How to start writing great content (and stick at it)
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
There’s certainly no shortage of content these days. But there is a shortage of good content.
And for many businesses, it’s a little hit and miss when time allows. So, how about creating a focused plan and a productive habit that’ll help your audience like and trust you?
The value of great content
Content can be many things, such as blogs, long-form articles, and customer stories. It can also be infographics, videos, and podcasts. But we’re not covering those here. I want to help you get the topics and the words right, not to mention the habit.
The job of content is to help shorten your sales funnel – or at least, to take prospects through it faster. Within the mix, different mediums will achieve different goals, but the fundamental purpose is the same.
KNOW: you might create an advisory article to help build your profile.
LIKE: you might create some blogs to handle typical questions and problems.
TRUST: you might create customer stories to show them what success looks like
And it’s all a continual process. Some results can be immediate, whilst others take much longer.
The better your content, the more it achieves for the same level of investment. So, it pays to consider what ‘great’ looks like for your industry and try to achieve it.
Creating the habit
We’ve all been there. Great intentions that dwindle as time goes on. The weekly blog that becomes a bi-annual thing. The newsletter that dries up after three issues. The two customer stories that stand alone.
Appreciating the short, medium, and long-term value of content, plus creating a routine you can stick to, can alleviate this scenario.
Let me tell you about my download: 24 tips to help your business communicate better. At the time of writing this, I created it 18 months ago. And yet, only in the last few weeks, new people have downloaded it and then approached me to talk about their copywriting projects.
18 months. Great content has legs. That piece alone has found many clients for me and lots of followers. Worth the effort.
But not everything will work. Even for the best content creator in the world. So, don’t beat yourself up if a blog comes to nothing. Maybe the timing was off. Maybe it’ll be worth a re-work in months to come.
I challenge you to find your commitment. That might be for your team to write a blog and a long-form article a month. Or it might be a budgeted amount with your outsourced copywriter.
Then keep going! Momentum must build. Hold your nerve and appreciate the longer-term value.
Know who you’re writing for (and what they want)
Content can be poor for many reasons, but a common pitfall is not understanding your audience sufficiently.
Imagine if someone sauntered up to you and started spouting off about their shiny widgets when you had no interest in them at all. Or if an estate agent started calling you about six-bedroom mansions when you only needed a two-bed semi.
Neither understand who their audience is and what they want.
Don’t be goofy, spend some time creating a better understanding:
- Create a profile around your core audience
- Know what frustrates and worries them
- Know what questions they typically ask
- Learn where they hang out
- Know what they want from you
The last point needs a little clarification. This isn’t just about your products and services. It’s about the VALUE you can deliver. Talk to your friendly customers about this if you need to get a grip. You should be thinking about the benefits you deliver.
Read my post: why benefits are more compelling than features
What to write about
The job of your content is NOT to sell. If you need to read that sentence twice, please do so.
You’re not selling, you’re providing value and relevant interest. Stuff that’ll help them in some way.
Which is why you need to know what they want!
Sure, within that, you’ll demonstrate your expertise and highlight products, but always looking at it from their point of view, their needs.
Your salespeople are probably not the right people to create your content. But… they will be excellent sources for ideas.
Ideas should come from everyone in your team. You could create a structure to capture ideas, even if it's just a Google Sheet. I’d suggest focusing on the following headings to ensure every idea fits a purpose:
- Questions they ask, before and after purchase
- Educating them with expert advice
- Comment and guidance on topical issues
- Stories from your customers
You might also compare your products to others, in a thoughtful and helpful way – we all love reviews.
I’m sure you’ll have a few nuggets that don’t quite fit into this. It’s not a science. But as a rule, stick to these areas with knowledge of the value they want from you.
Practice your writing
If you’re writing your own content, commit to improving your skills where you can. Commercial business writing is quite different from the English we learn at school. Granted, grammar and spelling remain essential, but it’s also about crafting your personality and writing in a way that’ll engage your audience.
For many, that means a more conversational tone. You don’t have to remain all formal, just because you’re a business. In fact, it can be quite a turn off for many audiences. Which goes back to understanding who you’re talking to.
Content can sometimes become the last thing on your list. But by understanding its place in your marketing mix and what your audience needs, you’ll do a much better job with the investment you do give it. And by committing to a regular output, you’ll build up your bank with great effect. It’s there to publicise and re-work when you need to.
Need a hand with your content (planning or writing)? Just give me a nudge.