Developing Content for Clients: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

    If you are reading this, you don't need to be told about the significance of content marketing. You know how important it is. You also know that not all content is created equal. Some of it is great. Some of it is, quite frankly, not so much. Writing interesting, effective content is more of an art than a science; there really is no template, so to speak, for success. Even having excellent writing skills is not, in and of itself, sufficient to guarantee that your content will be compelling and call your readers to action which is, after all, the reason for writing the content in the first place.

    Concerned that the content you're developing for clients should or could be better? Questioning your effectiveness? If so, here's something for you to consider: Are you asking the right questions? When you meet with clients or accept an assignment to write content, are you sufficiently focused on what the point of the assignment is, or are you too caught up in demonstrating how well you write? If your content falls flat at times, then perhaps it's time to go back to the drawing board before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keys.

    Content writers sometimes have a way of losing sight of the primary goal: Providing material that attracts the target audience of consumers, engages those readers, and ultimately converts them into customers. So how do you do that? How do you ensure that your content meets the needs of your clientele?

    By simply asking the questions that will help you focus on the destination of your content and the direction it should take to get there. Here are some suggestions:

    Who are you?

    When discussing the writing assignment with the client's representatives, ask them to describe for you who they are, what they're about, what they believe in, and how they perceive their organization and want the organization to be perceived publicly?

    What do they do?

    What do they want people to know about what they do?

    Who are they trying to reach?

    This is critical. Is the intention to reach a broad audience or do they want the content directed at a specific demographic?

    Ask clients to identify whether they wish to reach consumers or so-called influencers. Each requires a very different style and message.

    How is content delivered?

    Is the content to be conveyed via social media, blog, organization's website, or a combination of media?

    How is content accessed?

    Given what the company knows about it's market, do the majority of consumers access the Internet via PC/laptop, mobile devices?

    This impacts how content is formatted. Failure to format content to be mobile friendly is very counterproductive.

    Is the intended audience highly educated and/or technologically savvy?

    Determines how sophisticated and technical the information can be.

    What is the point?

    What is the purpose for this specific content? Is it for general information purposes, to make an announcement, or is it part of a specific marketing campaign.

    These are all considerations for determining the tone and length of the material. In other words, is the client building a brand or simply selling a product or service?

    Is SEO a primary consideration?

    If the client makes extensive use of analytics, work with your contact(s) to develop keywords that can be used frequently without becoming repetitive, awkward, or both.

    What writing style does the client want?

    • Formal
    • Very formal
    • Professional
    • Factual
    • Informal
    • Very informal
    • Conversational
    • Witty/humorous
    • Silly
    • Excited
    • High, medium, low
    • New/research/reporting style

    What is the preferred narrative style?

    • 1st person ("We", "About us")
    • 2nd Person ("You", "your", "you're")
    • 3rd Person ("Consumers", "shoppers", "many folks")

    Should the content refer to/compare with competitors?

    • Is the message to contain "humble bragging"?
    • Does the client want you to draw a stark comparison with clearly identified competitors?
    • Alternatively, should the content merely address distinction between your client and the industry in general?

    What is the content's "expiration date" expected to be?

    Content written without consideration for its useable life has a tendency to become stale. Companies often leave it posted for too long.

    Remind your client of the importance of refreshing content. You want create a perception that it's worthwhile to visit your online presence on a regular basis because there's "always something new going on".

    Are pictures, graphs, images, etc., desired and appropriate?

    Infographics have become very popular because they effectively convey information in an easily digested format.

    Asking the right questions will help you develop content that will help your clients build their brand. That's your job, after all.

    Topics: content development

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