Content marketing gets a lot of press right now and is something that most of us not only consume, but more and more, also create. Creating and promoting valuable, quality content can absolutely be very powerful indeed for establishing yourself as a credible authority in your field, engaging your existing customers and attracting new ones. We know that content is key because we’re living in the information age and content’s our currency. Content, content, content - there’s a million ways to approach it, but what makes really, really good content really, really good?
It’s the authenticity factor - keeping real.
We know that in order to create good content we can find inspiration from reading other people’s content, rearrange what others have said, put our own spin on it and personality into it, or come at it from a different angle - heaven knows there’s a million articles on how to write great content! But with all this content we’re all so endlessly sifting through, we’re also getting very good at picking the regurgitation, reading the same stuff in different words and … ignoring it. Yes, they might come from a different angle, say stuff slightly differently, have a bit of spunk, but if it's not really different and doesn’t really click better, then we tune out. The things that stand out and aren’t ignored have that X-factor, but what is it and why?
The secret is to get personal. Get real. Write for one and make it a real one.
Usually that X-factor is that it feels much more like a personal, even private conversation rather than any old article about the topic of any old month. It feels more like you’re listening in, or even that it was written just for you. I know, it’s amazingly difficult to achieve that when you sit there academically trying to mentally imagine that ‘one’ fictitious or real person, put yourself in their shoes, write about a problem you know they have, in a way that resonates with them, and offer them a tailored solution. The truth is that most of us just aren’t good enough at doing that - remember high school drama and being taught to ‘get inside’ the character! And then to match it up with killer writing - really, not many of us are going to nail that, are we? Content creation might be booming and that probably means a lot more people are writing, but it also means there are a lot of people with a lot to learn and lots of great business people trying to be great writers.
So what do you do?
Cheat. No, I don’t mean go and copy someone else’s stuff, there’s enough of that and you won’t stand out, and forget about trying to imagine being in someone else’s head or shoes. By cheating, what I really mean is don’t fake it, or imagine it - just be real. Cheat as in use the stuff you already do - use a real situation with a real client and a real problem and write about it, for that client. You may have only had a conversation with them - that’s fine, if it was real and helpful to them, craft that into a useful written piece. Or maybe you actually wrote them a report, or corresponded by email - that’s fine too, probably better because you’ve already got content that you’ve already written. Take that, or the kernels you want to expand on and write more for them.
Now naturally you’re not going to divulge sensitive information or identities, but the point is if you have customers and clients that you interact with, then you have content on tap. When you write what you already know, you’ll sound much more natural and when you write for just one real person about just that one real problem, then you’ll sound much more authentic.
These are the principles of target marketing, but unfortunately it’s the kind of thing that all too often becomes nothing more than an academic theory and rarely practically applied. The thing about applying it for real, is that you’ll find out first hand how effective it actually is. Many of the problems that arise from target marketing and writing content for your specific target/customer/audience is that for all the definition, analysis and avatar creation, there still is no actual person for whom the content is being written. We make up the avatar, imagine the problem they might be having and repurpose someone else’s popular content to riff on that same problem … and try to catch a ride on the popularity train.
But if it’s not real, then it’s just not real and you’ll look and sound like everyone else. Which is totally fine, if that’s what you want. And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t write about things that are clearly hot topics - not at all! I am, after all, writing at this very moment about content marketing, but I’m writing for one person and that person is real. I happen to know she’s been struggling with how to write more personably because we’ve been talking about it. But her writing is a tool, it’s not her work - she’s already done the work and does it every day. Now she just has to write about it.
The #1 secret to creating content that gets traction is; do the work!
Doing real work for real clients, solving real problems is where your very best content lies.
You know that if they have that problem, then so do others and the way to stand out in writing about solving that problem is to write just for them - don’t expand it, dumb it down, make it more generic, because that’s what’s going to make it beautiful. When you’re consulting with them, or serving them, you don’t act like you’re on stage before thousands trying to please them all, do you? No, in fact the very opposite is true - you adjust your tone slightly, you mention things and make references that you know are specific to them, you make eye contact, you use language that mirrors theirs and you try to make them feel understood and like they matter. You focus on understanding their problem and then on customising a solution that’s perfect just for them.
Let’s face it, your customers and clients have access to just as much readily available content as we all do, so you could easily curate a bunch of material and send them links to a handful of articles that will be helpful to them. That’s fine - I do that too because that’s also helpful, but writing just for them, just for their problem or challenge, well that’s in a different league. That’s your best work and that’s what you should be showcasing.
- Write for one person, a real person
- Address their problem, a real problem - use language they use and understand
- Present a solution, a real solution - in language they use and understand
- Provide goodwill and encouragement in a way that’s personal for them
Writing for one person shouldn’t be an academic concept - it’s something you really, actually have to do, and if you have customers or clients, then you’re already doing it every day anyway. Sure, write about things that are topical and popular, get inspiration from other people’s content, of course add your own spin and perspective, but to stand out, it has to be real, for a real person. Write for them the way you’d serve them as a customer or client - your writing will become easier and much better, your clients will love your work because it will resonate so easily with them and others will be attracted to it because it’s authentic and useful all at the same time.
Thank you for reading - I hope it was useful.
Image credit: "Adler (typewriters)" by MCAD Library via Flickr - thank you!