Content marketing is here to stay. The problem is, you can bet your competitors are doing it too. To be successful now, you need to invest and thrive at creating great content. It is going to take a lot more than pumping out some boring blog posts that, if we’re honest, nobody really wants to read, and then sharing it on your company Facebook page.
Even if you’re a “boring company“, you need to do more. No excuses. Your content efforts are going to look different from everyone else out there as your customers, your brand, and your resources are different. As such, there is no recipe to create great content, but I have come up with five guidelines I use to guide clients in their content endeavors.
Make Your Content Truly Valuable
I know it’s a bit cliché, but if your content is not valuable to your customers, then you’re wasting your time. Value can look like a lot of different things – it can be really useful and pragmatic (such as how to’s), it can be interesting data points, or it can even be simply entertaining.
A good starting place is when you have an idea for a piece of content or a series is can you name a person (friend, colleague, acquaintance…) who would either benefit from or enjoy the content. A good follow-up question to ask yourself is who could you share the content with that would appreciate it? If you can’t answer either of these questions, you should probably go back to the drawing board.
Content is More Than Articles
Articles are content, but content doesn’t have to be articles. Though most companies are trying to establish themselves as content marketers, most are simply churning out bad blog posts (if we’re honest). In this sea of mediocrity you can really stand out by leveraging different mediums.
Sure, some of your content can be articles, but what about video? Or images? Or interactive pieces? It is important to not get trapped in a routine of publishing articles when there are different formats to leverage. Instead of trying to figure out your next article, ask yourself what topic you want to talk about. Then figure out which medium will allow you to best convey your message. There are a lot of different options here, don’t restrict yourself to just written articles.
Give Your Content a Home
Whether your content is going on a blog or you’re creating a fully fledged content center, make sure you have a centralized place to publish your content. I’ve often seen many companies put content in several different places on their site. While it’s great they’re investing in content, it is extremely difficult for someone to go back and find content at a later point in time if they have to remember which section of the site it was in. Tip: Your “news and press” area is not a content center.
Invest in Design
While your content might be great, people aren’t going to want to read it if it’s ugly. While it’s true that “what’s on the inside counts,” the outside matters too. If your content is just okay but you have great design, your content will likely be received well and perceived as high quality. If your content is exceptional but you invest nothing in design, most people will not see the value in your content.
It’s unfortunate, but true. If you invest a lot in your design (ex: using custom images and illustrations to support articles instead of stock photos, and designing an attractive content center) you’re going to increase the likelihood of your content being well-regarded and shared (social and links). People like pretty things.
Make Your Content Easy to Find
If you’ve really invested in your content and the design associated with it, you should be showing it off to your website visitors. Don’t hide a link to it in your footer. Make it easy for people to navigate to and find your content. This is an opportunity for you to engage with your users. Since a little inspiration can push us all towards bigger things, I have shared a few companies who I think are doing a good job with their content. Drop me a line in the comments and let me know who you think does a great job with their content efforts!
The king of thrilling videos, Red Bull has become much more than an energy drink. Upon visiting their homepage, there’s not one mention of their product. Instead, their homepage is essentially a content center where you can read articles or watch videos of athletes doing amazing things. What Red Bull does well is just about everything. They post written content, video, images and it is all “valuable”. We know because people love their content and share it frequently.
(screenshot taken from http://www.redbull.com/us/en on 7/3/14)
Bridgestone Tread and Trend Tire Care
Few people enjoy buying tires. They’re expensive and many people don’t see the difference between the brands. Yet when it comes time to invest in your car, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.
What Bridgestone does is blended great content that truly helps their customers and it is designed very well. Their articles are very useful to consumers as they answer everything from technical questions to practical how to’s in order to help educate their customers on a technical product. In a less exciting industry like this, it is possible to create interest and educate in a captivating way.
(screenshot taken from http://www.bridgestonetire.com/tread-and-trend on 7/3/14)
All Paving Blog
Small businesses aren’t off the hook when it comes to content creation. The average person isn’t reading about sealcoating on a consistent basis, but All Paving’s customer’s are searching for information on this. It’s important to offer content that answers your customer’s questions. All Paving does a great job of providing useful content about a largely unknown subject, making it easy for customers to understand what they need. When you’re selecting a company to pave your driveway, it’s likely you’ll choose one that offers a peek into their business rather than a few webpages without much depth.
(screenshot taken from http://www.allpaving.com/blog on 7/3/14)
It’s clear that Anthropologie is more than just chic clothing. Their blog compiles content that fits nicely into the perceived lifestyle they’re selling. Find recipes for fashionable drinks, hammock 101, and introductions to new musicians in addition to traditional clothing and fashion posts.
Anthropologie does a great job of creating content that is valuable and engages their customers in topics they are interested in while not being overly salesy.
(screenshot from http://blog.anthropologie.com/ on 7/3/14)
While Fitzala might sell workout programs, they give you just about everything else you need to be healthy on their blog (full disclosure: this is my wife’s company, but are a genuinely a great example of good content). They use their platform to equip their customers with other tools to be healthy, offering recipes, guides, and motivational stories, helping their customers live the lifestyle they want. Fitzala does a great job of creating content that complements their product and is engaging and often share-worthy.
(screenshot from fitzala.com/blog on 7/3/14)
Though most companies with an online presence are producing content and the competition for attention is high, the opportunity exists and it is huge. If you can really invest in your content to make it valuable while providing an exceptional user experience, the opportunity is yours. If you’re not willing to commit to rising above your competitors, your content isn’t going to move the needle for you.
Let me know in the comments what some of your favorite content centers are and what you are doing to provide a better content experience than your competitors.
Featured image via Shutterstock