By John Bottom published August 18, 2010

Checklist: The 4 Key Qualities of Effective Content

Over the last few years there have been some excellent examples of content marketing that have helped brands position themselves as experts in their field, and they have enjoyed direct business benefits as a result. Yet there are also accounts of campaigns that have swallowed up budget without producing real results.

The reason that some succeed and some fail is that, to be effective, content has to be more than just good: it must be compelling, fulfilling, convenient and efficient. I believe good content needs these four characteristics, so I offer this quick guide as a checklist to content marketers to ensure your content works for you.

This list was inspired by a recent conversation with a client. I found myself mentioning lots of different examples of content marketing, but they didn’t quite apply to his situation; the examples featured a different type of company, a different sector, a different proposition, etc. However, I saw there were themes running through all of these examples, so I developed these simple guidelines. I hope you find them useful.

Compelling

Content needs to promise value. It should address needs that are immediately relevant to the target audience. Make this clear in the title; the more attractive you make the title, the more likely people are to click on it.

Clearly, there is potential for “over-promising,” but the key is to state succinctly why your content is of interest to your audience. For example, if you have created something that offers information to a certain industry sector, make that clear in the title rather than using a general heading.

Fulfilling

Having promised value, the content must deliver it. Not only does this avoid the negative effect of disappointing the reader, but it also increases the chance of the content being further distributed/recommended amongst peer communities.

It is worth noting that expectations take many forms. First of all, you have made a promise in the title and should follow this through with the content, but also beware of calling something a white paper if it is only one page. Be honest – your readers will thank you for it.

Convenient

The content must be provided in the most convenient and appropriate format for the target audience. For example, complex information might require illustration that cannot be easily delivered via a podcast. Similarly, a distinction should be made between content that is designed for print and that which is designed to be viewed on-screen.

The perfect scenario would be to offer the content in a number of different formats, allowing your audience to choose. But of course, there is a cost factor involved, which brings us neatly to the last point.

Efficient

Content costs money, so any content creation schedule must be carefully managed to maximize efficiencies. Repurposing into different formats, such as filming an interview with the writer of a whitepaper, can extend the effectiveness of a piece of content. But careful planning is important to capitalize on economies of scale, for example, by doing all video work on the same day. Content can also be repositioned for a different audience with a small and inexpensive amount of careful editing, for example, to suit a specific industry sector or region.

The key, as always, is thorough planning. Once you have decided on the subject matter, the formats, and the people who will be creating the content for you, write out a plan that makes the most financial sense. Get the video guys in for one day (not three). Get the designer to do all your case studies in one go. Make life easy for yourself and reduce your costs at the same time.

Most of this is common sense, but do try to bear these four points in mind and make sure your content works as hard as possible for you.

Are there any other content guidelines you follow?

Author: John Bottom

After River Phoenix's dad, the second most significant John Bottom on the web. (check it out if you don't believe me.) That's not counting John Bottom, the insolvency lawyer in British Columbia. Or John Bottom of Lincoln who, according to judicial records, was indicted in 1767 for the theft of 32 pounds weight of raisins. We're a distinguished bunch, we Bottoms, and I just happen to be the side of the family that works in B2B marketing. I do it because I like it and have been fairly successful in helping clients plan and implement content marketing strategies that brings them results. And it pays better than stealing raisins. You can follow me on Twitter @basebot.

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