently articulate to deliver that knowledge in an understandable and interesting way. Good content is a combination of the standard of writing and level of understanding demonstrated, having just one or the other isn’t enough anymore. By using clear examples, building unique arguments, and mixing sound research with a little verbal panache you’ll stand out from the crowd and appeal to a wide range of consumers.
5. Do the math
If you’re reading this it’s pretty likely that you’re interested in content marketing, and if you’re interested in content marketing it’s pretty likely that you consider yourself more of a words person than a numbers person. But don’t forget, numbers are your friend.
Use data and do the math whenever possible in your content. Research is more trusted than opinion and helps to establish you as a credible authority in the space. Including citations, references and source material for the information you present will dramatically increase the odds of people taking you seriously.
This makes me more trustworthy, and consumer trust is key.
6. Experiment and be bold
We all have that one thing we do really well, and it’s likely that your brand does too. Staying in your lane and producing the kind of content you’re deeply familiar with should be the core of your content strategy. But without a level of innovation, variation, and experimentation you’ll never push your brand forward and really engage your following with something new and different.
There’s a philosophy around content production called the 70-20-10 approach. Here’s how it breaks down:
- 70% of Content: The bread-and-butter content that supports your core brand identity. Advice, how-to’s, top fives, basic blogs and whatever else appeals to your primary audience. Simple, safe and straightforward.
- 20% of Content: Content that is similar to the 70%, but is more experimental, risky, and controversial. This content distinguishes your brand as one that doesn’t always follow the herd, and reaches out to some new demographics while staying in line with your core competencies. A level of controversy creates engagement, but don’t sink the ship here.
- 10% of Content: New, unpredictable, innovative. Things you haven’t tried before that broaden your brand’s horizons, and could eventually become part of the 20% (or even 70%). Content that fights stagnation and focuses on of-the-moment issues. These are your mega-resource guides to a topic, innovative research and op-eds, or experiments with new forms and methods of content delivery. It’s the scary stuff that pushes your brand forward.
The 70-20-10 model is a safe approach to introducing a little more risk and creativity into your overall content strategy. The 70% is of course incredibly important, but without the 30% your content will stagnate. A certain amount of risk is what makes life exciting!
7. Keep it personal
Let’s have a moment of total honesty: People are incredibly self-centered. Most are so wrapped up in their personal dramas that it’s almost impossible to focus their attention on something outside of themselves for more than a few minutes. When the world revolves around them, how do you break through and get their attention? By appealing to their personal lives.
As we’ve said in the past, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a bored customer. Include some subtle appeals to personal life in your content to further engage your audience where they live. Think about how your content can apply to not just their work life, but their personal life as well. Much of this can be handled simply by relating to your customers on a more personal level. Find moments to speak individual to individual rather than brand to individual.
While quantity may get you initial exposure, quality is what will truly build your following and make you stand out from the rest. In content marketing quality is always king, and it’s absolutely critical to know how to turn mediocre content into amazing content by applying a few basic principles. Developing a clear voice, asking the right questions, being bold, and relating to your consumers on a human level will make your content sing!
I’m sure there are more than 7 ways. What do you think?