I bet you’ve seen it before: an awkward chief executive fronting a video and rattling off pre-approved lines like ‘I’m passionate about helping you’ or ‘we’re committed to your success’.
Would that encourage you to buy their products or services? It’s doubtful.
Corporate-focused content has gone the way of the dodo — and I argue that’s a good thing.
Businesses wanting to appeal to their audience online must understand consumer habits have changed and this needs to be reflected in the content you produce.
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Here are some sobering statistics. It’s estimated that:
- 5000 new blog posts are uploaded every minute;
- 300 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute; and
- There are 18 million podcast episodes on iTunes.
The market is saturated. To stand out and ‘be heard’ you need to be different and say something unique in your content — this is the whole premise of Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow.
Think logically. Go to LinkedIn or Facebook and daily you’ll be subjected to corporate or bland content that doesn’t entice you to stop scrolling and engage.
If you don’t stop and engage, why would it appeal to your ideal customers if you’re producing similar content?
Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom for your content. With a strategic approach, there is a clear path towards creating blogs, ebooks, webinars, podcasts and videos that engage your audience and warm them up for the sales process.
Here are three ideas that you need to apply before creating content.
1. Benefit the customer, not you
This is also true with your content. Don’t think you know what your ideal customers want to engage with (a very corporate mindset) without getting this information directly from them.
There are plenty of online survey programs. Use your email database and survey them, asking what content they want to engage with.
Also, do as much SEO as possible to identify themes and topics that are consistent within your industry. Results will give you a clear indication of demand from the market.
By this stage, you should have a catalogue of stories and topics you can start generating content about. But again, don’t make it about you.
For example, I was a guest on Xero’s First Year Frontiers podcast series.
The focus of the series was not on what they do, but on how to survive the first year in business. In fact, no Xero employee or representative was interviewed at all. Instead, small business owners who had succeeded beyond their first year offered their advice and knowledge and discussed their highs and lows.
This is an example of how to offer value to your ideal customers without the blatant hard sell.
2. Add value through education
As previously mentioned, your ideal customers want to be educated with free resources before they buy. This is in contrast to the now-outdated corporate model of limiting access to what is offered until the buying process is complete.
Once you understand what your ideal customers want (or need), start providing them value by offering free education on the themes they’ve nominated in the content you create.
This is a more targeted approach to content and may not result in a ‘viral hit’, but that’s fine.
A Snapchat video by a Kardashian goes viral, but do viewers take action beyond a ‘like’ after watching it? Probably not — most 13-year-old girls can’t afford Gucci handbags anyway.
The best way to increase sales, drive traffic or promote brand awareness in content is to give your audience value. You need to make them learn something new or offer a different viewpoint to the common standard.
Before you publish your content, it needs to be reviewed internally first. Pass it around the office and to trusted people in your network for honest feedback. If the consensus is the content benefits you or your business more than your ideal customer, seriously question if you should publish it. Refine and rework until it’s ready. Get it right first.
Remember, there’s nothing worse than ego-driven content (like an unknown ‘entrepreneur’ standing in front of an expensive car in an Instagram selfie). You don’t add value by telling your everyone you’re awesome.
3. Tell stories in your content
Google is forever playing with its algorithm to favour promotion of content that’s adds value and is unique. There’s nothing more unique than a story that benefits your ideal customers.
In fact, according to Stanford University research, statistics alone have a retention rate of 5-10%, but when coupled with anecdotes (or stories), the retention rate rises to 65-70%. A good quality story is powerful.
Creating content is one thing, but if you don’t tell stories within your content you’re limiting your ability to engage your ideal customer and have them remember you. Storytelling has been our medium to pass on information for centuries.
Most of us weren’t directly involved in World War II (fortunately), yet many of us have a vivid understanding of the atrocities committed. The reason being, somebody told a meaningful story which has impacted others. The same stories are being retold decades later.
It’s doubtful you’ll want to focus content on such bleak subject matter, but it proves a point. If you can tell an important story, others are willing to share it further for you.
As a business, your 10th anniversary might seem like a great story to you, but do your ideal customers care? Why not evaluate the past and educate your ideal customers about the future of the industry? Already this content sounds more meaningful.
Make sure content grips your ideal customers and takes them on a journey. Storytelling is the vehicle for this and can be used across blogs, ebooks, webinars, podcasts and videos.
Content is here to stay and will continue to be a channel utilised by all due to its inexpensive nature and ability to amplify a message quickly.
That’s why taking a more strategic approach to the creation of content becomes paramount to your success. If done correctly, and you consistently engage your audience, content can be used as a lead-generation tool to grow your business.
If done incorrectly, like corporate content, you run the risk of having your potential customers navigating away from your business — despite the fact you may offer them the solution.
So, understand what your ideal customers want, educate them about it and supply it to them in a unique story. If you do this, to use ‘corporate speak’, you’ll see an ‘uplift in traction among your consumers’.