Stop

I won’t pretend to be a content marketing expert. But as a B2B content writer, my humble opinion on the subject can be summed up in six words:

Stop doing content for content’s sake.

Ask the Right Questions

There’s a lot of blustering talk going around at the moment on “cutting through the noise” or “breaking through” and “disrupting” the market. The jargon and phraseology is all too familiar, but what do we actually mean when we say these things?

Behind a lot of this talk is the idea that the right ingredients might make a piece of content stand out from the competition — it’ll garner attention, attract prospects and generate leads. But again, what do we actually mean when we say these things? 

How?

So we want our content to outshine what’s already out there — but in what way exactly? There are innumerable aspects in which we can try to outstrip the competition. For starters, we can seek to stand out...

  • In the originality of information shared
  • In the quality/ dependability of information provided
  • In user experience
  • In design and written style

The guys at Moz have done a great video explaining the different ways in which content can provide unique value.

Who and What?

The next question to ask is who do we want to stand out to?

Realistically we can’t reach everyone, and we’re more likely to see success if our content is targeted at a small but select audience — people whose tastes, needs and content consumption habits have been carefully profiled and considered throughout the entire content creation process. If you’re doing content marketing without buyer personas, you’re not doing it right. Essentially this means more questions:

  • What is our target demographic?
  • What are their needs?
  • Which particular need are we trying to address here?
  • What are their browsing habits?
  • What device are they most likely to consume this content on?
  • How can we optimize our content for a particular device?

Where?

As well as identifying how we want to stand out, who we want to stand out to, and what need we’re addressing, we need to ask the where question — where on the buyer journey is your target reader / viewer? To borrow from Hubspot’s framework, are they at the...

  • Awareness stage (realizing problems / opportunities)
  • Consideration stage (clear on problem, seeking solution) or...
  • Decision-making stage (clear on solutions, seeking provider)

Knowing the where of your audience is important for judging the level of information, detail and self-promotion your content should contain. Of course, you should produce pieces of content that cover each stage of the buyer journey — just don’t try to cover them all in one go. 

Why So Many Questions?

Asking the kinds of questions listed above is important if we’re to stop doing content for content’s sake. The market is saturated with content. Everyone has a blog, an infographic and an e-book — but is anyone reading it? And more importantly, is it contributing to sales? Add to this the fact that a lot of content isn’t very well written, and it’s a less than inspiring picture. It’s no wonder that Nicola Kemp wrote about a content obesity epidemic in Marketing Magazine. 

3 for the Road

To close, I’ve got three suggestions:

  1. Only create content that is actually useful or interesting. Or both.
  2. Only create content because there is a buyer need for it. A need that has been clearly defined and drawn up through asking the right questions.
  3. Treat your audience with a little respect. They are not six years old. Don’t try and sell to them through thinly veiled, self-promotional content (unless they are at the decision making stage). Always give away knowledge and expertise that feels over-generous and they’ll respect and come to you in time.

Who knows? Perhaps this more honest, slow-burning, integrity-fueled approach to content could lead to big benefits in the long term....

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  hoyasmeg 

Title image by hoyasmeg