Does your content have you down? If you’re unhappy with your content, not sure how to go about writing better words, reviewing your current approach or crafting a strategy – know that you’re not alone.
// not getting what you expected from expensive content agencies and consultancies
// worried your content isn’t engaging your customers , or
// perhaps you’re toiling away on your own, trying to pull a content plan together and aren’t sure you’re getting anywhere.
Either way, take heart. Content is a big beast for any business. Nearly all of my clients feel a little confused when we first discuss their content. And the truth is, when it comes to content the world is your oyster. You just don’t know it yet.
When new clients meet with me to talk content, we cover their business goals, customers (existing and new) services and so on. These conversations are nuanced and vary client to client, however when it comes to starting out with a content strategy and plan, the same key points and principles come up each time.
There are four expert content tips and insights I share with all of my clients when we first meet. These guiding principles help businesses to refresh the old and write the new content their customers most want. And then the world’s their oyster when it comes to writing great content each month. Want to know my four tips? They are:
1. Know the difference between content and copy
You might be writing copy for your business and dressing it up as content. And if that’s the case, you might want to change approach.
But aren’t copy and content the same thing, you ask? No. Copy and content get thrown around interchangeably but they’re different. There are many ways to explain the difference, and there are some long white papers and keynotes by impressive advertising agencies on the topic which you can check out online (make sure you bring your pillow and eye mask). For your headspace and mine, let’s keep the definitions simple:
What is copy?
Copy is written to persuade a customer to do something or take action, like buying a product or signing up to an event. For example, this could be an ad on a real estate site which sells a particular property (say, a three bedroom house) to a particular buyer.
What is content?
Content, on the other hand, is an ongoing conversation with your clients or customers. Best practice content offers genuinely useful, helpful or interesting information that’s relevant to your customer or reader. By sharing helpful and useful content with your customers, you build greater trust and engagement over time. For example, this could be an article or blog on a real estate site about how to self-style your three bedroom home for sale. This information is helpful and informative for a potential seller. But it’s not directly selling anything or asking the them to take action.
You don’t want to be selling or suggesting an action to your readers, when you’re meant to be building trust and sharing insights. At the same time, you don’t want to be sharing insights when you’re selling or have a key call to action to get across, or you’ll risk burying and muddling your message. So it pays to be quite clear about content vs copy in your business communications.
2. How do you eat an elephant? In small bites
Your content probably isn’t as bad as you think it is. And no, you’re not doing anything ‘wrong.’ More often than not, smart businesses have a solid platform of content to start with.
But there’s always room for improvement and opportunity to go from ‘okay’, or ‘good, to ‘great.’ Sometimes it’s a matter of simple tweaks, shifting the focus of the content or adding more customer-focused content to your writing. Content can be overwhelming, so it’s worth tackling it in phases.
Try and think of improving your content as a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll get excellent results if you take small steps and make incremental changes over time. This helps to get it right up front and often means less fixes and pivots down the track.
3. Make sure it’s not all about you
Your customers don’t want to hear about how great you are at Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), for one example. SEO customers don’t want to read reams of info about your expertise, skills and your musings on the SEO industry. They want to hear about how you can help them triple the traffic to their website, hone leads closer to their ideal client market or how they can make simple tweaks to their website to improve their search engine rankings.
Can you spot the difference? Generally speaking, you can focus on YOU in your content, or you can focus on the CUSTOMER. Always choose the customer. Sure, you have to talk about your expertise and credentials at times. That’s fine. But for the most part, you need to write for and about your customers. You can talk about you and your business later in your sales copy (and your customers can always find out about your skills and expertise on your about page).
4. Be clear what problem you’re solving
Your customers won’t read your content if it isn’t offering them something. When you’re helping your clients, what problem are you solving? How do they feel once you’ve solved a problem for them? Your answers to these questions shine a spotlight on what you should be writing about.
In your content, are you teaching your customers something? Are you helping them to do something better, inspiring them, or offering something enjoyable to read? One of the things I first look to add to my clients’ content is genuine problem-solving.
‘If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution’ – Steve Jobs
If you make people’s lives easier, help them to do their job better, raise their kids, live healthier lives, feel good, get more sleep, time or money, then you have the basis for a great content strategy.
Whether you’re reviewing your business content or just starting out in thinking about a content strategy, consider these tips and questions and notice the answers that come up for each one.
They’ll point you in the right direction towards creating genuinely helpful for your business and customers.