Apathy doesn't sell.
I was discussing content marketing with a business acquaintance the other day. He paused, thought about it for a moment, then said, "you mean what a company does that helps people. In that case, what they do should be obvious on their Web site. I want to get it instantly, not have to dig around."
I think it goes beyond the clear explanation. As much as that helps people find you who need that kind of help. It needs to convey meaning. And something else: it needs to meet the reader and potential buyer where they are — they are at the center, not the brand.
Content is the value of what you do to the people who experience it.
From doing to talking about it
We're experiencing a reverse Renaissance of sorts. We've gone from a certain kind of doing — working the land and the shift with our own hands and sweat — to another kind — that of the complex intellectual activity of the knowledge worker. From manual to creative, from survival to cognitive surplus. [hat tip Clay Shirky]
People used to be filled with passion for what they made, they often had a chance to touch with their own hands how it transformed people's lives. Take a look at the history of many of today's corporations and you will see someone hard at work to solve a problem. Inventors, engineers, scientists, and so on.
Now, several layers later, many are mostly just talking about the stuff fewer are making. There is little passion for something someone else is making. Which is the reason why a lot of the content you skim on Web sites underwhelms you with the sameness of mass produced thinking. They call it best practices.
Even the advice about what to write about can use a refresh, including mine (I'm working on it, you'll see). Passion about a subject matter can be hard to come by, yet it is what sells. Find or hire someone who is passionate about the topic and put them in charge of your writing. See how that greatly enhances your chances of attracting an audience.
Where's the Meaning?
Let the passion for doing be contagious for the rest of the
organization. Give me a
video of an engineer who digs why she does what she does shot with a
Flip camera over an overly scripted talking head any time. She is great because she can get into the inner motivation of what she does.
As Tom Asacker learned – and discovered – about business, brands and marketplace success during the new millennium, the marketplace is, was, and always will be about meaning; meaning that communicates to the world — and to ourselves — who are are, what we believe in, and to what groups we belong.
Now that we can friend, follow, and like, we have a visible way of expressing the social and functional meaning we derive from experiences.
This is where goal-oriented content comes in. It answers some very simple questions that keep you on track and keep you thinking about putting the customer's point of view at the center.
- Why are you writing that Web page, post, article, white paper, etc.? This is not just about the end goal of getting clicks. It's about winning hearts.
- Who are you writing it for? Define personas with the help of traffic feedback and qualitative feedback from customers. In fact, some of it you can write together.
- What are you looking for them to do? Start with meeting them part ways.
- Where next? Make yourself think about content as breadcrumbs.
- How are you presenting it? Is it buried in your site? Does it load quickly? Is it easy to scan?
- When are you updating? There's an art in post timing, creating appointments with launches, setting the stage with pre-announcements, etc.
The ultimate outcome of your content may be conversion, trust building, social sharing, interaction, improving company reputation online, being seen as an expert, credibility, and more. That's what helps you measure if your content has done its job.
What do you find most difficult when producing content? Why do you think that is?