Do you want to engage people’s attention, provide them with useful information and, in the process, change the way they think about your organization? In my experience, there are five types of content that can help you do this for the best content marketing.
You can use them for print media, such as business and consumer magazines, as well as for websites, blogs, podcasts, videos – virtually any medium.
The Trend: “You can count on us for results that work in your world”
Think of a changing situation that’s affecting your customers. It could be a societal or political change, a change related to technology, or anything else that bring about problems or opportunities – or both. Then, write out your thoughts on these points:
- What’s causing the trend, and how has the situation developed?
- What is the current situation?
- What are your own views, as an informed observer, about how the trend will develop (listing your reasons for thinking so)?
- What are your recommendations to the reader on how to avoid harm or achieve a benefit?
The “trend” type of content positions you as someone who understands your customers’ world and cares about helping to provide a good outcome. It’s particularly relevant if your success depends on coming up with new solutions to match your clients’ situation, rather than doing the same work on a repeat basis.
The Meteor: “We’ll be there for you if you have a problem”
While a “trend” may be slow moving, a “meteor” is a sudden change (like the meteor that hit a few million years ago and supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs). It’s life changing and fast. The events of 9/11 were a “meteor” for many industries, particularly security and travel. New legislation or regulations can be equally life-changing, as can the introduction of new technology – for example, the advent of Amazon and the e-reader have caused huge, sudden changes in book publishing and retailing.
For good “meteor” content, you’ll need to keep your eye on the sky, so to speak, and watch for news of sudden changes that will affect people in your market. Then, be prepared to move fast to create content along these lines:
- Describe the event itself and give some background on it.
- Make recommendations on how to avoid problems and/or achieve benefits.
If you can write engaging “meteor” content, you can probably position it in several different media – and it will get pickup from others, as well as plenty of retweets. A “meteor” piece positions you as someone with a finger on the pulse of things that affect your market, and demonstrates your interest in being supportive of your market’s needs (i.e., “We’ve got your back”).
The How-To: “We care about your success”
How-to content tells, well, how to do something. A good how-to can embody the best spirit of content marketing – providing information that helps people accomplish their goals — and positions you as someone who cares about achieving a good outcome for your clients.
A how-to is effective only if it’s about something that people in your market care about. Say, for example, you want to reach lawnmower buyers through content on how to maintain lawnmowers. A post on a website for condominium dwellers wouldn’t be helpful or relevant, because landscaping is usually taken care of by the condo corporation. But the same post in a forum or publication that is read by landscaping companies and professionals would be a good way to persuade potential customers you’d be a supplier who will care about them. Some steps to prepare this type of content include:
- Choosing a process that you know well, and which will be relevant to your market
- Writing out the steps involved in achieving the intended outcome
- Listing any equipment or supplies that will be needed
- Discussing pitfalls and problems, and how to deal with them
The How-to-Work-With: “You can trust us to meet your needs”
This is a how-to with a twist – it gives the reader or viewer practical advice on how to achieve the best results from a chosen service provider (i.e., the one providing the information).
Consider a home renovator who writes an article or post on how to work with a renovation professional – including what work homeowners may be able to do on their own (maybe, some of the demolition) to save money. Wouldn’t you be more willing to trust that renovator? Some points of this type of content should cover:
- List the factors and circumstances that are likely to lead to the best outcomes for clients
- For each major factor, describe how clients and your firm can work together to achieve those best outcomes
- List the roadblocks and problems that can get in the way, and provide suggestions on how to deal with them
This type of content works particularly well when you’re promoting a commodity and when it might be difficult for a customer to tell the differences among your products or services and those of your competitors. In such a case, having trust for the service provider may be the only way to stand out – and the how-to-work-with type of content excels at conveying this vital information.
The Case Study: “We can meet your needs – we’ve achieved success already”
Many business and professional magazines, and their associated websites, are filled with case studies.
While they can be as gripping as a good detective novel to those in the field, they can also be boring and irrelevant if they aren’t properly developed. This happens particularly when readers don’t often face problems that closely match those in the case. In too many situations, the only people interested in the case are the competition, eager to vacuum up all the competitive intelligence they can. So, case studies help you only if they actually help your readers learn something they can apply. Some steps to cover here include:
- Describing the original situation faced by your client or customer
- Listing the steps that you followed, including how you resolved problems along the way
- Describing the outcome that your client received
- Outlining the lessons you learned that will benefit the reader
A case study needs to be relevant to your reader’s situation and provide insights that they can use in their own reality. It works well to show your character (or that of your organization) and demonstrate your resourcefulness, caring, skill, and diligence in a given situation. It also functions as an illustration that shows how you’d work with the reader, if given the opportunity.
All of these content types can be used to great success – if they are chosen wisely. Remember to base your choice on your ultimate communication goals, the information you have available, and the needs of people in your market.
By the way, if you would like a video version of this article, you can find it on YouTube.