Stop talking to yourself: create content for real customers
I see it often: brands have a great idea for a story, one that seamlessly weaves the benefits of their product throughout a compelling narrative, timed with a launch announcement at the outset of a campaign. Then, despite all good intentions, the piece falls flat, failing to resonate with the target audience and leaving the brand unsure of why their content keeps missing the mark. And while this may be common, it’s usually a simple problem and therefore a simple fix: they’re not creating content with their readers in mind.
Companies can inadvertently create content in a vacuum, pushing their own agendas without thinking about their audience. As brands inform and engage potential customers online, they need to not only think from a marketer’s point of view, but from that of their readers: real customers who are searching for inspiration, advice, or solutions to specific problems.
Content marketers need to create content that compels people, that provides value for the reader. That value may be in the form of an answered question, a product referral, comprehensive knowledge on a given topic or industry, a “how-to” guide, or other useful content that helps the reader feel understood, heard, and informed by the brand. Strong content will naturally guide the reader down the funnel, rather than interrupting them with a sales pitch. So how can you create content that will help you form this relationship with your target audience?
Ask yourself: what are my customers asking?
There’s one easy way to take the guesswork out of your content marketing: find out exactly what your customers are asking. This isn’t a hypothetical exercise—you should take the time to research the exact queries and pain points that crop up most often in your industry or about your service. For example, say you’re a B2B company that sells cloud-based software to manage bookings and streamline hospitality operations. Your target audience, hotel operations managers, may be searching: what are the best hotel management systems? Or perhaps their searches are more granular: which hotel management systems integrate with TripAdvisor? Depending on your customers’ exact questions, your content will differ—in some cases, an FAQ page can respond to their most simple and immediate concerns; in other scenarios, a blog post, white paper, or infographic may be the best content format to answer their questions.
Conducting longtail keyword research, as well as keeping tabs on commonly-asked questions across channels and platforms—from Quora to Twitter to your own inbox—will allow you to create content that directly responds to customer queries. This way, you can establish your company as an authority in your industry while giving your customers information that you already know they will find valuable.
Tracking customer queries presents a great side benefit: the opportunity to speak your customers’ language. Does your audience appreciate brevity? Humor? Hashtags? Meeting your customers on their level is an easy way to show that your company is tuned in to the conversation and grounded in reality.
Ask yourself: is it reader-friendly?
You know what your customers are after, and you have a wealth of information to share with them. It can be all-too tempting to craft a 5,000-word blog post detailing everything you know about your industry or brand. However, while you may have the answers on-hand, writing dense, flowery novels about your product or service may do more to distance your customer than win their loyalty.
Before publishing a piece of content to your blog or website, ask yourself: is it reader-friendly? Are there opportunities to break up large sections of text with subheadings or on-brand images? Can you space lists out into bullets and add in relevant links? These may seem like small tweaks to make, but they can be the difference between a reader bouncing from your page or finishing a story. Readers naturally scan content, so give them different entry points to dive in. You can produce intelligent and well-researched content, but you also want to create an accessible and seamless experience of that content.
Ask yourself: are there any dead ends?
At Quietly, we always say “no dead ends.” Once readers get through a piece of content, they should never be left unsure about where to go next or what to do—and they certainly shouldn’t simply close the window.
Before publishing a piece of content, do a gut check: is it clear what the reader should do after reading? If you’ve produced a top-of-funnel piece, are there links that propel your reader further down the funnel? If your reader wants more information, have you told them where they can go next? Be sure to close each piece of content with a well-articulated call to action that helps readers continue to the most logical next step—whether that’s simply to read more or to proceed to a purchase page. A clear call to action will help your content generate a real and measurable return on investment, allowing you to test exactly how successful you are at generating leads, capturing emails, gaining subscribers, or sending readers to the next piece of valuable content.
You’ve no doubt heard the saying “content is king,” but reader experience should always come out on top. At the end of the day, you’re creating content for your customers—so that they can learn more about your brand, connect to your offerings, and ultimately find a solution in your company.
Image: Ryoji Iwata/Unsplash