Many companies that I speak with think that the content they use in marketing campaigns needs to be big, heavy-duty pieces like white papers, eBooks and webinars. When they're assessing how they can implement content marketing programs, they get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content they must produce to fuel the engine. That's before they ever start thinking about what information the content should share or how to build a storyline their prospects will find relevant.
The problems with only focusing on long-form content include:
- It takes a lot of time to develop.
- Production costs - graphic design, layout - are expensive and add to the time line.
- You may not have writing resources in house and will have to outsource.
- Buyers are too busy to read an 8-12 page white paper.
- Once the download is over, your visibility is limited.
This all culminates in costly production, time delays that keep you out of touch with prospects and limited ability to measure beyond clicks.
Instead, consider the short-form article. I'm talking about an 800 - 1,000 word piece of content focused on one idea.
Here's one structure for an article:
- Focus it around one idea
- State your premise and hook up front.
- Include 3 points to support your premise.
- Add in a bit of evidence to increase credibility.
- Write a conclusion that restates your premise and ties it all together.
These can be created in a couple of hours, including research.
They can be easily posted to a web page (public or not), eliminating production design costs and shortening time between prospect touch points. You likely have in-house resources that can develop them. Or, create a slate of topics for development and outsource the whole thing as one project. That way you have them on hand for roll-out as needed.
Why content articles make sense for marketing programs:
- Less expensive.
- Focus prospects on one thing at a time.
- Short-form encourages you to tighten your focus and eliminate jargon and fluff to make room for only those ideas prospects will value.
- Providing just 3 points increases the likelihood of recall.
- A five minute read is much more likely today than a prospect dedicating 20 minutes of their valuable time to read a white paper or an hour to attend a webinar.
- With the right calls to action and follow-up, you can move prospects to next-steps more easily because it requires less effort from them. You can also link articles together, creating a pathway for your story to build engagement.
- More touches mean more opportunity for interactions with prospects, rather than them only hearing from you when you release a new white paper or host a webinar.
- Your measurement opportunities increase dramatically when the content is housed on a web page - including time spent reading, unique vs. repeat visitors, referral value when the link is shared and lead scoring models in response to individual prospect behavior.
- With faster feedback (access to in-depth metrics) on the impact of articles with your prospects, you find out if you're off-track faster, allowing you to regroup and try a different approach. On the flip side, you can see if something really hits and create more just like it to build momentum.
- You can also float those ideas you have for long-form content and see if they fly. Then, at least you'll have a better idea if you're spending money and resources on content that your prospects are truly interested in.
- If you have several prospect segments to address, it's much easier to create several versions of an article and shift the perspective accordingly than it is to do so with a lengthy white paper.
All of this said, content articles will only work if they're focused on what prospects' need to know. These are not mini showcases about your company or your products. These are short-form thought leadership articles that provide information your prospects will find valuable and relevant to the issues they are facing.
I say you give articles a try. I've helped my clients gain a lot of traction with this method.
And, here's a little bonus: If you plan your content articles appropriately, you can combine them to create that big, meaty piece that puts all of the ideas in one place in the form of a white paper, eBook or even as the material for a webinar down the road. Always think about the potential for re-purposing whatever content you create.
I'm not advocating that articles replace long-form formats, just that they can become a useful component of your marketing mix.