Business Insights

Business Insights

Is Writing Good Marketing Content Easy?

Marketing is eating up more of the sales funnel than ever before. Before they even speak to your sales team, customers will have progressed more than 70% of the way toward their purchase decision. How? They will have checked out your website, read some blog posts, looked at sales videos, checked your ‘About us’ page, perhaps downloaded an eBook. They will have checked out your social media channels or subscribed to your newsletter. Simply put, they will have interacted with your content.

Research by Edelman and LinkedIn indicates that 90% of B2B professionals spend an hour or more a week consuming thought-leading content, 53% use it to evaluate a business, and 45% claim that thought-leading content has directly led them to award business to a company.

It’s little wonder then that more and more businesses are investing in content as a way to raise brand awareness and, ideally, generate leads. It feels like a quick, easy (and seemingly cheap) way to improve marketing performance. But great content is far from any of those things.

In this series, we’ve already tackled myths around PR, digital marketing ROI and the purpose of marketing. It’s time to tackle content.

Before we begin

Content is one of those words that means different things to different people. It’s a helpful signpost, but as a definition, it’s somewhat vague. So, for the purpose of this article, content is any piece of non-advertising video, audio, visual or text collateral created by your business. That means, social media content, blog articles, whitepapers, eBooks, email marketing, video. Content is not press releases, internal comms, web functionality or adverts. Now we have that cleared up, what’s the myth?

The myth...

Content is easy. You simply need to publish a few hundred words a few times a week, about your current product, project or offer. It’s OK to miss a week, or to throw together a piece at the last minute.

Copywriting

Content is definitely not worth spending top dollar on. You can leave it to anyone, even the interns: whoever’s got half an hour free to put a blog post together. It’s certainly not something the C-suite need to trouble themselves with.

...and the matter of fact

Content, or rather effective content, is not easy. Nor is it fast, nor cheap.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 marketers, creatives, advertisers and IT professionals conducted by Adobe.com, it takes, on average, 14 hours to create one piece of short-form content - a blog post like the one you’re reading right now.

This 14 hours of planning, creation, sign off and consultation has to coexist with everyday business operations. So, on average, you’re talking around 12 days to get a piece from initial request to final delivery. Why so long? It’s no longer enough to just ‘do’ content, it has to be high quality. For a couple of reasons.

Firstly, consider the facts: In one minute on the internet, people send a total of 481,000 tweets, 38 million WhatsApp messages, 174,000 people are scrolling Instagram. In 2015, there were an estimated 2 million blog posts published every day. The number now will be much, much higher. There is a war for everyone’s attention on a minute by minute basis.

This is what content marketer Mark Schaefer coined as ’content shock’. In this climate, you have to cut through this cacophony of noise. To cut through, you need to produce incredibly high quality work, with great insight, laser targeted to the people you want to reach. This takes research, time and craft.

Secondly, every piece of content contributes to your brand. Badly written or poorly thought through content can have a negative impact on the perception of your business. If you work in financial services (as an example) but your blog is littered with mistakes and you don’t reply to customer complaints on social media, you are damaging brand equity. Again, to get it right requires great writing talent and research.

Creating great content - 5 tips

So how should you approach content that cuts through? We’re not content coaches, but there are a few key things to consider:

  • Audience-first - Absolutely crucial, but a lesson that many forget. Great content isn’t about your team’s favourite films or new product launches - no-one cares as much as you do about either of those things. You need to consider the target reader above all else. Persona research is vital for all marketing activity, but particularly when you’re trying to write content that connects. Your business solves a problem, your content should aim, in some part, to solve the same problems.

  • Brand alignment - If you have set your mission, vision and values, your content should be an extension of these things. Social media scheduling tool Buffer has transparency as one of its values, and true to that, they publish everything about the business - from salaries to revenue to equity and more.

  • Plan - Once you understand your audience, and once you understand the characteristics your content needs to be on-brand, you may well have some ideas together. Don’t just sit at a keyboard and type. Map the key points you want to make, research each point, add in stats, facts and figures, question your own thoughts. It’s easy to stray from the original point of an article so stay focused.

  • Aim for excellence, not perfection  - While we have banged the drum for quality, your content doesn’t need to be perfect - perfectionism leads to inertia and nothing will get done. It’s more important that content comes out on a reasonably regular schedule, and that you’re agile enough to respond to a bad review or a breakout tweet when it happens. Good enough is sometimes OK.

  • Outsourcing - Our in-house survey showed that 85% of people think they’re a better writer than average, and that’s probably common among most business owners. But, in our humble opinion, it’s simply not true. Because it’s easy to tap away at a keyboard and get something down, it’s tempting to baulk at a freelancer or agency demanding cash to do the job. But great writers are worth their weight in gold. And a specialised content agency is likely worth more. Not only will they provide writing talent, they will map a strategy, editorial calendar, provide editing support and much more. As content becomes more crucial to marketing and sales, it warrants further investment.

The fact is, producing great content is harder than it looks. Writing 500 words on the train may be easy, but writing 500 words that align with your brand, connect with your customers and tell a good story is not.

The words and videos on your website and blog go to work for you every day, selling around the clock. The process of creating them is often the process of defining how you, as a business, think. That takes time: and people will spot a rush job a mile away.

Creating content means knowing how your business thinks, what it does well, and what it needs. Start planning that out with a Marketing 360 healthcheck.

marketing mythbusters guide

Written by Clare Methven

Clare Methven is the Co-Founder of The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. She has over 25 years’ experience working in PR and marketing agencies focussed on construction, financial services and travel companies.

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