I recently got a content order from a search marketing firm that I’ve done business with over the years.  They had hired another writer to do a few articles for them (hey, the topics were simple, these writers were cheaper, so they couldn’t resist!).

The problem?  The articles were SO bad that the firm’s client rejected them on the spot.  Now, the firm needed great content to pass along — or risk making their client even angrier.  One of the people in the firm told me that their clients had rejected the original articles because they contained “a few mistakes”, and he sent me the articles in question so that I could see exactly what the client DIDN’T want.

My poor eyeballs!

These articles weren’t just grammatically incorrect; they were downright terrible!  Whoever wrote them didn’t even stick to the assigned topics!  Reading them was like floating aimlessly through a cloud — and a boring cloud, at that.  When I was done reading, I sadly realized that I would never be getting those ten minutes of my life back.

My point?

There’s a lot of crappy web content out there.  In fact, the majority of stuff I see absolutely stinks.  There may be some stuff out there that’s not a complete train wreck, but it certainly doesn’t present the author in a good, authoritative, expert light.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Bowden on Flickr
Photo courtesy of Andrew Bowden on Flickr

So, how do you fight the battle of crappy vs. compelling?  How do you come up with content that people actually WANT to read, share, and remember?

–  Have a clear objective

Obviously, every piece of content you publish needs its own objective.  For example, if you’re writing an article about the best ways to make your home more energy-efficient, you need to have a clear-cut list of tips.  And, in addition to grabbing people’s attention, you need to have a headline that you actually ADDRESS in the body of your content.  (This may seem painfully obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many content writers pose a question in their headline and then NEVER answer it in the body of the article!)  The last thing you want is for your readers to feel like they’re floating on an aimless cloud with you.

Beyond that, though, your entire content marketing strategy needs it own objective.  Who are you trying to reach?  What’s the best way to reach them?  Short blog posts?  State-of-the-art videos?  An ebook?  Long, in-depth articles?  What do you want people to think about you when they’re done reading?  What’s the best way to show them that you relate to their problems and have the knowledge to answer their questions?  How frequently do you need to share information?


–  Think about what YOU would want

It’s time for some role playing.  Picture yourself as one of your potential customers.  Before you would be willing to dig into your wallet and pull out your credit card, what would you need to see?  What would someone need to prove to you?  What would make you trust someone enough to give them your hard-earned money?

Until you put yourself in the shoes of a buyer, you’ll never see all of the reasons you’re giving them to say NO.  Remember, the content you publish is the only chance you get to “talk” to your target audience.  There is no eye contact or friendly smile to fall back on.  The words you publish either convey the right message, or they don’t.  (Adding to the pressure, your readers are going to make a judgment about those words in a matter of seconds!)

–  Stop rushing

Yes, content marketing has to be steady to be effective.  However, that doesn’t mean that you have to publish things without giving them some extra thought.  Remember, the goal is to make your content memorable — not to churn out as much as you can, as fast as you can.  The business owner with the most content doesn’t win unless his content truly kicks butt!

So sit back and think of ways to make your content stick out.  Take time to come up with interesting anecdotes, memorable metaphors, and witty ways to make people remember you.  Then, once you’ve put pen to paper (or, should I say, keystroke to screen?), let your content sit for a bit.  Giving yourself a few hours (or even overnight) will allow you to come back with a fresh set of eyes, so that you can come up with all kinds of perfect finishing touches — and spot the mistakes that tired eyes would have glazed right over.

Think of content marketing like the tortoise and the hare.  Sure, the hare looked awfully good coming out of the gates, but in the end, everyone remembers the tortoise!