You've just been tasked with generating new and engaging content that will lure prospective customers to your company. What do you do now?
First, it's important that you take a look around and know where you stand. The present state of B2B content marketing is like a digitized Tower of Babel, an endless barrage of thinly-disguised self-promotion, click-bait, and regurgitated codification posing as "thought leadership."
It's a good time to start establishing your company's blog as something different. Prospective customers are becoming savvier, more discerning, and less forgiving towards online content that wastes their time and is devoid of value. And the longer this cacophonous torrent goes on around them, the better-served you will be by maintaining an interesting, original voice and building a reputation as a trusted source of insight.
Drilling it down, you need content that is interesting, original, and credible. The best content captivates readers and distinguishes from your competitors. To that effect, here are 3 pieces of advice for creating content that will engage readers, build credibility, and set you ahead of the competition with prospective inbound leads.
1. This is a Platitude-Free Zone
Rule number one of content marketing: You are a soldier in an internet battlefield fighting to capture and hold the attention of Joe Q. Public.
Never, for a minute, forget that.
This is the reality: No one is being forced to read your content.
There are reams of excellent prose out there on how to write a snappy title that gets people's attention, but I want to emphasize here that the body of your content matters just as much.
The challenge of a content marketer is to write in a way that is simultaneously informative and engrossing. Every time you insert a value-devoid platitude ("Everything happens for a reason," "It's not rocket science," etc.) into your content, you are shooting a poisonous blow dart into that piece's ability to captivate.
Platitudes are boring, add no intellectual value, and take the air out of the momentum you are trying to build in the piece. Avoid them at all costs.
2. Don't Follow Competitors
One of the first things I did after getting hired was enter the blogosphere and scour the type of content our competitors and the marketplace in general were distributing on sales and enterprise software.
It felt like walking into the middle of a deafening, bright, action-packed casino. You may be tempted to fall in line with what the majority of your competitors are doing: Writing blog posts that all revolve around the same core topics, convey expertise, and are engineered for SEO optimization.
Don't fall in line.
Think of your business as a game in the middle of Harrah's - your job is to write in a way that beckons people to come over, sit down and play. Write like everyone else, and you become a faceless slot machine, indistinguishable from your competitors, and likely to be passed over by all but the desperate and bored.
Example scenario: Your company sells marketing automation software. You have five major competitors. Your most direct competitors focus content predominantly on Marketing advice and coaching. What do you do?
Write about automation, that's what. Post about the value and impact automation is having on business practices. Not only are you differentiating and appealing to a broader audience, you are implicitly casting your company as an innovator.
Marketing has been around forever; automation is the cutting edge of enterprise technology. It's new, it's exciting, it's different, and there's a subconscious message you're delivering to your readers: Your product is, too.
3. Variety is the Spice of Life
If you really want to reach the broadest possible audience, you need content with maximum appeal. This requires cultivating a nuanced, layered persona that contains a small degree of complexity.
Writing post after post on the same topic, in the same voice, and with the same value-adding insight is going to trigger a mix of boredom and distrust in your readers. You sound like a marketing robot, not a real person.
When crafting your content's persona, think about your target demographic and the media figures they enjoy reading and listening to the most. For example, my company sells Fantasy Football-inspired enterprise software to sales teams - what's the persona they'll find most engaging?
My research indicates it to be the fun, knowledgeable sports fan at the bar. Bill Simmons, the most-read sportswriter on the planet, and Charles Barkley, the most heralded television sports analyst, have these personas. Simmons found success by mixing passionate analysis, off-kilter pop culture references, and "diehard fan" ramblings into a persona readers have come to belove. Barkley may be an ex-All Star, but his Emmy Award-winning stint on NBA Tonight has been driven by an uncommon wit and piercing, yet elemental insights.
Bottom line: No matter who you are selling to, you're always going to find success by crafting a persona that has readers thinking: "This is someone who can talk to me on my level." The way to achieve that is by subtly demonstrating both powerful insight and a sense of humor.
By following these maxims, you'll give your blog the best shot at getting heard and attracting repeat readers. It will take time, but cultivating a unique, powerful voice in your industry will pay off handsomely in the form of inbound leads and industry respect.