15 Jun 2015
Your 3-Step Guide To Creating Great Content

Your 3-Step Guide To Creating Great Content

My newly renovated bathroom flooded when I used the shower for the first time this morning. Like regular Monday mornings aren’t bad enough. When I contacted the plumber to let him know he went straight into defensive mode, sending me a photo of gunk that one of his guys had pulled out of the drain when they were doing the job. It seems they didn’t get everything but the message was loud and clear. It’s not my fault.

Of course I wasn’t really looking for somebody to blame. I just had a problem and needed a solution. My en suite was out of action and I wouldn’t be able to go to work until somebody came out and fixed it. Unfortunately, my plumber’s natural instinct was to consider the possible implications for his business. In doing that, he lost sight of his customer.

This is a problem I see all too often when I look at the content companies are producing. They’re making lots of shiny assets but they’re not really listening to their customers. Before you sign off on your company’s next infographic, e-book or explainer video, I’d like you to take a few minutes to go through this simple three-step checklist:

Who Are You Talking To?

I’m still surprised by how often this isn’t given sufficient consideration. My clients are all B2B technology companies so a lot of the content they produce is targeted at chief information officers. However, as technology budgets continue to move into marketing, finance and other areas of business, content often needs to be relevant for other C-level executives. Then there’s a third layer of content that’s targeted at a more specialist technology audience like application developers or infrastructure managers. Those selling into small and medium-sized businesses need to get their message across to business owners and assume low levels of technical knowledge. You need to decide which of your audience groups this piece of content is going to be aimed at. In the vast majority of cases, one size most definitely does not fit all.

Lesson 1 – Your target audience needs to be the primary consideration for all content production. How can you possibly know what to say if you don’t even know who you’re talking to?

What Value Are You Creating?

We all want to sell more products and services. That’s a given. Unfortunately, if your content comes across as a thinly veiled pitch you’ve already lost most of your target audience and wasted the budget you assigned to this project. Your primary content objective should always be to build trust. These are real people, with goals and challenges you must try to address every time you communicate with them. Looking at my B2B technology clients again, most of the value they offer their customers falls into one or more of these three categories:

  1. Reducing costs
  2. Improving productivity
  3. Increasing functionality

This is overly simple but basically true. No matter where a client starts a conversation (and it’s usually about products and services or how much budget they have to spend) I always encourage them to ask why the target audience is going to care.

Lesson 2 – Now you’ve established exactly who the target audience is, how is this piece of content going to help them? If you can’t provide a good answer to this question, you need to go back to the drawing board.

What Makes Your Offer Different?

This is the final piece of the puzzle. Depending on how you look at it, you could argue this is the least or most important of the three. It’s the least important because you don’t really need to do it at all. If you clearly establish a target audience and craft a piece of content that helps them solve a problem you may well have some success with it. So why bother? Well it’s also the most important because this is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Using my B2B technology clients as an example again, it’s a good start to say you can help a C-level executive reduce costs, or offer new functionality that will improve customer experience, but there’s probably a handful of rival companies that could make broadly similar claims. So ask yourself this and try to be objective: What are you offering that customers can’t get anywhere else? When you can provide a meaningful answer to this question, you’re well on the way to creating a highly valuable piece of content.

Lesson 3 – As with so many things in business, the greatest value in content creation lies in the little points of difference. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, calls this The Content Tilt. Take some time to find yours. It will be worth the effort.

Summary

Start every new content project by considering who you’re talking to, what value you’re offering and how this is different from what they can get elsewhere. These three little steps will keep your content on track every time, delivering value to your audience while helping your business achieve its goals. It doesn’t take long to form a habit. Now is the best time to develop this one and start creating great content.

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