Staggering Discovery: Goal-Oriented Content Works


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.

Goal-oriented content

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?

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0 responses to “Staggering Discovery: Goal-Oriented Content Works”

  1. I feel like I’m seeing a trend among a lot of bloggers, marketing thought leaders, and other related folks. Mitch Joel recently posted about whether real conversation can/does take place in blog comments. Mark Schaefer wrote about whether social media can remain social at scale. Leo Laporte was posting to Buzz for over 2 weeks, but his posts weren’t being seen by anyone, and no one even noticed. The questions are compounding. Why are we doing this? What is it we are even really doing? What’s the point?
    Reading back on that, it sounds much more pessimistic than I actually feel. Honestly, I think it’s good to ask questions like that because answering those almost removes the problems we encounter around it being difficult to produce content…at least in my mind.
    When I blog professionally, I have a much easier time producing content than when I blog personally, because 1) I wouldn’t keep my job if I was not passionate about what I do, and 2) it’s much easier to produce content on what I’m passionate about than something that I just have to do. When I produce content professionally, I think about how I can help my clients or people like them, which is what I love to do, so it generally flows.
    When I produce content personally, the reasons are a lot less clear. Am I doing this because I just need an active blog? Or because I really care about having this blog, YouTube channel, or whatever else?
    Professionally, I am much more likely to see the benefit of that content production: happy clients, successful clients, attention, etc. In that sense, it is much more like being able to touch my product than it is just talking about something someone else has produced, I suppose.

  2. Here are the things I wonder about:
    – do people who interact with Mitch or Mark or Seth bring up what I have been writing for years? Why not? I’ve been in business as long, in some cases longer. I often find I’ve written it before…
    – why are most of the guests on podcasts guys? Don’t we have plenty of professional women? (and I’m not talking about picking the usual token one or two like the lists that circulate πŸ™‚
    – how come we talk so much about providing value and not being overtly promotional and then reward the promotional stuff?
    – why does it take an outrageous rant to have a conversation about an important topic? Isn’t that how we’re teaching people to create crisis?
    What I’m seeing is a whole lot of inconsistencies between what people preach and what they do.
    In reading your comment I kept thinking that perhaps it is easier to be balanced when there isn’t a personal expectation of benefit. In fact, when we do things selflessly, passion or no passion, we do better.

  3. Hmm…to the first question, I’m not certain. I do recall that I actually found your blog as a result of some high praise you received on SPoS or the Beancast or some such podcast πŸ˜‰
    You are definitely right about the women point. I don’t have a lot of history of listening to podcasts to draw from, but I feel like the only one that includes any large variety of women entrepreneurs, marketers, etc is the Beancast, but then again, that’s the biggest ensemble, guest podcast I listen to.
    Naomi over at ittybiz wrote recently about how people have to get over a fear of tooting their own horn if they want to make money. I guess that I see that as being related to “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” We can talk about providing value, but ultimately, the people who get noticed are the people, who demand to be noticed…regardless of the value they provide, I suppose. Though, that might be a massive over-generalization.
    David at Heroic Destiny posted in the last week about being so mad/frustrated/upset that he was throwing chairs, even though I think that was figuratively speaking. Regardless, he got a ton of response. His readers seemed to take that as a sign that he was showing more personality and coming out of his shell. I don’t think that at all shows value, but I believe it hints at potential future value. Some people, who see rants, might think that they could connect with this person on a few points in the future. If that is how we have to catch people’s attention though, it’s not much different from any other sort of interruption or shock marketing, is it? I don’t know honestly, but that is my initial feeling.
    To your last point, I’m having a hard time divorcing (what might be seen as) current selflessness from a reasonable expectation of future benefits. What I mean is…I might create a series of 10 videos on things I believe everyone could do to improve their marketing. While that might cost me a lot of time and money, I could post those just because I want to help people. However, I can have a reasonable expectation that I will derive some benefit as a result in the future, right?
    Perhaps I have strayed too far from the original point of you post though…

  4. The question of getting women on podcasts has plagued me. You are right, Valeria, in saying that podcasts run by men mainly feature men.
    In the two and half years I’ve run The BeanCast, I have clearly favored male guests. I make no excuse for this. It’s something that has bothered me a great deal and something I actively try to correct. But I would like to share some insights.
    Did you know that an invitation sent to a woman to appear on my show is twice as likely to be ignored or rejected than it would be by a man?
    I’m not entirely sure of the reason for this. I’ve joked that women are just too busy doing the work and men simply want to talk about it. But I definitely think there’s something deeper going on.
    Then there’s the obvious issue of audience appeal. I openly admit that I seek out “big names” for my show to attract their audience as listeners. So is the fact that there are more “big name” men out there than women a product of discrimination or a product of women not tooting their own horn enough?
    I pose no answers because I’ve found none. But it’s interesting stuff to think on. In the mean time, I continue to welcome women on the show, do another show (Ad Age Outlook) with the female editor of Ad Age (Abbey Klaassen) and constantly think on how to balance this equation.
    And BTW, consider this your official invite. I’ve got some slots left open for October. Ask Jaffe or Verdino about me.
    Bob Knorpp
    Host of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast
    Host of Ad Age Outlook

  5. @Eric – I’m thinking it might have been the Quick’n’Dirty Social Media podcast with Aaron Strout and Jennifer Leggio. Their mention was a welcome surprise several weeks back. In social circles, generally, it’s others who toot your horn that works best. While I champion many, and I have many champions, they tend to also be head down at work like me, and not out there tweeting. My off line network is more vibrant and active. Funny, when I’m frustrated generally other women (yes, even coaches) counsel to keep calm and not make a scene. I’m Italian and quite passionate and say, why not? Sometimes people need a nudge. My passion and emotions are what make me strong and connective. I think the whole selfless movement is a red herring πŸ˜‰
    @Bob – I’ve had two high profile guys tell me we should do a podcast on several occasions. With one I ended up in the same place where podcasts with other guys were recorded instead (interesting, don’t you think? Happened 3 times, it’s a trend), with the other schedules didn’t mesh. I invited myself on a couple of podcasts in the last year. And I have been copied plenty, so my material must be decent. Several times, even recently, event organizers picked guys. I expect SxSW panels/solos to have the same ratio. Let’s look at those slots for October, then. Thank you for inviting me.

  6. BTW, Eric was right about your mention on the BeanCast. Joe Jaffe is a frequent guest and spent his entirely “shameless plug” at the end of one episode singing your praises. πŸ™‚
    Bob Knorpp
    Host of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast
    Host of Ad Age Outlook

  7. @Valeria It would be good to hear you the BeanCast. It’s probably the podcast I most look forward to every week. Of course, I’m always looking for more though, so I appreciate any suggestions you have.

  8. Thanks for the excellent post and thanks to Eric and Bob for the excellent conversation. Your discussion appears to me to be more about expressing a passion and attracting those that are similarly wired. In that case the is the goal to help and serve by showing who you are and (1) attracting those that are like you (your people) and (2) giving those people a reason to come back. Perhaps my view is a bit introspective. I certainly believe that your audience deserves your full commitment, I think that how you select, pursue and add to that audience has a huge effect on how well you serve and the constitution of your content. What do you think?

  9. @Bob – what a productive conversation we had today. The podcast will be fun and I had not caught up with Jaffe’s “shameless plug”, I’ll need to thank him.
    @Eric – there you have it. This time the connection was made through you. Thank you.
    @Lamar – if you stick around, you will read about a case study of passion for the same very specific compound on Thursday. What a better world would this be if more people were passionate about the work they do, if they saw it as a craft they hone over time and with the help of interaction. And you can use content to communicate that care.

  10. Valeria thanks a lot for the interesting post and conversation. I’ve been thinking a lot about useful and purposeful content, and how it is difficult to drive traditional companies out of their blah-blah-blah of market-leading solution-providing young-and-innovative companies, and let them start to talk to their customers with the same passion they use when they are at work.
    As a communication consultant, I do not always succeed in this, and the last time my customer’s goals, strategy and style were so radically different from mine that I ended up making clear the distance, and stating that we were no longer compatible.
    But nonetheless I firmly believe that the road you outline is the most effectve one, and moreover the only one that gives you the feeling you are not cheating, but rather building something of value.
    About women: I’m a strong supporter of re-balancing the sex ratio, and I always speak loud when I see those 5 guys – 1 girl panels around. I must also admit that I have no difficulties in believing @Bob when he says that women decline invitations more often than men do, so we must make our part (as you brilliantly do) reclaming, accepting and self-promoting.
    see you πŸ™‚

  11. Valeria – your post resonated with me (as did Eric’s comment) because I’ve been wondering what exactly I get as a result of blogging and Tweeting. I started my business just 18 months ago and continue to schlep my way along the road to building it.
    My hope with my “social media experiment” was to experience the tools first hand, perhaps build some awareness and even meet potential clients. It seems like I’m succeeding in 2/3 — but the actual revenue part lags my expectations (perhaps unreasonably).
    I’ve noticed the phenomenon of writing a screed or rant or controversial post that leads to RT’s, comments, and reprinting on Ragan — and the gaining of followers from participating on chats. It seems the less academic I am, the better. Yet, at this stage I’m most passionate about the potential education value — especially on measurement topics and internal comms.
    As for the obvious gender imbalance, I don’t know what to think. @jgombita is a passionate advocate of calling organizers out in these matters — particularly egregious given the continued female domination of the communication profession.
    I’m a total podcast #fail, though — that’s a medium I should be much more involved in (as a former radio broadcaster), and somehow have to catch into it.
    Thanks for a thoughtful post (and good comments.)

  12. @Alessandra – you make a really good point about cheating v. earning. Whenever I look at purchasing followers and friends in social media I see the disconnect with mass media. The fact we call it mass is also an apt description, isn’t it? It would be — it is — like cheating. As for the women bit, there is a lot of room for improvement, for women starting to promote other women instead of being queen bees πŸ˜‰
    @Sean – what I see happening is everyone looking up to one or two examples of early wins, say Godin, Brogan, for example, and looking to “be like them”. You cannot be like them without being a “me, too” and the place in that category is already taken. To emerge, you need to create a new category and build enough appeal into it to draw others to it so they elevate you to the top as creator and first example. That’s how brands do it, that’s how people have been doing it. You may also want to revisit your goals and rebalance the ratio of your activities or tighten your content’s focus based upon yield or income. I don’t see a leader for internal communications only, for example. There are several in the measurement camp, so could you be more specific on the application of measurement and claim that industry/field? Years ago, when I started in business, there were a few women who made it to the top and they were especially good at keeping all others to the bottom… we’re seeing that with social networks. Scarcity mindset at work. As a former radio broadcaster, you have the opportunity to develop an amazing podcast, how can we assist in making it happen?

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