As companies invest more and more money into content marketing and as social media and mobile technology make it easier for just about anybody to become an amateur content creator, there is a constant river of content flooding our world.
Wordpress.com claims 64.3 million new posts are made each month, and that is only a tiny fraction of new posts and articles published on other CMS platforms. About 300 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube each minute.
With so much content being made each and every day, we marketers must find a way to cut through all the noise, to make sure our message reaches our target audience, the ideal customers for our business.
So the question is: How can we make our content, be it thought leadership or sales copy, more engaging and persuasive? How can we make our content stand out over the constant roar of what everyone else is doing?
Here are three steps you can take to help your content reach the next level and stand out, bringing your brand into sharp focus. It all starts with a big idea.
Step One: Find your Unique Big Idea
Thought leadership is a major content marketing tool, especially for B2B business strategies. Business executives are constantly interested in getting ahead, in acquiring that edge that can help their company stand out. If your business can help them do that, your thought leadership content needs to stand out and attract their attention.
The problem? As we said, more and more content is getting made every day, and that applies to thought leadership, as well. As a result, quality is getting diluted, as expressed by this report from The Economist Group.
As content volume increases, says the report, executives are becoming more selective. That doesn't mean that thought leadership is getting ignored. The same study shows that executives are turning to thought leadership content more than before, and more marketing teams are putting more time and money into higher-level content.
That means that there is more potential reward in such content, but only for those that manage to get it right, that is, to express big ideas that appeal to their target audience and communicate them in a clear and unique way.
In other words, as Joe Pulizzi puts it, thought leadership requires actual leading thoughts, a unique big idea that sets you apart from everyone else, backed up with data.
Step Two: Harmonize your Copy with Your Values
Let's say you already have your unique big idea, your leading thoughts that will fuel original and eye-catching thought leadership content. Your big idea may turn heads, but your content will need more to hold people's attention, let alone prompt them to engage with your content, such as by sharing, commenting, or replying.
This is where your personal and company values can help.
(If you haven't read Influence, you need to get a copy ASAP. It will completely change the way you think of marketing. You can even get it as an audiobook and listen during your work commute. Your future, and richer, self will thank you!)
One of several fascinating concepts introduced in Cialdini's new books is a seventh principle of persuasion (adding to the six discussed in his earlier book in great detail), what he calls "unity."
That's right. In a world where we all like to think of ourselves as unique and special and completely independent, we also like to feel like we belong, and we take pride in our shared identity just as much as we do in our individual identity.
How can you use your content to connect and resonate with your readers, pulling them along their buyer's journey? By showing you share certain, core values.
As Sonia Simone of Copyblogger stresses in this article, values are important to a content creator for two major reasons. First, your personal and business values will keep you going, reminding you why you get up and go to work every day. Second, your values, as a writer, when applied to the content you create, will resonate with readers that share those values, giving them a sense of unity with you, and with the company you represent.
With this in mind, it may be a good idea to reexamine your buyer personas, describing your ideal customers, and think about what core values they all would share, values that your company should also be built around.
Common core values don't just make any business more united and shaped for success. Those same values can attract your brand's ideal customers.
Does your business have a unique, unity voice? If so, does your brand also have a set of values? They may not be stated as such, but more companies do have values, and finding and expressing those values will resonate with your ideal readers, attracting them in an almost primal way.
Step Three: Clearly Communicate your Message
So you have a unique big idea, and you have core values that you infuse into every word of your content. There is one last obstacle to engaging content you have to be aware of.
You are an expert in whatever you are writing about. If you weren't before you started this project, through hours of exhaustive research, you have managed to make yourself one by the time you sit down to start creating content.
If you've been working in the same company for years, you may have grown so familiar with your brand and all the surrounding facts that you could probably run the company you work for, or at least fake it for a good while.
All that knowledge you have is a good thing, right? Yes and no.
Yes, because you get to write like you know what you're talking about. No, because you may fall into the trap known as the "curse of knowledge."
Basically, this curse rears its ugly head when you are so familiar with a topic that you end up talking over everyone else's head, failing to communicate in a clear and simple way what you need to say.
Content that's hard to understand is not persuasive. It's not engaging. It doesn't cut through the noise. In fact, it will likely be quickly put down, replaced by content that is easier to understand.
How can you cut through this curse? This article provides excellent ways, such as:
- Knowing your audience, and knowing what they know.
- Using vocabulary that is clear and easy to understand.
- Telling a story with your content.
- Be clear and avoid abstractions.
- Give examples.
- Use visuals.
- Get someone to check how clear it is when you're done.
By being clear and easy to understand with your content, you can be sure that your ideal audience will be engaged and interested from the first word to the last.
Yes, the internet is flooded with content, but as quality is diluted, there is a growing need for smart, engaging, clear content that resonates with its intended readers. If you can supply that content for your brand, you'll cut through all the noise and shine as a much-needed beacon of valuable information.