Content is huge, both in terms of what it encompasses, and its importance. Content consists of every single piece of sales and marketing collateral you have, in the form of:
- downloadable PDFs
- corporate communications
- marketing emails
- and more.
Jeremy Goldman from Firebrand Group (and many others) have said it like this: "You are your content." In his keynote speech at Inbound 2016, Brian Halligan explained how we have become so trained in self-service decision-making that “sales people now augment websites, not vice versa." The public looks for as much information about you as they can find prior to contacting you. They research your company, products, industry, and competitors... then they reach out to you. This means that your content, including your website, is your primary sales person, rather than your actual sales personnel.
That places a LOT of responsibility on your content. Your content has to sell you sufficiently, represent you accurately and favorably, and compel people to contact you over your competition. But, no pressure. :)
If you follow a customer-centric formula, producing an inventory of content that achieves what your business needs becomes much easier. The formula goes like this:
- Identify your audience, and we mean specifically. For more information about how to do this, learn about buyer personas and conduct a full buyer persona exercise for your company.
- Identify your buyer persona dispositions. Learn more about this here.
- As you create your content, never let a single piece of it go live without identifying exactly who it's meant to speak to, and what it's meant to achieve with them, keeping in mind their buyer persona and disposition.
Still need more content guidance? Keep reading as we flesh out more tips (and some hard truths) about how your content should be on purpose, on message, on target, and easy on the eyes.
The Purpose of Content
A common misconception is that the purpose of your website is to tell people everything there is to know about your company, products, and services. It sounds logical, and that may have been true in earlier days of the web, but it is no longer true, nor is it an effective way to market online. In the modern internet landscape, the purpose of your website is to engage and inform your audience based on their wants and needs. Talking a lot about yourself isn't going to connect with them, not to mention that modern buyers are becoming increasingly allergic to sales-speak.
It's a hard pill to swallow, but people don't actually care about you. Their primary concern is their immediate need and finding an answer to their burning question: Can you help me? Your content must convey that you understand their problem and can give them exactly what they're looking for. But don't just take our word for it, plenty of content experts around the world agree:
"Your content should always be about relationship building-- solving problems, making life better, easing pain. To develop a long-term relationship with a customer, keep their needs first. That helps build loyalty and loyalty builds credibility."
- Roberta Rosenberg, @CopywriterMaven
If you have an About page on your website with a detailed timeline of your business' history, delete it. UNLESS it explains how you came upon the solution to their current problem or illustrates a passion for helping the people that your business serves. Any other self-referential content distracts from your offering and dilutes your message.
In order to engage your customer, always keep them, and their needs, front and center.
Remember why you and your website exist: to give your customer something they want or need. This is how you'll convert them from a skeptical passerby to a potential customer.
How to Stay On Message
To stay on message, ask yourself four questions every time you create a piece of content:
- Who am I speaking to? (Envision a specific person, or your buyer persona, rather than just "potential customers".)
- How does this content benefit them?
- What action or next step do I hope they carry out after seeing this content?
- Does this content help them take that next action? If not, can I remove it?
On your homepage, speak to your buyer personas' needs and problems immediately. Emphasize your differentiation (this is a vital piece of your marketing message and is explained more here.) How can you make your reader's life better? This value proposition should be prominent throughout your website, especially on the homepage.
Target Your Content To Hit the Bullseye
Your buyer persona and disposition should dictate your language, tone, and style so that it directly addresses where they are in the buying cycle. Do keyword research (or get an SEO firm to do it for you) to find the search terms your target market uses to find a company like you online. These keywords are essential to ensuring your content aligns with what people are searching for so they can find you.
Google has gotten incredibly savvy at interpreting buyer intent, so use natural language your market would use; how people really speak, rather than robotic-sounding keyword-speak.
“Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base, you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time. Worry less about sounding professional and worry more about creating remarkable content that other humans can relate to.”
- Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
Keep Your Content Easy On the Eyes
Presentation matters. If your content is unattractive and off-putting, people are going to click the Back button and run directly away from your site.
Here are some words to keep in mind when developing your content:
- Easy to read
- Easy to understand
- Visually scannable
People are short on time and attention, so they scan webpages rather than read them. Break up your text with attention-grabbing pieces of content that readers can quickly and easily digest like headers, lists, callouts, and emotive imagery.
Speaking of imagery, any photos or graphics you use on your website should be high-quality. Images that are grainy, generic, outdated, or irrelevant will create a poor impression. Any imagery used should emphasize your message and complement your website's overall style.
For more on design and how to create an excellent user experience watch this video:
Speaking of video, if you don't have any on your website, now is the time to add it. The internet is currently on a decisive march toward a richer media experience. According to a study by Animoto, 73% of U.S. adults are more likely to purchase a product or service after watching a video about it. And according to a study by Forbe's, 75% of senior executives watch work-related videos on business websites at least weekly. So, it makes good business sense to invest in as much professionally produced video and imagery as your budget allows.
Content That Converts
Finally, your content should create tangible results (like converting website visitors into customers). Your content needs to explicitly tell people what they should do next. It should help move them farther along the conversion path. If it doesn't serve that purpose, ask if it can possibly be removed. Less is more and content that doesn't serve the purpose of converting may simply be distracting from your goals. Conversion paths are such a large topic that we are not able to fully get into it here, but we expand upon this important topic in our blog post Turn Your Website Into a Conversion Machine.
Think of content as a powerful tool to get an important job done. Content can be really fun and creative, but at the end of the day, if it doesn't help your business achieve its goals, you may be wasting resources.
If you'd like to continue the conversation about content as it pertains to your business, we'd love to talk with you.