I can't take it anymore — these things are everywhere and they are eating people's brains for lunch! We as marketers are guilty of creating really boring and unhelpful content that forces people to tune us out, block the content, and move on.
It's time for marketers and content creators to wake up from Zombieland and start creating engaging content that has a real purpose and strategy, both for your business AND your customer.
Think it's too good to be true? Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not. Real, relevant, useful content exists and if you aren't going to learn how to create it, please, for the sake of all of us on the internet, stop publishing content right now.
If you are ready to stop creating blaaaaaaaaghs and start creating engaging content that connects qualified customers to useful content, then I've got a few rules to help you get started. (Zombieland style)
Rule #1: Know Where You Are Trying to Go (The Importance of Strategic Goals)
Gone are the days when you can assign any old blog topic to your marketing intern, who will write a 300-word post and then have it rank on the first page of Google just because that's what you think should happen.
In order to get real results, you have to have a solid idea of where you are trying to go. Your first plan of action should be identifying your goals. They could be your yearly goals or quarterly goals, but if you don't start with the end in mind, you are shooting for an unknown target.
Goals should be something like this:
- Convert 3 new deals in the next 90 days
- Drive $6,000 of revenue from website leads in Q3
- Increase our website lead list by 25% in 2018
If your company doesn't have specific goals like these, create them for yourself. Try not to arbitrarily choose numbers for your goals. Take a look at your metrics and set a goal that is a 10-25% stretch from what you did last year, depending on the number of resources that you have dedicated to making it grow.
Rule #2: Know Your Route Before You Begin Writing (Editorial Meetings)
Now that you know what your marketing goals are, get a group of your best content creators together in a room for an editorial meeting. This should be your marketers, thought leaders, subject matter experts, sales team, customer service reps. Anyone who has relationships with your customers will have good ideas.
Together, brainstorm a bunch of ideas for the types of content you could create to meet your goals. Think about content that is timely, useful, and would be something that people might turn to the internet to find the answer.
Remember, your first idea isn't always your best idea. Brainstorm lots of different titles, topics, and concepts that might resonate with your target audience.
Champion one person from the meeting to take all the ideas, do some due diligence on which topics and keywords will be the most effective for your company, and then, create a content calendar.
Way too many companies start with the SEO piece first, and while it can be a recipe for some quick wins, it's not going to be a long-term sustainable process that will keep coming back for more of your content.
Rule #7: Know Your Interesting Characters
When I was in high school, I was dating a guy who loved basketball and I did not. But, halfway through the basketball season, I watched a feature story on Wally Szczerbiak, the dreamy, former Minnesota Timberwolves player. All of a sudden, basketball wasn't just a bunch of tall athletes running around trying to score points. It had a main character, a central person for me to watch.
In marketing today, we've lost sight of the people behind the products. So, what we are left with is a bunch of boring lists of features and benefits that sound just like our competitor's.
Allowing your interesting characters to shine puts the heart and soul back into zombified marketing. But remember, your interesting characters might not be who you think they are. They could be your janitor, your customers, or maybe even their loved ones.
Check out this amazing video from Apple's latest WWDC conference. They interviewed the people closest to some of their most successful developers, and what you get is not a bunch of people talking about the features and benefits of the apps they developed, but instead, showcasing the heart, soul, grit, and sweat that goes into making something amazing.
Rule #16: Hook 'Em with a Headline, Deliver Good Stuff
Think of your headline as your bait. It's the first thing you have to prove to your audience that you have something interesting to say. So, have something interesting to say!
I've heard several content publishers say that they will write 30 headlines for each piece of content before they pick a good one. With so much content flying around the internet, yours has to stand out. And if you can write a stand-out headline in one attempt then kudos to you, but it takes most of us mere mortals several attempts to land on something interesting.
But ultimately, your headline isn't enough on its own. You have to follow that bait up with something educational, useful, thought-provoking. There are way too many publishers out there that are settling for mediocre content that does nothing but take up more space on the internet.
So, here's a rule of thumb: If it's not helping you and it's not helping your target audience, ditch it, get rid of it, start over, try something new. Do anything other than hitting the publish button.
PRO TIP: If you need help taking your content to the next level, develop a review process or find a mentor that can help you push to something better.
Rule #21: Vary Your Formats
We live in a digital world. You have access to video, infographics, photos, charts and more. While text can be an effective way to communicate ideas, it's not the only way. Often, it's not even the best way.
Make sure you consider other forms of content when you go about creating your editorial calendars. Think about how people want to consume information and create that kind of content.
Did you know that 80% of people would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog? Nobody ever said your content had to be a blog!
Rule #32: Lead People Somewhere
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see from content marketers today. If you spend all your time creating pieces of content that lead a reader to nothing, then you are wasting your time.
Creating interesting, actionable calls-to-action that are naturally woven into your content can be a great way to continue to engage with your audience online. If someone visits your site for a how-to video, guide them to where they can buy the tools to get the job done. That can be literal physical products or tools like processes, templates, or other pieces that will help them solve their problems.
Conclusion: Be a Marketing Hero
When you create amazing content, you become a hero. It's as simple as that. Your customers will love you because you are answering their questions and pointing them to a solution. Your sales team will love you because you will be creating an audience that wants to connect and learn more about your products and services.
And who doesn't want to be a hero?