Successful content marketing engages audiences during “brain break” moments. Time is more valuable than money, and people want to make sure that they’re making the most out of their valuable time. That’s why business content is tricky terrain. The market is saturated and people often feel as though content falls short. Why is that? My co-founder and I have been curious about that question, so we decided to conduct a study about what makes a blog post engaging. We are in the early stages of the process but have discovered some feedback about what readers think.
We have learned that business audiences do not want to read sales-centric content. They want new, first-hand perspectives. They want content to present a different and unique opinion. The problem is that business content often fails to accomplish these objectives because we force ourselves to conform to standards of storytelling. Even though we all have stories to tell, we’re not “storytellers.”
If we’ve been trained as product, marketing, sales, and engineering people, we have interesting anecdotes about our roles. But our jobs aren’t what our readers’ target audiences want to be reading about. Especially if you want to get discovered by new customers, you need to contribute a perspective to an active community, with ongoing dialogue.
Creating content for an audience, whether you’re developing blog posts or videos, can be nerve-wracking. There are so many subjective reasons why people like and dislike content. People want to read content that always engages them, teaches them something new, and provides a strong reader experience.
Enter Diversified Content
Diversifying from product-centric content is crucial if you want your business’s voice to be heard in an extremely crowded landscape of companies clamoring to get the attention of the same people that you’re seeking to reach and engage. Here are some tips for how to diversify product-centric content:
1. Write About a Customer
Your customers are interesting. Interview them to learn about the trends that they’re seeking, in addition to the challenges that they’re tackling every day. People like to do business with other people and enjoy learning from the experiences of others. Share how your customers solve problems within their own businesses.
As an example, take a look at this customer story from Lob. It tells the story of how e-shares simplified a form-filing process through a technical integration. Readers come away with an understanding of Lob’s product, and more importantly, they learn how to save time within their roles and overall business operations.
2. Explain How You Solved a Problem
If you’re writing for a business audience, this technique is valuable. People want to save time and want to create more impact in their roles. For instance, if you’re a marketer, you could always create content about an experiment you’ve run or a path that you’ve taken to become closer with your customers. You can contribute this blog as a guest post on a website that reaches communities of marketers (like the MarketingProfs Opinions blog).
3. Spend More Time Researching than Writing
Powerful content marketing brings new insights to existing industry dialogue. That’s why, when you’re creating content, you need to keep your eyes and ears open. What’s happening in the market? What are people reading and talking about? What is the unique perspective that your company—and content creators—bring to the table?
There are three practices you can conduct on an ongoing basis to help you systematize your research:
- Take time out of your month to conduct three to five 1:1 interviews with customers. Spend 30 minutes on each interview—in person, on the phone, or over a video call. Record the conversation, transcribe it, and take notes.
- Join communities that your target audiences have joined. You can share industry-relevant content, but do not self-promote. Focus more on listening and learning. For a guide to refining your listening skills, check out this podcast with Jana Eggers.
- Read blog posts for pure enrichment and inspiration—outside of your professional focus—to pick up new writing styles and audience-building techniques
Effective content marketing reads like a mosaic. Product-centric content is important, yes. But even more important is your vantage point insights into your market.
Organizations are built on the knowledge, hard work, and expertise of people. Diversify your content by focusing on the people reading. Resist the urge to talk about the product you’re building, as much as you love it. You can always create product marketing collateral, sales enablement material, and tutorials to guide people through your sales cycle. Create a conversation, like you would at a meetup, too.