Did you know we now have robots that can pass the Turing Test? In case you don’t know, that’s a test that evaluates whether a machine can fool people into thinking it’s a human after a few minutes of conversation. Recently a computer program convinced real humans it was a 13-year-old boy. That’s kind of disturbing.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a similar test for content marketing, but anyone can see the difference just the same. Some content just looks and sounds stiff, like it was written by robots. Other pieces pull you into a personal conversation with its creator. You come away from it feeling like you connected with someone. That’s why quality content converts and engages. Look at people like Jason Miller and Jesse Noyes – they’ve built their careers on interesting and authentic content.
A lot of marketers try to replicate that success but they often make a fatal mistake: they focus too much on content formulas and not enough on quality content. You may find yourself saying, “If I post at the PERFECT time on the PERFECT channel using the PERFECT SEO, I’ll strike gold.” Well, sorry to break it to you but nothing’s that perfect. Often times marketers get so bogged down in measurements and calculations that they never dive into inspiring content that really does get results.
Hey, I get it. The creative side of content marketing can be intimidating. Immersing yourself in dashboards and analytics can feel easier than putting pen to paper and spilling your thoughts. But while a good data model is important, you can only get healthy data by measuring the performance of an active content pipeline.
So let’s start talking about creating compelling work. The word “engaging” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s the how to engage that baffles marketers. Here are a few guidelines I put together:
- Be instructive. Don’t just describe why buyers should implement a certain new product or strategy, but include tactics they can deploy.
- Connect the dots. Find the intersection between what you bring to the table and what will resonate with the buyer, then relate that back to your business.
- Focus on value, not promotion. Content marketing is not a billboard. It’s an education that brings buyers into the human side of your business.
- Be vulnerable. People often recoil from building a personal brand through content because it feels risky and involves real-time feedback. But the rewards can be immense, so grow a thick skin, learn from your mistakes and keep putting yourself out there.
- Use the right talent. Sometimes businesses hire cheap content labor overseas and the quality just isn’t there. Or they use a good writer who doesn’t understand what engages the buyer. Then the content doesn’t convert so they stop doing it.
- Be agile. Your initial content pieces may not strike the right chord. Keep experimenting, keep testing and be open to change. Most successful content programs take time to find the right cadence and topics.
Here’s an example of how the human and the empirical aspects of content marketing can work together. At LeadMD, we use a content management platform called Kapost that lets us create, distribute and measure our content. We see what converts and what doesn’t, and that data guides us through the process of trying, failing, modifying and trying again. For instance, we found readers like personal stories, trials and tribulations, and want to know how we’ve handled certain challenges in our careers. So we kicked off the “My Worst Mistake” series, where we shared our career “bumps in the road”, all in an effort to help others hurdle over the same marketing challenges they face.
Ultimately good content makes connections. It reminds buyers they’re not alone with their challenges – that they’re part of a community. Formulas and algorithms can’t create that sense of connection. But by diving in and creating genuinely inspired content, you’ll put a human face on your business that keeps audiences interested.
Think of the Wright Brothers building their first aircraft, Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb and phonograph, Madame Curie developed the theory of radioactivity. These inventors used data to guide their work, but they also dived in head first, got their hands dirty and eventually created something life changing. Your white papers and blog posts may not change the human race, but they can very well change your company – as long as the heart of your content is one person speaking to another.