A content process that hits the sweet spot

Don’t waste your valuable time with ineffective content. Treat yourself to my 13-step process to deliver content that works.

There’s a content sweet spot that’s easy to miss. It’s where inspiring, engaging content (the kind that you ‘like’, share and subscribe to) meets your business objectives.

Many brands focus too heavily on one or the other – content that entertains their customers, or content that sells your business (advertising). Go too far in either direction and you’re only wasting your time. Find the right balance, and both sides are happy. That’s content marketing.

By implementing Process (with a capital P), you can ensure that your content hits the spot. Here’s what I recommend. It’s a system any business can implement to produce high-quality content that sells:

Step 1 – Get to know your customers

Don’t even start to make content until you’ve done some research into your customers. There is simply too much content out there for your customers to consume, so if yours doesn’t resonate with them immediately they won’t even notice it.

With a bit of research you’ll be able to talk to them in the right way, about the right things, at the right times and in the right place. That’s what I call the ‘golden quadrant’ of interest. Get one of those elements wrong and you’ve lost your audience.

When you’re researching try to look beyond just age, gender and location demographics and think about what their interests are. What TV shows do they like to watch? What other products do they use?  What are their past-times?  This will help you to form a profile that you can speak to every time you deliver content.

Step 2 – Create a list of relevant topics

Once you’re familiar with your customers you can create a general list of topics around your services that they are interested in. This will form the foundation of your content output. All content from that point on should fit into one of these topics.

Make sure that your topics align to your business objectives. For example, if you’re a high-end hotelier, content around budget holidays probably shouldn’t make the list.

Step 3 – Build a bank of content ideas related to these topics

Seedlings growing together in pots

Give yourself a couple of hours every week to get creative and conjure some content concepts. Involve your colleagues (or family and friends if you work solo) to expand the creative scope of the ideas.

Think about the different media that you could use to deliver the content: you might want copy on its own; or a mix of video and copy, an image gallery or an infographic – there’s a vast array of content types to choose from.

Importantly, always sense check the ideas against your customer profile and business objectives to keep on track.

Step 4 – Write a plan of what you want to say

Do a basic plan (a skeleton) for each piece of content. This will give the content structure and maintain a logical ‘storyline’. Do this as soon as you’ve come up with the idea when it’s fresh in your mind. Then when you return to it a few days/weeks/months later you’ll have a head start.

Step 5 – Add subheadings

Subheadings help to break down the information so that it’s easily digestible for the reader. They also help to tell search engines about the hierarchy of information on the page.

Subheadings (or H2 tags) are seen as higher priority than body copy by the bots that trawl your pages. So try to ensure they have keywords relevant to your key topic in them where appropriate.

Above all, subheadings help the reader to understand your content better, so keep your customer front of mind when you write them.

Step 6 – Fill it out

Now you’ve got your basic structure you can start to fill it out.

Make sure the content flows nicely from section to section and don’t get too flowery with your words. Short, easy-to-understand sentences are preferred by both your customers and search engines. Sharing your expertise concisely shows that you value your customer’s time.

Step 7 – Add some eye-catching imagery

Unsplash written on a living wall

Your header image is the first thing people will see, and is also the one you’re most likely to share on social media, so make it interesting and relevant.

Use images throughout the content to add colour, but make sure they make sense in the context of the article.

Always ensure you have the right to use these images, which means either creating your own, purchasing them or using a free stock image site such as Unsplash.

Step 8 – Get a colleague/wordy friend/editor to read it through

No matter how experienced a writer you are, typos can sneak through. I heard the phrase ‘two eyes means no surprise’ once and it stuck with me. For every piece of content you produce make sure you have someone else look it over. They might pick up something you wouldn’t have seen.

Step 9 – Make necessary amendments

I like to leave content to sit overnight and then take a look again. There’s usually an edit or two that my now-rested brain picks up, that I wouldn’t have noticed in the first sitting.

Step 10 – Upload and check

Don’t underestimate the importance of the upload. It can make or break your content. Miss a link here, or a word there and all your effort could go down the pan, flushing away any hope of securing your prospect.

Be meticulous in your upload – add alt text, optimise images, create enticing headings. Then check every bit of it. These are the details that help your search engine rankings and ensure you hit all the quality markers your customers expect.

Step 11 – Publish

This is the scary bit, but be bold! You’ve done the research, so now you should know when to publish your content and on what channels.

Don’t expect customers to come flooding to you – make sure you publish in social media channels as well as your website.

Use hashtags relevant to your content and ensure any images, videos and links are optimised for each channel. Publish in relevant groups you’re a member of and get your advocates to do it too. Be visible.

Step 12 – Engage with your content

Social engagement - woman in blue jumper looks at phone in restaurant

There’s no time to sit back. Once you’ve hit ‘publish’ it’s time to engage. Every person that likes, comments, shares or reads your content is a potential or existing customer so let them know you’re there and you’re listening to their feedback, good or bad.

Step 13 – Always analyse

Analysis is an essential part of content production because it allows you to learn from every piece of content delivered.

Most analytics will show you how many times your content was viewed. Google Analytics and others will also tell you how long someone spent devouring it, what channel drove most traffic, what their onward journeys were (did they then go on to view your products?) and what device they used to view it among other useful information.

Every bit of learning can inform your planning of future content to make it even more powerful.

Anyone can write. But putting in place a robust process like my 13-step system will ensure you’re not wasting your time with content that falls flat. And your customers? Well they can delight in your well-baked content they’ll want to consume time and again.

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