The teacher droned on seemingly oblivious to the fact that most of students were clearly checked out mentally. The monotonous lecture was not unlike one of the scenes from the Ferris Beuller movie of the ‘80s. In a classroom setting, the audience may not have a whole lot of choice on whether or not to suffer through the message, but out in the marketplace, that isn’t the case. The fastest way to lose the interest of your target audience, or fail to captivate their interest in the first place, is to be perceived as boring or irrelevant. Let’s take a behind the scenes look at how the most compelling content is created and a couple of key mistakes to avoid in the process.
The Alternative to Compelling Content
Your newspaper is a great example of contrasting approaches in marketing. On the one hand, there are usually some great examples of gripping advertising – the kind that literally captivates your attention and pulls you into reading the ad copy. On the other hand, most of the ads are usually pretty easy to ignore.
Compelling content engages the audience in such a way that they are interested in finding out more information about your product or service. There is a big difference in the performance results – the return on advertising investment – between compelling content and the alternative. This difference between performance and return on investment holds true, regardless of the medium. It really doesn’t matter if it is a web page, brochure, sales letter, newspaper ad, yellow pages ad, etc. – compelling content is essential for a strong return on advertising investment.
Content that doesn’t grab the audience’s attention and engage them is usually created with a couple of common deadly marketing mistakes.
Fundamentals Are Key to Fantastic Results
In order to avoid the most common deadly marketing mistake that causes ad copy to fail to engage the audience, it will be helpful to review a few fundamentals. The fundamentals may not be glamorous, but mastery in this area is what produces glamorous results.
Consider John Wooden – the hall of fame basketball coach who led the UCLA Men’s basketball team to an unprecedented 10 national championships. Coach Wooden literally began every season with a detailed explanation and demonstration of the best way to put on socks. Without mastering this most basic of skills, players developed too many blisters, and blisters can degrade performance to the point of costing games. Coach Wooden’s team understood the importance of spending time reviewing even the most basic of fundamentals.
Getting the fundamentals of content creation right is the key that unlocks the door to amazing response rates to your marketing.
The Real Purpose of Content
All marketing content must have a real purpose that can be easily described. Generally speaking, the purpose of most marketing content will fit one of the following categories.
- Educational – This is especially important if your audience doesn’t clearly understand the benefits of your product or service, or what sets you apart from the competition. The goal here is to educate your audience, to create awareness of issues or needs that they have but may not be fully aware of, to answer their questions, and to inform their decision making process. This type of content is essential during the pre-purchase research stage of the buying decision.
- Trust – Although this is important for all businesses to increase sales, this is most important when your product or service is not cheap, or where you will be performing an in-home service, or where the stakes are high, from the client’s perspective. The goal here is to demonstrate that you are credible, deserving of trust, and an authority in your area of expertise. This type of content is essential for increasing the rate at which website visitors become prospective customers.
- Sales – This is really about making sure that it is as easy as possible for your clients to do business with you.
- Reassurance – This content is intended for your new customer – after they have made the purchase commitment. There is a need to reassure them so as to address the post-purchase cognitive dissonance that usually takes place. Paying attention to this area, increases their trust, customer loyalty, referrals, and additional purchases.
Although all businesses should have content that fits into each of the four categories above, depending on the type of business you’re in, you’ll need much more in some areas than in others. Clearly defining the purpose of the content before it is created is an essential starting point for creating compelling content.
The Starting Point
The starting point of the best content and marketing strategies is not your product or service – it’s the needs of your target market. The wrong starting point is one of the cardinal sins of marketing that always results in wasted effort and lower return on investment. Begin by putting yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes for a moment.
Personas In Content Creation
Personas are very useful tools for putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, so to speak. If you were your ideal customer, what would you find of interest and value? Don’t write your content for everyone in your audience; write it with a specific person in mind. You should have content that is aimed at each of your most important personas. If you want your content to be compelling, ask yourself – if you were the customer, would you read the webpage, ad, or email that you’ve just put together? Many times when I am reviewing a new client’s existing website, I’ll ask, “If you were your client and came to your website, would you stay and read more?” Usually, their answer is “No.” If the answer is no – then the next step is to identify why you don’t connect with it.
Use Cases in Content Creation
Creating compelling content is about making sure that your content does a good job of connecting with your audience. Don’t think about everyone in your audience – focus on the individual. What are they looking for? What do they need most? What do they really want? The answer to these questions allows you to develop different paths (use cases), tailored to their specific needs. For example, some people need a lot of information before making a purchase decision or talk to someone, while others would rather talk to someone than read through a bunch of content. The best results come from catering to the different needs of your target audience. Personas and use cases are a big help in this area.
Keyword Research / Question Research
It is so much easier to write compelling content when you’ve already discovered the right keywords and questions. Most people scan content before reading, in order to decide whether or not to take the time and read the entire article. The use of keywords in your content helps people recognize that this is something that they should read. Talking to your customers and answering their questions enables you to make sure that your content includes those questions and answers. This isn’t the same as a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on a website – those have their place, but ideally you want your questions and answers woven into your content. This is something that adds value to your audience, so that after they’ve read your content, many of their questions have already been answered without them even having to ask.
Compelling Content is filled with Benefits
It is important to lead with benefits, not features in your content. This usually requires a bit of a shift in thinking. Business owners typically think in terms of features while prospective customers are focused on benefits.
For example – when selling shoes:
Benefit – Your feet will stay warm and dry with these boots.
Feature – These boots are made lined with Gore-Tex® to make them waterproof and have Thinsulate TM lining for warmth.
Your audience won’t care about the features until they understand the benefit. For some, knowing the benefit is enough. For others after the benefit is clear, the features help build trust that this is exactly what they were looking for.
The Internal Conversation
The most compelling content is written so that it connects with the internal conversation that is going on inside the mind of your target audience. An understanding of what those questions and concerns are enables you to produce content that really connects and resonates with your audience. Truly compelling content is no accident – it comes from a deep understanding of the needs and interests of your audience and is tailored to interact with the conversation that is going on in their head.