Hey, content folks. Glad to see you’re doing your homework because, to me, the only thing that’s more frustrating than a company with no content is a company with terrible content. Boy, do I hate when companies are producing irrelevant, meaningless content. And the sad part is?
Content marketers are asked to write terrible content all the time.
If you’re a content marketer, you’re hopefully nodding your head at this. How many times has a higher up, either in marketing or, more commonly, outside of marketing, talk about the next cool blog topic they’d like to see? “You know what’d be cool? What if we had movie reviews?” asks the CEO of a SaaS company. No. You know what’d be cool? If you thought for fifteen seconds about whether a recipe for your gluten-free enchiladas will help your business in any way, shape or form. You know what else would be cool? If you developed a content strategy around what your prospects, customers, and people within your company need.
Content marketers have it rough in a lot of organizations, because, aside from an article going absolutely viral (which probably won’t happen), their value is a slow burn. A content marketer probably won’t add much to your pipeline today, but keep them writing effective content for six months? Now you’re getting somewhere.
If you’re on the content side of marketing, you ought to know that writing for a company isn’t just an exercise in developing whatever you want. Your content should be structured and calculated, not just what sounds good at the moment. You should write something because it’s relevant to your business, not because someone with a “C” in their title told you it was a good idea. So, as tough as it may be to Manage Up, sometimes, it’s for the sake of the company and your own sanity to push back.
Push back when… there is no audience, or the audience is wrong.
You’d be surprised how often people drop content without thinking about who will read it, or who they want to read it. Understanding who your primary targets are will help you in the way that you phrase things, your tone, and your overall message.
The first step to writing content that works for you is developing customer personas. Consider the following:
- Demographics: What is your ideal customer’s age, ethnicity, gender, etc.?
- Psychographics: What is your ideal customer’s personality type? Do they have preferences?
- Behavior: What does your ideal customer do? Where do they hang out? What do they search for online?
Here’s an example: you are targeting decision makers for sales teams on the east coast. You know, from researching behavior profiles of sales managers in New York City that these people tend to be Type A, and tend to fucking hate beating around the bush. As in, if your content beats around the bush, you’re going to lose this demographic of people. Lay out a problem, and succinctly describe how your company’s solution. Any more than that, and you’re losing people’s interest.
For those of you in the B2B realm, you might also want to consider the ideal type of business for your product or service:
- Type of business
- Number of employees
- Yearly revenue
Keep in mind, it’s very unlikely that you’ll only have one type of ideal customer, regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C company. That means you need to be developing content that appeals to your different customers. Anyone who tells you they “only have one target persona” has no idea what they’re talking about, and should be completely ignored.
Push back when… your content is irrelevant.
I used to work for a real estate company, and I was put in charge of developing the content strategy. I remember one day, I was busy researching ideas for articles, when the COO of the company sat down next to me and declared, “We need to start putting recipe ideas on the site.” All I could really say to him, considering our relative positions at the company, was “Okay, but… why?” He looked at me like I just asked him the color of the sky. “Uh.. because people love recipes.” Everyone thinks their ideas are the best.
So often, it seems like companies churn out content that is absolutely irrelevant to their prospects’ needs. Once you have your customer personas filled out, you should be able to come up with questions, concerns, or pain points that your company can solve.
Consider the following:
- What do you do that your competition doesn’t?
- Why do people buy from you, and not other people?
- Where do your prospects begin their research? As in, how are they using a search engine to solve their problem?
- What are the benefits to finding a solution for your customers?
It turns out, your greatest resource here could be your current customers. Reach out to them, and they can help you generate content that is actually relevant and useful to your prospects.
Now granted, sometimes your content isn’t going to be completely directed at problems. For instance, you might want to send out a press release about an event you’re sponsoring, or about a fun company activity you all participated in. While this content won’t really help your SEO per say, it’s still important to humanize your company. People like buying things from people, so someone browsing your website might appreciate how awesome and ‘human’ your company seems.
Push back when… your customers or prospects won’t read your content.
This is the content you write and think to yourself “Am I wasting my time?” You need to keep your ears open. Yes, this takes some research and some cross-department coordination, but putting out your content in a logical and meaningful order will ensure your prospects’ most important questions are answered first.
Here are some things to think about:
- When talking to prospects, what questions come up most frequently?
- What objections does your sales team content with most often?
- What is the biggest reason people are saying ‘no’ to you?
- What is the biggest reason people are saying ‘yes’ to you?
By keeping track of your customer’s biggest needs and questions, you’ll be able to organize and prioritize what gets written when. That way, you’re not spending time on some niche topic that isn’t all that important to all that many people, when you could be answering questions that dozens of people have about your company/product/service.
Push back when… your content doesn’t have any chance in hell at contributing to the goals of the company.
Okay, so this might sting a little bit. While a content marketing strategy does take time to get running, very few bosses are going to be keen on you simply writing for months without demonstrating value or results. Remember, your writing needs to support the initiatives of the business. It’s easy for content marketers to operate in a silo and produce content we think is the most valuable but if it isn’t cohesive with the entire company strategy, not just the marketing department, your content will fall flat. If your engineers are innovating, you need to be telling the story how that innovation helps your customers (also because engineers typically make terrible writers. Sorry). If your sales team needs a particular infographic to demonstrate a point, you need to be creating the clearest and most concise infographic the world has ever seen.
Although not usually directly or immediately attributable, you should have the company revenue in mind every time you write something. How does this writing further the company growth? The answer may be simple: it will SEO well and drive more traffic.
As content marketers, we know we are writing ultimately get more traffic to the site, but we are also writing to support our other teams in their efforts as well.