As a marketer, it's no surprise that I'm inundated with content on a daily basis. I check through at least a dozen Google Alerts every morning, browse through SocialMediaToday and MarketingProfs, and receive tons of e-mails about articles I should be reading.
Recently, I've also had the chance to attend a few industry conferences and hear from marketing professionals, SEO experts, and branding thought-leaders. Basically, I'm inundated with content from every possible direction, both on and offline. The problem is, much of this content, as well as the guest lectures, share one common theme: they don't actually teach you anything. I often read an article or listen to a lecture with this feeling of anticipation for the "valuable takeaway" - the part where I learn something that can actually impact my work. More often than not, I end up being disappointed and walk away with little insight or actionable suggestions that I can use to improve my approach.
The truth is, I'm tired of reading blog posts with vague advice on how to engage with audiences, write incredible content, and generate leads. There are so many of them that offer little more than sweeping generalizations about the need to connect with buyers and post daily on social media, or worse, the ones that just outline current marketing trends. Point being, I should be able to read a blog post or listen to a lecture and leave with at least one actionable tip I can implement. I'm not saying there's no room for descriptive content or opinions, just that you want the people listening to you or reading your articles to remember you as offering something valuable and practical - and not just another fluff piece which just ends up being a waste of time.
This doesn't mean that there aren't a few exceptions, websites such as Social Media Examiner and KISSMetrics often post articles with detailed advice, step-by-step action plans and tested strategies. Unfortunately, this kind of content is hard to come by. I'd prefer not to read another piece about the importance of originality in marketing, or what questions I need to be asking myself before writing. Even worse, I definitely don't need content that's chock full of gobbledygook which glosses over any actual solution to a problem. What I need is actual advice that I can put into action - whether it's for e-mail campaigns, social media marketing, website content, lead generation, or blog posts.
It's hard to continually come up with actionable tips, but your audience will appreciate you so much more for it. These types of articles usually entail a list of recommendations, with either text or visual examples under each one, to really drive the point home. Here are a few examples from my own writing that show how you can take a generic topic and turn it into something useful for your readers:
Preparing for a Marketing Conference
Gobbledygook: Implement unique and creative branding to stand out at your next event.
Actual Advice: Print customized t-shirts for team members who attend, order branded lanyards with your company's logo, come prepared with brochuresand spare business cards.
E-mail Marketing Strategies
Gobbledygook: Nurture leads with engaging e-mail campaigns that capture their attention.
Actual Advice: Use 2 or more designed call-to-action buttons instead of plain-text hyperlinks, avoid using the word "submit," go with: register here, try us, sign up here, keep subject lines less than 50 characters, send e-mails from a personal instead of a generic company e-mail.
Targeting Prospective Clients
Gobbledygook: Connect with industry thought-leaders and prospects in online communities.
Actual Advice: Set up Google Alerts to track keywords and contact relevant authors by finding their e-mail using Rapportive, join LinkedIn Groups and post questions that people care about and follow up with replies, search for targeted conversations in Quora and recommend your product or service in the answers where relevant.
That wasn't so hard, right? Doesn't it feel much better to read a tip you can actually do something with rather than waste time on another pointless article? There probably isn't a marketer out there - including myself of course, who hasn't committed the fluff offense. There's so much pressure to generate a constant stream of content that, sometimes, it's difficult to offer real tips and just easier to fall back on a generalized description of a recent trend. Despite this, remember that you audience isn't looking for just another post, and it's much more likely they'll remember you and share your content if you provide advice they can actually test out and put to good use.
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