There's turbulence in the air. After recently attending Content Marketing World (in Cleveland no less) it's apparent that certain practitioners of content marketing (and lots of software providers) are emphasizing producing a high volume of content at the expense of content quality. This marks a significant milestone in the short life of content marketing. Because quality is not just some imaginary feature that lies in the "nice to have" attributes check list. For those choosing to dismiss quality, let's remember that a foundation of content marketing is to create content that's relevant, informative and helps foster relationships that can lead to revenue. That requires quality, not regurgitated spam or unimaginative drivel. Quality is what people want or will ever consider consuming.
Overloaded. And ignored.
As Harvard Business Review pointed out in recent article, disappointing readers with content that fails to rise above mediocrity is the exact opposite way to build brand awareness or drive sales. If you want to win over the hearts and minds of your prospects, a dull or unreadable paragraph or two is just the ticket to turn prospects away-fast. Considering that 27 million pieces of content are created each day, research indicates that 60 to 70% of website content goes unread. There's a paradox with the promise of content marketing and the overload of digital information that everyone is experiencing. Just because there's more content being produced every second, it doesn't mean that people can just consume more. Audience's today aren't looking for more. They're interested in quality-defined by relevance to them and how it helps inform or entertain with lots of personality and passion. Online guru and professor Mark Schaefer summed up the rising tension nicely by sharing that the "The dirty little secret of content marketing today is that you don't have to be best teacher to succeed. Just the first who overwhelms an audience with volume."
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A customer focused view of success.
Shane Snow, founder of Contently, has a dramatically different point of view. As Shane sees it, just throwing tons of content out there and hoping it will eventually yield a great return is misguided. Shane adds that those who share stories will get people to notice and care-usually by a lot. As Mark Schaefer points out, "We will find the time to do what we value." And if quality delivers what we're looking for, people will gravitate to it, consume it and share it.
How to improve your content quality.
Celebrated author, Ann Handley, of Marketing Profs, reminds us that words are often ignored, or worse, are considered just an afterthought. Yet, words are our emissaries because they tell the world who we are. They should represent what we stand for and demonstrate how we're different. So before you start just stringing words together to fulfill a content creation deadline, stop and get into the head of your target reader by respecting her/his needs and wants. Your goal should be empathy and understanding of their unique experiences. By focusing here, you will improve the chances of your story being relevant, useful and inspired. Start with a simple story line premise and then keep asking questions to drill down to your customer need. Your focus should always be on WIIFM (What's in it for me?-your customer) In this scenario, truth matters. Because people have an inherent sniffer that helps them filter out untruths or content that's just plain spin.
Have a voice that stands out.
Write in the first person with an approachable and useful tone that tells your story with light touch. Use action verbs that integrate empathy with your reader and what he/she gets. Always keep in mind that it's not just copywriting. Your words make a story and if they're constructed with insight into your customer's needs or challenges, they enhance your brand value and can become an essential part of your online DNA.
Tough times ahead for content marketing?
With the emergence of content filters, ever rising competition, and consumption capacity overload, it's reasonable to ask how are you going to succeed with content marketing? Content marketing will only deliver on its promise if the content's good enough to deliver customers. That's why improving content quality is today's never ending challenge. But more than ever, it's time to decide if you want to be just another contributor to information overload? Or would a better path be to invest in and create what an audience is seeking to consume? Quality or quantity? Time to decide.