Content marketing requires that you publish a lot of great content. And specifically you’ll need to publish content that demonstrates your (or your company’s) expertise on a particular niche topic. The idea is that you draw people who find that content useful and interesting toward your company, teach them that your are an authority on the topic, and through the process develop trust and over time a relationship, which is the foundation for a sale.
But what if you are not much of a writer? Or you find generating content ideas tedious? Or you have no time to pen the next great post? Or perhaps you don’t have a budget to hire a journalism grad or professional writer to produce content for your brand? No problem. Just use these 10 simple ideas to generate content quickly without much effort.
1. Top 5 and Top 10 lists
Go find the best resources on a topic on the internet that can be pulled into a list. 10 things you need to know about X, or 5 must have tips on how to Y. Find web sites that publish the material. Describe their tips in a few sentences. Put a link to each one and list them. Write a brief intro and BOOM!: You’ve got one awesome article ready to publish.
That’s Frequently Asked Questions. List 10 questions that your customers ask your sales reps. Then answer them. Don’t be self promoting. ie Q: Who is your favorite plumbing company. A: Ours! More like: Q: What’s the best way to unclog a garbage disposal. A: We like this Youtube video for do it yourselfers (LINK) but give us a call and we can talk you through it or send one of our pros out to get it done for you.
3. Retop a rewrite
This is an old journalism trick that editors teach young reporters at newspapers. Find a piece of news or an article (usually from a competitor in the media business) that is of interest to your customer base. Rewrite it into a summary using your own words. Do not use the quotes – paraphrase these. The finished product must be all new and it’s helpful if the top of the article includes a new development that is not covered in the original piece. BTW – No copying and pasting – that’s plagiarism. ie. Source: “Apple announces the ultra thin new iPhone 9” Rewrite: “Thin is in – but some say breakable – for the latest smartphone from Apple”
4. Write definitions
Pull together lingo or or complex terminology from your business or market and define them. Over time build a glossary of terms that is specific to your industry and publish this on your site.
5. Transcribe an interview
Call a seasoned know-it-all n your shop and record an interview on a topic her or she is expert in. Or call a industry colleague or supplier. Ask them 10 questions about an area of expertise. Transcribe the answers and clean up the Ummms and Errrs and turn it into an article with a brief introduction. ie. “Have you ever wondered how to organize a bedroom closet? We called Susan Littleton, a professional closet organizer, who provided the following tips on how to optimize space in a bedroom walk-in closest.”
6. Record an interview
Too busy to transcribe an interview? Record it on Skype and post the audio or video file on your blog and write a brief description to introduce it. Use Recorder, which is an add-on app from Skype.
7. Photo slideshow
Explain how to do something using a slide show. Grab your phone and take step by step pictures and describe each step as captions. Niche “how to” content is hugely in demand.
8. This week in history
Go back in time five years, 10 years or further and pull up an old article or post or newspaper clipping or even a photo that marks a historic day that is of interest to your audience. Rehash the piece into a retrospective or post a series of old pictures.
9. Aggregate great tweets
Use Twitter’s search engine to find people who are experts on a topic and aggregate their tweets together. (Use a screen grab software like Snag-It) ie. Top 5 hurricane preparedness tips from smart people on Twitter!
10. Social media interviews
Speaking of Twitter post a request on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus for help with a question that everyone wants answered – that your audience will love. Aggregate the best answers into a single post. Credit the contributors and link to their social media accounts.
Here’s a quick question you may not have considered:
What does a raccoon riding alligator have to do with digital marketing ? (Scroll down below the picture to reveal the answer)
Except for the fact that it does make a great segue into our discussion on why “weird” is a good attention-grabbing strategy in digital marketing.
It got you to read this, didn’t?
If you want to get your people in your target market to actually stop what they are doing, and be so fascinated by what they see they can’t help but to click the link you just posted, you’ll want to try using strange, weird and wonderful headlines.
BUT – a word of caution: Read this post before you use the weird strategy to learn how to do it effectively. There are some basic but crucial rules on its execution.
The most effective attention-getting strategy: Be weird
Why Weird Works:
The weird attention-getting strategy works because it uses a human survival instinct we all have to spot things that are out of place. It is something we do because we:
a) Always want to ensure we are safe, and weird or unusual can mean danger…
b) We are curious beings by nature. Learning is how we evolve. It’s how we, as a species, get better.
If you think about it, that’s likely what had you click this article.
Humans want to understand and solve things. And, it’s easier to spot things that are out of place than things that are usual or to be expected.
This strategy is used be some of the top copywriters in the world. Like the guys who work for the National Enquirer. It is the No.5 most read publication in the world.
For those who aren’t familiar with the magazine, it’s got articles with the latest celebrity news. The stories are completely made up, but they often seem valid and real. Like this one about Oprah:
Just to be clear, I’m not going to show you how to make up stuff so you can fool people into reading your articles. Below you’ll learn how to use weird to get attention only, while remaining a credible resource with your integrity in tact.
Want more proof?
CWD recently used this tactic for a forklift dealership in California and increased web traffic on the day it was posted BY MORE THAN 10X. How did we do that? On April Fools day CWD added this listing to the company web store for a hover lift truck. It was a fun joke that made warehouse manager smile and got them some major attention:
3 Rules when using the be weird attention-getting strategy:
1. Use weird in your hook or title, then follow up with facts and truths. It’s important that any content your business shares publicly provides value. When you are constantly feeding your target market information and solutions they need, you become a credible resource that your people trust.
So, if you use the be weird strategy use it only to hook your reader. It’s best used in titles and email subject lines.
Once you get their attention your job is done. Your strategy worked. Then, you have to follow up with true facts and serious information to keep your credibility in tact.
You never want your customers to feel fooled or dumb. That breaks trust and can damage your brand.
Here are some examples of how to use “weird” to hook:
North American Nutritionist’s blog: “Why eating crickets is good for your health” – Article that explains how crickets are high in protein and are eaten in many countries around the world for good health.
Tampa news blog article: “This Christmas there’s snow in Florida” – Article is about a popular new toy for kids – a mini snow cone machine – that’s selling out quickly in at local department stores for the Christmas season.
Health blog: “Why you should be happy if you’re bald” – Article reveals a research study that shows bald men live longer.
2. Tap into niche topics in your industry. Look at your industry and evaluate the topics that aren’t commonly discussed openly. You want them to be common enough that people deal with them, yet things that no one else is solving.
Here are some examples:
Doctor’s blog: “What your pooh says about your health”
Therapist’s blog: “Why less sex can be good for your marriage”
Online recipe: “How to make low-fat zucchini fries that taste like french fries”
3. Use odd images. Pictures that look out of place are good attention grabbers.
Jeff Johnson, an expert in lead generation suggests that people are drawn to images the suggest luxury or living a good life.
The experts at LeadPages.net have tested many landing page conversion rates using the same copy but changing out the pictures. They found that using a picture of an attractive woman smiling will increase your chances of conversion. This is true for every industry and even if your landing page content is completely unrelated to women.
Below I reveal what each component means. The tactics will help you develop highly effective sales copy for your business.
How to write content that converts:
ATTENTION:How to get your reader’s attention: If you want to get a reader’s attention (in your target demographic) you need to first gain an understanding of who you are speaking to. Before you start writing your sales copy, find out:
What they like,
what they don’t like,
who they spend their time with,
what they do on the weekends,
what their hobbies are,
what time of day they like to shop
when they like to read their emails…
…the list goes on. These are just some examples, but the better you understand your potential customer, the easier it will be to sell to them. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to write to them knowing what they want. (As an aside, the mistake inexperienced copywriters make is writing from the perspective of what they want.)
The best way to get to know your target market is to survey them or interview them or ask someone you know that is close to an individual in this target group. If you are selling to Moms of toddlers, go talk to a few and pick their brain. You can do this while in line at Starbucks or call a relative with small children or check with a neighbor.
Find out their “pain points”. What are their complaints and problems with every day life? What do they need help with? What do they want to avoid? Use this information in your copy.
Secondly, assume people, are too busy to read what you have to offer. So, if you want them to stop and take a minute to read an email, blog, or an ad you’re company has produced, it has to be something that they either:
Need right now
Is too weird for them to bypass
These two tactics when executed effectively will take your reader from a passive state of attention to an active state of attention.
Active concentration happens when a reader is so immersed in the material you’ve presented to them that they drop everything else to focus on the task at hand. When you engage in learning a new skill it requires this type of concentration.
How to get attention using the “need right now” tactic:
There are three ways to get a reader to come across something you’ve written, stop everything, and read it right away. If it:
Solves a problem
Saves them from a potential disaster
Speaks to a deep desire or passion
Here are some examples of headlines:
Solve a problem: “What to do when your car won’t start”
Saves them from a potential disaster: “7 dangerous mistakes most parents with teenagers make”
Speaks to a deep desire or passion: “How to be the sexiest person person in the room regardless of your looks”
How to get attention using the “be weird” tactic:
Another incredible attention grabbing tactic is: Be weird. It works because humans are curious by nature. But be careful. When you say something outside the norm you do have to follow it up with valuable information to maintain your credibility.
Here’s an example: CWD recently used this tactic for a forklift dealership in California and increased web traffic on day it was posted BY MORE THAN 10X. How did we do that? On April Fools day CWD added this listing to the company web store for a hover lift truck:
Remember: Learning how to grab attention is the most important step in writing in the AIDA format. If you don’t grab attention the rest of what you write is useless. It simply won’t get read.
INTEREST:How to spark interest: Once you get a reader’s attention it only takes one sentence to lose it. Especially if they feel they are being sold to. Here are some interest-building tactics you can use:
Prompt them on a free giveaway
Tell them they’re going to learn something they don’t know / or immediately show them they don’t know something they thought they knew or hadn’t considered
Create a bond of relatedness (i.e. you write something that makes them feel like they know you)
How to use the “Prompt them for a free giveaway” tactic: Tell your reader you are about to give them something valuable, but don’t give it to them right away. Make them wait for it.
Humans are by nature self-serving. So, you can easily develop interest when you prompt them to receive something they would find valuable. (Especially if it’s free!)
For example, a great email may have a line like: “Below, you’ll find a link to the article: Top secret expert tip for freeing up an hour per day”.
Then, you place the link at the bottom so they have to read the rest of your email. Or, you may write a sales letter with a line that says: “I’ve enclosed a promo code that you can use to redeem a $50 Amazon gift card if you take 2-minutes to read this letter”.
How to use the “teach the something invaluable they won’t learn anywhere else” tactic:
Information is as valuable (sometimes more valuable) than free tangible goods. Learning an interesting fact that only experts know is interesting and often worth reading.
If you use words like “top secret”, “exclusive”, “only for you”, it conveys to the reader that they are about to receive confidential information. And most people won’t refuse learning something top secret.
Example: “Yesterday we interviewed the leader of the Transhumanism party who is running for President in 2016. Read this interview to find out why he says advances in stem cell research in the next five years will create a war between religious bodies and the government”.
How to use a “create a bond of relatedness” tactic:
Connect to your reader on a intimate level by sharing an interesting story about yourself that relates to them deeply. Or mention a phrase, or make a joke only they would understand.
Examples: “We haven’t met in person, but like you, I’ve lost a loved one to cancer too.”
“When I was pregnant I pee’d my pants on a New York city subway car, which is why I thought you might want to know about these new support underwear for pregnant women”.
DESIRE:What you need to know about developing desire in writing:
This is where someone who is interested becomes completely emotionally invested in what you’re saying so that they have no choice but to take action.
Carlton suggests that the best way to do this is to have your reader envision a future of favorable outcomes that result from them taking an action you are about to ask them to take.
With interest you are saying “how would you like this product” but with desire you are saying “here’s what you get when you purchase this product”. Here are to tactics that help to build desire:
A bulleted list
How to create use the “bulleted list” desire tactic:
When you create a bulleted list one of the most effective formats to use involves three points.
Bullet point 1: Presents you as credible by fully giving away what they are about to get as a result of taking the action you want them to take
Bullet point 2: Gives away a bit less information
Bullet point 3: Reveals a sneak peak of what they’ll get but keeps them guessing.
Here’s an example:
In this book you’ll learn:
How to establish yourself as a leader in your industry by positioning yourself as an expert resource. You can do this by building a content-rich web site that naturally attracts individuals in your target market because it irrefutably demonstrates your expertise.
Search engine optimization, how it’s done and why it’s a necessary component of your overall marketing strategy.
The 5 free must-have tools available to you online that will make your life much easier.
How to use the “testimonials” tactic:
At CWD, we’ve tested the conversion rates or landing pages with and without testimonials. We found that pages with landing pages always have a higher conversion rate.
The best way to use testimonials is to present them with images. When people see faces it helps present the testimonials as credible sources. As a business you should always collect testimonials that you can use online.
ACTION: What you need to know about asking a reader to take action:
Action is the easiest part of the process but it’s often overlooked. It’s the second most important aspect of AIDA, besides Attention.Once a reader has gone through the emotional states of desire it’s an opportune time to ask them to do something.
Many sales people lose the sale simply because they are too afraid to ask for fear of getting a “no”. It also helps you understand if a reader is engaged.
If they take an trackable action like clicking a link in an email or purchasing a product, you’ll be able to tell that the copy you’ve written is effective.
If you ask for action later, often the emotions are gone and the rational mind kicks in. Instead of “I need that right now” they could be thinking “I still want that but I don’t really have the money to spend, so I can wait”. The sense of urgency is gone.
How to ask for action:
Be direct and concise. Remove apologetic words like “please” or “feel free”. Be straight.
And perhaps, the best way to show you is to make a request:
If this post was valuable to you, click one of the share buttons below to share it with your friends and colleagues on social media.
Break up long articles with subheads. Visitors will linger longer on your web site if a long article does not look so daunting to read. There should be a perception that they will be able to get through it quickly so ready 5 x 300 word chunks appears to register easier on the human brand than 1500 words all in one go.
Adding images and subheads makes an article visually appealing and easier to read. People linger on these pages longer.
PLUS the SEO Secret to Subheads
The other tactic you should know about subheads is that using the <H3> HTML tag or the <H2> HTML tag tells Google that the subheads help describe what the page is about. So when it is scanned by the Google bot the words in the subhead are noted. If you are trying to get the page ranked for “best dog food” then these subheads should reinforce the topic by using similar words like “kibble” and “dog chow”.
Interactive calculators and tools can go a long way
to attract people that are looking for help with a particular problem. Cooking sites, for example, can offer metric conversion calculators. Banks can offer financial calculators and industrial companies can offer calculators related to their niche operations.
We built these materials handling calculators for a client and the pages are top traffic generating pages receiving visitors for related sites and search engines.
Why do calculators drive traffic?
Why does anyone visit a web page? Because its useful. Calculators solve problems instantly for people and so they return to them often and that repeat traffic is extremely valuable. IF you have the ability to build a web calculator on your content oriented site, then invest in it. It will require the help of a web developer, but its content that will return dividends again and again.
People are terrified of making mistakes, so be sure to produce content that asks if the reader made a mistake. This content can be very viral. Everybody wants to know what they are doing wrong, or validate what they are doing right. Spell out the mistake such as – Did you fail to deploy this one easy traffic attracting strategy that most people miss? These kinds of articles are what’s called link bait that everyone loves to click on.
Why “mistake” content can go viral
People are afraid of missing out on something that they should have known. Or could have easily done. There’s a fear that everyone knows something that they don’t, so when a headline with this kind of content pops up people check in to make sure they are up to speed. It comes from the innate desire to survive. And when there’s an apparent threat (to your competency, for example) you act quickly to fill the hole. The only problem a lot of people use it to mis-direct web visitors. They make it sound like a concern and then get the click only to reveal its not such a big deal. This trains web visitor to be less responsive to this five -alarm content so be sure if you use this tactic that what you reveal as a solution to the mistake has great value.
Produce evidence-based content. That’s where you write articles that include information you have discovered about issues that matter to your constituent audience. People love stats and measurement when it relates to things they care about. Give them proof that they can use with other people to demonstrate a point.
Why evidence-based content works
You provide value to some who is trying to prove a point in their own life – usually around work. when you can provide statistics it can help someone ground an argument in fact that can be pointed at. And notice you are helping someone with their content or business. That makes you a useful source and useful source are considered experts and considered valuable. That breeds trust and trust needs to be present for a sale to occur. People buy from people and organizations they trust.
Be sparing about opinion-based content. Typically nobody cares about your published opinion unless it’s about major issues impacting your customers and industry…and it offers a solution that is verifiable.
Most of the time your opinion laid out like a blog post will either infuriate a potential customer – or more likely bore them. Everyone has an opinion. Why is yours more important than others? A consumer that reads your opinion will not likely drive a sale. Except…
The Two Exceptions to the Rule
Of course there are exceptions to this rule.
Exception 1) If you are a somebody then your opinion may count. When Barack Obama has an opinion people listen. When Warren Buffet has an opinion people listen. If you are the president of an association or a leader among a large group of people or a newspaper editor, your opinion may matter. And it might drive popular opinion. Hollywood stars have this kind of clout.
Exception 2) If you produce comparative content, like a review that compares three products or summarizes a product category then your opinion has value. But only as a service to provide contrasting information that helps a person make a buying choice.
Otherwise, keep your opinion to yourself in content marketing. Nobody cares what you think. The irony is the people that ignore this tip will write their opinion anyway. And their mom, their spouse and a guy that clicks on it by accident will see it. And it will be lost in the depths of the Internet.
“How to” content attracts the most attention on the web. Write a lot of it, especially around issues your potential customers are dealing with. Give them actionable information and step by step advice where possible. Write the painful details and second guess where they will get stuck and over explain the answer. Show pictures where possible to illustrate the solution.
Why does “how-to” content work in content marketing?
People are looking to solve problems and to educate themselves. If you provide them with step by step information that helps them resolve an issue that they are struggling with then you are going to become valuable to them and they will return. Over time your expertise will become invaluable and they will return again and again. This breeds trust in your and your brand. And it will eventually lead to a sale.
Learning how to write materials handling articles that are well-written to effectively attract warm leads in your target market is not easy. The following 10 tips will help:
How to write materials handling articles: 10 Tips:
1. Word count: The number of words in one article/blog should fall in the range of 500-750 for short pieces and 1000 to 1500 words for longer pieces. These are general rules. Write longer if the topic merits it and the information flows naturally. Long posts do well if their content is segmented with subheads (titles that break up the text) or easy-to-follow bullet points. You can also use list formats to make them bite sized. The reality is, most online readers will not read more than 10 to 15 paragraphs in a session.
For SEO, longer posts do well if they cover a topic comprehensively.
2. Write compelling, yet descriptive headlines and subheads: Writers often get too creative with the headline of their piece. Good titles should: 1) Compell a reader to read the piece, 2) Briefly describe what the article is about, and 3) Support search engine optimization efforts.
Google looks for search keywords in headlines and gives them weight. If your article is about superior racking designs for warehouse optimization then the headline should read something like “How to optimize your warehouse using rack designs you haven’t considered”, and not “Rack-o-rama!”.
3. Be concise and descriptive: Be concise with your language. Explain everything, but the absolute basics. (No need to explain what a “lift truck” is, but you should explain what “cantilever rack” is.) Write for people who have just come to the business. Don’t assume your audience is full of experts. Even seasoned professionals will forgive you for over-simplification.
A clear concise article will reinforce what they already know, as well as introduce new information and ideas. And that gives value to all readers regardless of their level of expertise. A good rule of thumb is to write for a Grade 9 level of knowledge and understanding.
4. Avoid buzzwords: Marketers are notorious for inventing words or concepts that don’t serve the reader. A great example: “WarehousXPro9 is a forklift management solution” versus the more accurate “WarehousXPro9 is a forklift management web-based software package”.
What’s a solution? It’s the answer to a problem. That is a great message to convey in sales copy. However, it’s an over-used term and has become cliché. If you say something is a “solution” and don’t explain what it is, the reader can’t visualize it.
Better yet to say: “WarehousXPro9 is a sophisticated, yet easy to use software product.” You would go on to say: It is installed on a company’s server and can be accessed by any web-enabled device. Warehouse professionals can use a tablet or smartphone to access a series of visual dashboards that show data about a warehouse and allows them to manage the operation more efficiently.“
Bottom line here: If in doubt say more. Don’t be afraid to explain a concept so you leave the reader with a greater understanding of what’s being said.
5. Get to the point early: Don’t waste your time with long and winding introductions. If you are introducing a topic in a creative way connect it to the key point you are trying to make in the article quickly. If you go on too long you risk losing your reader.
A good introductory paragraph (in journalism it is a called a “lead”) can be an effective tool to engage the reader. It’s an on-ramp to the central point of the piece not a country road that gets you there eventually.
If you are not hitting the focus of your article by paragraph 3 or so, re-work the piece.
6. Don’t be“salesy”: It’s okay to plug your company but do it discreetly. If you write too much about why your company is great and why your products are awesome your reader will be put off. They may feel clubbed over the head. No one likes to be sold to.
Serve the reader first. The article should leave them feeling that they got value for taking the time to read what you had to say and they will come back for more the next time.
7. Demonstrate, don’t tell: Show the reader why something is true. Don’t tell them. Why would they believe the latest lift truck is “amazing”, just because you say so? Describe the new lift truck and its features and benefits, and let them draw their own conclusions.
8. Write with intention: Ask yourself the questions: Why would someone read this article/blog? Are you engaging with your intended audience? Is what you’re writing informative and helpful? Is your writing in line with the long-term strategy that expresses that you and your brand are topic experts?
People buy from experts, not sales people. Actually, they buy from experts that sell. Why? Because experts are trustworthy, helpful and useful.
9. Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t: Writing content for a brand is strategic. It is about gaining a following, earning trust and respect and driving sales for your company as a byproduct.
How do you know if you are doing that? Measure engagement and outcomes. How many people read your articles? Which ones did well? Which ones didn’t?
If an article gets good traction and is well read (we use web analytics tools to track and understand this) write similar pieces in future because clearly there is a demand for the content. Use the free tools at http://google.com/analytics.
10. Take yourself out of the equation: Don’t write what you want to write. Write for your audience first and then bring it back to what you want to write about, or have the expertise in. Provide value to the reader. Put yourself in their shoes and ask why would I read this article or blog post?
Get more valuable information about content and digital marketing. Order a free 60-page book called: Digital Marketing Secrets for companies in Materials Handling. With your physical copy you’ll also get a PDF version you can use right away. For your free book, CLICK HERE: