Over the 10-plus years that I’ve been writing, the content marketing industry has experienced massive change.
At first, there were just a few of us plunking out a couple of blog articles a week. Back then, it was pretty easy to get a lot of traffic, comments, “likes,” and subscribers. Then, more and more people started jumping in.
Eventually, the content marketing industry as we know it was in full force.
Since that time, people have had plenty of advice on how to fix it, change it, and improve it. The blog you’re reading right now has been a major force in the improvement of content marketing. But we’re still seeing some issues. Some of these issues are relatively new. Some are signs of content marketing’s growing pains.
The problem, of course, isn’t with the industry itself. The problem lies with the way we’re going about it. In other words, the problem is with us – the content writers.
See if you can relate to these issues, and discover what you can do to fix them.
5 Essential Skills for Content Marketing Copywriters Today
Problem 1: Content writers lack experience with the topic. Therefore, they can’t create in-depth and informative articles.
But it’s difficult to find a content writer who has deep experience with your industry. Yet such knowledge and experience are essential for a copywriter to succeed.
Why? To write great content, you have to know your stuff forward, backward, inside out, and upside down.To write great #content, you have to know your stuff forward, backward, inside out, & upside down. Click To Tweet
Generalist copywriters don’t have that experience. Yes, they’re great writers, but they lack an indispensable component that makes the entire effort meaningful – experience in your industry!
Just recently, I received a message from a copywriter who was looking for more work. Here’s what he had to say:
“My primary writing areas are in history and science. I enjoy diving into a new topic, conducting in-depth research, and developing helpful content.”
I appreciate his spirit of curiosity and search for knowledge. However, as a content writer, he lacks the specificity to be useful to a niche industry looking for a niche writer.
It would have been different had he written, “My primary writing area is the 1960s-era civil rights movement, focusing on the rise, development, and political influence of La Raza Unida in the southwestern United States.”
That’s a niche. And for a website whose content focuses on that niche, they’ve found themselves a stellar writer.
A writer who specializes in “marketing” isn’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, a writer has to specialize in writing about “conversion optimization on landing pages for small to mid-sized B2Bs.” Specialization should get a writer hired, not generalization.
Many copywriters are eager to accept work from anywhere. Therefore, they will spread themselves thin – writing about energy-efficient window installation in the morning and organic acne treatments in the afternoon. This is hardly the way to hone one’s knowledge and experience.
If you look at the trends in content marketing, you’ll see that people prefer depth. The average shares by content length increase as the content itself increases in length.The average shares by #content length increase as the content itself increases in length via @neilpatel Click To Tweet
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Long-form content as opposed to “snackable” content is what fuels a successful content marketing approach.
In the marketing funnel itself, long-form content – usually the deep stuff – is what helps users circle closer toward a purchase, encourages loyalty, and improves user experience.
What’s the solution? On the surface, it would seem that the solution is simply to hire people who possess experience in the niche for which they will be writing. This solution has some inherent challenges. Most people who are that niche-focused are so busy doing the work that they lack the time to write about the work.
Here are two other solutions:
- Spread the task of generating content throughout the organization. Instead of making one writer produce all the content, ask for each employee to contribute one article every quarter or every few months.
- Hire a generalist content writer but have him develop the topics or outlines from the people in the organization who are experienced.
I’ve seen both of these models work successfully.
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Problem 2: Content writers think that a boring industry necessitates a boring blog.
Isn’t it fascinating that some people think that certain industries are inherently dull? I’m here to say that there’s no such thing as a dull industry.
Why? Because the right people will always be interested.
- You might think that business telephony is boring, but I guarantee that some people are obsessed with this topic.
- You might think that cooking with coconut flour is rather uninspiring, but some groups are absolutely and insanely excited about it.
- You might think that SaaS marketing is pretty dull, but I for one am stoked about this topic.
It all depends on the audience.
Here’s the problem. When you think that your industry is boring, then you will write boring content.
One of the reasons people think that an industry is boring is because a given keyword or topic might not generate much traffic. However, relevant content is far more important than high traffic. If you write an in-depth article on a relevant topic and only five people read it, is that a waste?
It depends. What if those five people are part of your target audience – interested, curious, and eager to learn? What if you engage them as customers?
If that’s the case, I’d say that your article wasn’t a waste at all.
It’s time to rescue industries from the misperception of boring.
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What’s the solution?
If you’re interested in the industry, then you’ll be able to create interesting content. And if you can combine in-depth content with an interesting style, then you’ve totally won. To ensure that your content isn’t boring:
- Go deep. Deep content is rarely boring.
- Unleash the data. The right people always love a good dose of data.
- Know your users. Understanding your audience gives you a powerful edge.
Problem 3: Content writers go through the motions rather than trying to provide a truly helpful resource.
Here’s how this problem goes:
- Business: “We have to do content marketing.”
- Content writer: “OK, I’ll write some blogs for you.”
- Result: <Crickets>
Almost everybody is doing content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s annual research, 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing.
But how many of those businesses are excited, energized, and enthusiastic about their content marketing efforts?
Content marketing has become another marketing function – just something you have to do. But content marketing is different from most business activities because it requires creative, inspired, and enthusiastic output of content. That content has to connect with people.
What’s the solution?
Content is not merely a business function. It’s an organic method of making a real connection with potential customers. Energize your content by:
- Rewarding your content writers based on agreed-upon performance benchmarks for their content.
- Using content writers who really get it – who know the industry, the biggest problems, and how to solve them.
- Creating collaborations between those who are hired to write content and those who deal with the industry’s biggest and thorniest problems.
Problem 4: Content writers don’t understand their audience.
I’m going to make a big statement: I know how to improve the content marketing industry in one brilliant blast of awesomeness.
Ready for it?
Know your audience.
That’s it. If content writers knew their audiences better, then they would be able to create better content. It’s really that simple.If writers knew their audiences better, they would be able to create better #content via @neilpatel Click To Tweet
Sometimes, content writers don’t see themselves as marketers. So what happens? They end up simply being writers and not taking the same perspective that a marketer would take.
Marketing begins with the question, “Who is our audience?”
The answer often comes in the form of personas. A persona allows you to look at a customer, understand where they are coming from, and address their needs and wants.
Eric Murphy wrote about this problem in his HubSpot article:
Content marketers are still marketers, and due diligence is an essential part of the job. As with any marketing campaign, understanding who your audience is, what they’re looking for, where to find them, and how to deliver the most effective message is essential to intentional success. Sure, it’s possible to get lucky from time to time without research, but repeatable success isn’t possible without intimately understanding the components of the model below.”
That’s what you’ve got to do if you want to solve this problem. You’ve got to research your audience, understand what they want, and deliver content that meets their needs. There’s no shortcut.
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As Murphy points out, it’s important that content writers know two things: their market (which includes the audience) and content marketing itself.It’s important that #content writers know 2 things: their market and #contentmarketing via @ericmurphy Click To Tweet
What’s the solution?
It’s a tall order for any content writer, but it’s an essential part of succeeding at this adventure we call content marketing:
- Allow your content writers plenty of time to research the industry and audience.
- Provide your content writers with as much information about the industry and audience as you possibly can.
I’m pretty sure that content marketing is going to be a viable form of marketing for the next few hundred years (if not longer). It’s in our best interest to give content writing our time and resources. It’s worth doing an amazing job.
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What are some problems that you see in content writing? How do you correct them?
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute