Content marketing is like pizza. You can find it just about everywhere, you can get it anywhere and it’s mostly made of the same basic ingredients.
But we all know, there’s a difference between the ordinary and the exceptional.
You know about the generic, frozen supermarket stuff you have heat in the oven. But you also know there are people who would travel across the world for specialty, handmade cooked-in-a-fiery-brick-oven pizza.
Your content marketing isn’t that much different. The question is, what kind of content are you serving up? Is it the generic, pre-made stuff or is it the type of content people go out of their way to consume?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, most companies aren’t even sure:
- Only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, down from 38% in 2016.
- 55% of marketers are unclear or unsure of what effective content marketing even looks like.
When it comes to business blogging, the stats show there is still an uphill battle. Hubspot reported in 2016 that 43% of people don’t even read blog posts. Not coincidentally, Hubspot tells us that now 53% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.
And it should be. Developing a successful business blog is vital to your company’s momentum.
We know that creating blog content for your business is important, but how do you bring your content to life? How do you write the stuff that can generate traffic and lead generation?
In this post I’ll show you 5 methods to breathe real air into your content, building unstoppable momentum and guaranteed audience engagement.
1. More of Your Headlines Should Ask Smart Questions
Look, it’s 2017 and past time we understand the power of the problem. Despite what ol’ Ian Betteridge would say, questions in your headlines – if asked smartly – can engage your audience far more than the prototypical solution-based headlines.
That’s because questions – when asked smartly – present nagging problems your customer has. And your audience’s brain is hard-wired to find a solution to that problem.
The problem gets our instant attention. This is because our brain is always on the lookout for the problem. While solutions may or may not engage the brain, a problem always gets the brain’s attention. – Sean D’Souza “The Brain Audit: Why Customers Buy (And Why They Don’t)“
How to smartly position a question in a headline:
A smart question headline will have your reader motivated to find the answer… to find the solution, or ease their “pain.”
Therefore, don’t ask very close ended questions.
“Do You Need Help With Your Business?”
Copywriting legend Bob Bly says the very best question headlines ask “questions that readers can empathize with or would like to see answered.”
Here are some excellent examples:
The initial thought? “What mistakes?” This headline presents a problem and introduces some undeniable curiosity. Any serious blogger would at least be somewhat interested to find out what they may be doing wrong.
Breaking the rules? Not so fast! This headline does ask a yes or no question … but it works when it either answers it immediately, or phrases the question so the audience is compelled to read the promotion to answer it.
Buzzfeed’s mastery of headlines include questions like this one, which created massive engagement to the tune of 5 million views along with hundreds of comments.
Shout out to the companies that aren’t afraid to be a bit provocative! Plus the promise of a flowchart adds intrigue to a fun, relatable topic itching for a click.
Headlines Question Types To Avoid:
‘Who Else Wants’ (To Get Investment Returns Like Warren Buffet? To Make Millions Like Elon Musk? To Have a Rap Career Like Jay-Z?)
These type of question headlines are played out like iPhone 3s. Just don’t do it. They were great in 2012, not so much in the more “clickbait” 2017.
Experimenting with headline questions engage your audience and add personality to your content, which is something people can actually relate to. Just make sure they’re “smart” questions.
2. Your Content Needs Enthusiasm. Here’s How…
Enthusiasm is the x-factor of your content. If you don’t love what you’re blogging about, tweeting or sharing on social media platforms, your audience will know.
People can taste the enthusiasm in your content the same way they can taste an authentic pie from an award-winning pizza spot. Going through the motions with your content marketing can be the equivalent of a two-day old slice warmed up in the microwave.
Enthusiasm in your content is the stuff that engagement is made out of, the kind of content that gets you email sign-ups and purchase notifications.
Every piece of your content needs to be covered with enthusiasm. It’s the “crust of your pizza.”
But it’s more than just an analogy, it’s a formula. Enthusiasm is known as knowledge + interest + belief.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Your content should flow with the knowledge of your product/service on a deeper than average level. Understanding the details of what you offer, giving the specifics and the experience is what your audience will respect.
Knowledge in your content is a gateway to building authority as it creates a sense of expertise. Some of the greatest brands in the world place extraordinary significance on knowledge.
Insiders know that Apple managers stop at Apple University for extensive training on everything from customer experience to brand history. As Businessweek said, Apple University “is business school the Apple way: high-quality and with immaculate attention to detail.”
You don’t need to establish a University at your small business. But establishing an extensive guide to the culture, branding and direction of your business is helpful not only for you, but whoever you may bring on to write the content for your audience.
Interest: Even experts don’t know everything, but the great ones never stop tinkering and pushing for more improvement. Great content marketers are invested in the experience of what they’re writing about. Ideally, they have direct working experience with what they’re speaking about.
Interest is also a very important ingredient to sharp, hard-hitting content that resonates with your audience.
For this reason, I’d rather take the time to work with a bad writer who cares about what they’re writing about than a very talented writer who could care less. It might be a challenge to express interest in odd business categories like asbestos removal or nursing homes, but the journey is worth it.
Because if you don’t care, why should they?
Belief: Finally, if you don’t believe in what you’re writing – again – people will eventually find out. Your content must incorporate the belief of your branding. Powerful brands in the world connect with people on a religious level. They possess a belief system people want to be part of. They provide an identity and stick to it with a belief that people want to adopt as their own.
If your content doesn’t glow with the power of belief in your brand, your vision and direction, no one will give a damn.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
3. Your Content Needs a Strategy (and Tactics and a Process)
Too many companies go in too many directions with their business blogs, attempting to please too many people at once. Spreading yourself too thin – by addressing way too many topics that are unrelated to your brand – will put you in a position to fail.
Whenever I’m writing a blog, producing social media content or writing a landing page, the question I always ask is “Where is this taking my audience?”
Setting Goals for Your Content
Having a purpose for your blog post is the first step to creating sharp, hard-hitting content that your audience is looking for.
- Those goals should be visible, reviewed daily and occasionally adjusted.
- Your strategy should outline your key business and customer needs.
- Your tactics should include how your content is going to address those needs.
- Your process should be the frequency and timing of those blog posts.
- Stick to a process in the production of your content that demonstrates how those goals can be met.
Be clear about who you are and what you do. Remember to incorporate that into your content. Keep the theme alive and your content on point with what you’re main objective is, and you’ve got yourself a living, breathing blog!
Examples of companies with excellent blog strategies (and tactics and process):
Buffer Apps provides social media management software so you can post on multiple social media channels with ease. So how do you set up a blog to meet your audience (and prospective customer) needs while subtly boosting your own profile?
It appears Buffer’s strategy is to help their customer to be the most efficient and effective social media poster they can be.
Isn’t that what any serious ‘social media influencer’ wants?
So, at a rate of about two times per week, they drop epic content with headlines that address what their customers would desire.
Anything that gets shared more than 1,600 times is a hit in my book.
I also love how they make their blog very personal, using the words “I,” “my,” “we,” “our,” and “me.” People love hearing from a person, not a robot.
It’s clear Buffer is well on their way to establishing a high level of authority in their blog space.
2. Glassdoor Blog
Let’s take a quick look at the employee blog. First, a round of applause for these amazing headlines!
Notice, there’s a headline asking a smart, provocative question. There are headlines that provide solutions to intricate issues (self-actualization, year-long vacations) that their audience privately wonders (and worries) about in their job search.
Their strategy seems to be geared towards addressing the issues of the millennial employee who is attempting to navigate a very tricky and interchangeable jobs market.
And they’re dropping multiple articles per week, which is a very intelligent tactic to use.
- Businesses that publish more than 16 blog posts in a month got almost 3.5X more traffic than businesses that published 0-4 posts per month.
- B2B companies that post 11+ times per month got nearly 3X more traffic than those who blogged 0-1 times per month.
- B2C companies blogging 11+ times per month received more than 4X as many leads than companies who blog only 4-5 times per month.
- Businesses that publish 16+ blog posts per month got nearly 5X more leads than businesses that publish 0-4 times per month.
Hire Someone Who Loves to Write Marketing Content for Your Company
If you’re a small business owner, determine if developing and maintaining a content marketing strategy is for you. If you don’t love it or can’t commit the time it is a much better option to hire someone who can bring your content to life.
Taking the time to find someone who loves writing and has a demonstrated enthusiasm for your brand and the industry you’re in goes a very long way.
Going for the cheap option (content mills) often get you desperate and disgruntled writers who will ultimately do the bare minimum.
You always get what you pay for.
Find someone who comes close to caring as much as you do about your business. Find someone who enjoys the process of writing for you, telling your story and building relationships with the audience.
You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.
For this reason – especially if you run a newer, smaller brand – it’s important to establish relationships with a few key writers who your audience can get used to. The content needs to fall in line with the company’s bottom line, but the writer(s) need to develop a rhythm and consistency with where your company is headed.
When your content has life, people want to breathe in the air. Creating engaging content can be a challenging and expensive investment, but the return on that investment is immeasurable. A religious audience that follows your brand will not only support your new products and services, they will defend you against the competition.
These three critical methods should breathe life into your content. Prepare it and they will come.