Is the devil really in the details? Maybe you should be asking your inbound or content marketing agency that. Here’s the thing that really drives me up the wall… All too often, I see agencies that are doing the absolute bare minimum for clients – because as long as they get paid every month, what does it matter, right? Sure, they might be delivering the raw bones of a working strategy. But where’s the heart? I partly founded Phoenix Content Solutions to get away from the lazy, shoddy mindset above. Often, I find what makes an amazing piece of content really stand out is the small details that really make people stop and go ‘wow’ or ‘they’re talking to ME’. A good piece of content can deliver a warm, fuzzy feeling, and fire up imaginations to inspire or take action – or, it can leave readers feeling cold, despite technically delivering on its purpose. This is a huge pet peeve of mine with other agencies, and I’m going to go ahead and get this off my chest right now.
Why detail is more important than ever in content
Content marketing has blown up in recent years, and more and more agencies and businesses are catching onto the benefits – which are potentially great, by the way. And don’t get me wrong, it’s also about the big picture – putting together a tried and tested strategy that just works. But with so much content being created on a daily basis, how are you going to really stand out from the crowd, or deliver that required feeling that you need your audience to take away into their daily lives and decision making process? Well, buyer personas have a lot to do with it, and are a good starting point for making your content personal whilst speaking directly to the people who need to read/hear it. Pro tip: Think of your ideal clients – who are they, and what are the challenges or problems they’re facing on a day-to-day basis? What are the questions they have about your product or service, and what are they most concerned about? This is essential when putting together any content marketing strategy, and it’s something most content marketing agencies worth their salt will already be doing.
So, where do many content marketing agencies fail?
Say a content marketing agency has gathered up all of the buyer persona data mentioned above – they know your key audience and who you need to reach. They’ve mapped out all of your premium content, landing pages, email workflows, awareness blogs, case studies, yada-yada-yada… Then, they’ve systematically created everything you need to drive more leads and sales to your website – often described as a ‘sales engine’ by marketers. It all works together to become a supposedly powerful force that will help you grind your competitors into the dust. Lovely. But all too often, sticking to this tried-and-tested strategy, and writing the same old blog and email formulas with the same old professional-but-friendly tone mean that, although they’re technically delivering what they promised, there’s simply not that ‘wow’ factor. What do we really mean by ‘wow’ factor? Well, have you ever read a piece of content, or maybe an email, that’s just completely blown you away? I have, when I signed up to ‘The Hustle’ newsletter recently. This is what I received when I joined: See, doesn’t that give you the most amazing feeling when you read it? I got goosebumps. These guys are seriously the next level. Inspired yet? Well, here’s the very basics on how you get content that wows every time… (I’m going to write a more detailed blog on this soon!)
How to deliver on the details every time
Right, Miss Smarty Pants… tell me what should already be staring me in the face. Woah there, sassy italics. Some of what I’m about to tell you may sound obvious, but just take a look at the majority of content out there – and even your own content – and tell me how many of these actually apply:
1. No purpose? No point
Any content you create as part of an overall strategy must be detailed, focused and have a point to it. For instance, what are you trying to achieve from writing it? Are you solving a problem for readers, or trying to make them aware of alternative solutions to fixes they’re already considering? Maybe you’re going to draw them into becoming a lead with a cleverly-placed premium content offer below. Just think about what your content is going to do to help you achieve your goals. If you can’t think of a good enough reason to create a specific email, blog post or video, then it’s pointless.
2. Structure first, detail second
Okay, so creating a solid structure that your email workflows or blog post is based on? Great. Well all know how important structure and strategy is when planning out content, so go with what works. Good content marketing agencies are already doing just this. But wait a minute – that’s where a lot of marketers tend to stop. Okay, maybe they’ve used a few words to indicate who their audience is, so they can identify themselves; big whoop. It’s when you add that personality, those personal stories, that spark… it’s the special sauce that means your content is going to make people feel amazing, or inspired, or compelled.
3. Make it personal
By far the best content marketing agencies out there are the ones who make your content personal to YOU. We’re not simply talking about getting a few topics from you, which they then go away and write from whatever they can find on the internet. No, we’re talking about actual real-person interviews. Either with you, or another member of your team – essentially the best authority on the subject – and taking down not only your personal stories, but your voice, and the voice of your brand. Make it concise and to the point, but also make it a fun read that’s practical, humorous and delivers more than simply what you’ve promised in the title.
4. Tone matters
There are good writers – great writers in fact – who spend months or even years developing just the right tone in their content. For others, it just comes naturally when you get to know the culture and attitude of a business. There are even some companies- like Thug Kitchen – who make millions by delivering a brusque tone that technically counts as verbal abuse, yet is highly entertaining and keeps readers coming back again and again. My point is that sometimes, the professional-yet-friendly tone of your average marketing agency is enough for the job. Other times, it comes off as lukewarm and playing it safe. But your content marketing agency should be giving you that option. It’s also about how you want to be viewed as a brand. If you want people to look at you as a humourless piece of cardboard, that’s completely your choice.
Once more, with feeling…
So, do you want to create content that’s merely safe, or content that people are going to love to engage with and share? I know which one I’d choose… Please remember that whether you choose to pay attention to the advice above or not, always create content that has you at the heart of it. If it delivers your brand’s message in a new, inspirational, or humourous way? Even better. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate the power your content could have – if only you put just that little bit of effort in. And don’t allow your agency to create shoddy, lukewarm or disengaging content, just because it’s the bare minimum you’re paying them to do. Got an opinion on any of the above? I’d love to hear it. Drop me a comment below – I read everything, and I’ll reply.