Go ahead--ask your clients. It's a good question.
Content marketing, like social media, is at risk of “jumping the shark” and losing its effectiveness in an online world becoming cluttered with endless drab, four to six hundred word pieces of unimaginative, thinly-veiled sales pitches posing as informative articles. Oh yeah, I just vented a little — and it felt great.
Seriously though, it is a little odd to see aluminum siding specialists hosting blogs with articles like “Three Reasons Why Aluminum Siding is Good,” chock full of jargon and uninteresting tidbits, and expecting people to get excited about them. While no disrespect is meant to the fine members of the aluminum siding industry, subjects which are relatively uninteresting to most people to begin with are not well-served by content that makes them seem even duller.
Thankfully, with just a few tweaks, even aluminum siding people can spice up their content to make it more inviting and engaging. Read on for some tips you can give your clients, to help them avoid boring their visitors to death.
Write stories, not school essays.
A local businesswoman once sent me a rather drab essay-type article which I published on a community website for her. She thanked me for “helping her go viral.” As her article has, to this day, no more than about 15 views, I realized she (like many other small business marketers) had no real concept of what content marketing is all about, let alone what “going viral” means. Her case is a perfect example of getting it wrong — just taking information that normally gets printed on actual paper and placing it on the Internet does not make it “content marketing.”
Save the essay material for more appropriate dissemination methods, such as a white paper or e-book where people expect to be hit with a lot of expository writing. Instead, try relating stories to make your point, speaking in the first or second person rather than the didactic, authoritative style of a college paper.
Writing for the web is different, and an informal style in plain English is, thankfully, the preferred tone for Internet marketing. Don’t be afraid to let your hair down a bit; it can be done while still maintaining professionalism.
If you are trying to sell with facts, don’t. Instead, persuade.
Some content marketers claim that putting any type of sales pitch whatsoever in your content will drive people away. While being blatantly sales-y is boring and will obviously not work, there is nothing wrong with tooting your own horn a bit in some areas of your content as long as you have provided some value along the line and some compelling arguments to back you up.
It is an art to strike a correct balance between informing and persuading someone to become a customer, especially since too many companies are being coy and disingenuous by disguising ad copy as “content.” A good approach is to take a strong stance on something, provide excellent information about it from various sources, and then show how your brand somehow contributes a solution.
But leave the benefit bullet points and the finer points of the glossy finish of your product for the brochure or dedicated sales pages.
Ask visitors to get involved by doing something — anything!
Simply sharing great info can make everyone feel all warm inside, but this in itself does not lead to sales. The best social marketers always place a call to action somewhere on the same page as the content, usually next to or at the end of an article. This can be entertaining in and of itself, especially if you give some kind of freebie away.
The concept behind content marketing is that by regularly providing something beneficial to end readers with their interests in mind, you have every right to ask for some kind of exchange. This can be in the form of subscribing to your blog or mailing list. Some might even be prepared to place an order with no further prompting, so make an offer occasionally, without becoming obnoxious.
The quality of your material goes a long way in determining the success of your content marketing strategy. Fortunately, affordable and professional writers, including former journalists and agency copywriters, are available to produce high-quality work on a freelance basis for every industry imaginable.