Cheaters' Checklist for Writing Compelling Content

October 29, 2010

It used to be that lead generation involved expensive advertising, door-to-door solicitation or blasting direct mail to a desired demographic. These techniques have largely been shelved by successful organizations, since lead generation by way of effective content marketing has taken the stage as the single most important way for businesses to attract and qualify leads.

A critical step of capturing leads is engaging prospects online with relevant content. By continuously providing compelling material on your website or through other venues (video sharing, photo sharing, etc.), your prospects and customers will come to see your business as a trusted source of information.

So is your content working for or against you? Here are five rules that you should be following to ensure that your content is generating as many leads as possible.

Compelling content is goal-oriented

Every effort at creating content should begin with a goal in mind, and that goal should be relevant to your business. Objectives might include improving your site’s performance for specific search terms. Or you may deploy content to persuade prospects to reset their buying criteria for your class of products or services.

Here are a couple questions you might ask yourself before launching into, for example, your next blog post:

  • What keywords might your content incorporate to help your site perform well for a specific search?
  • What do you want a visitor to do upon consuming this content? Is there a call to action? Do you, for example, encourage visitors to sign up for your newsletter, or to share your content through social media platforms?

If your content fails to appear in search results for your prospects’ searches, how else will they ever find it? If your website lacks calls to action, or if you fail to collect prospect email addresses, how many leads are you missing out on?

Before you expend resources on content development, decide what you want that content to achieve. Content without a goal is, in our opinion, representative of mismanaged time.

Compelling content is substantive

Your content may be speaking to visitors, but what is it saying?

Compelling content is both relevant and helpful. Relevance indicates that you are paying attention and responding to your prospects needs and goals. Utility builds trust with your prospects; by knowing that they can come to you and find helpful information, they are more likely to become customers.

Compelling content is a direct result of effective development and leveraging of buyer personas: the more you know about your customers and their needs, the better you can target your content, and the more it will mean to your prospects.

Compelling content is exclusive

It is not enough for you to provide relevant content—exclusivity is a requirement if you want to differentiate your company from competitors.

Set yourself apart as a business that thinks differently than everyone else; if you provide the same content in the same ways as everyone else, you will blend into the crowd, losing the advantage which differentiation provides. This is the basis of thought leadership.

Read what others in your industry are writing about. What perspectives or topics are others glossing over that you could make your specialty? It is well worth it to go the extra mile to develop new perspectives and create exclusive content that no one else can offer.

Compelling content is brand building

Published content should help build or affirm your company’s brand, or an intended evolution thereof. What does this mean? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it clarify my company’s positioning?
  • Does it affirm our unique selling proposition (USP)?
  • Is it consistent with our identity?

Think of the content you produce as a touchpoint. Don’t squander touchpoints with messages that are off-brand.

Compelling content is stylistically appropriate

Tone

Humans rely greatly on body language and tone of voice when speaking to each other. Since content seldom has body language of its own, users infer the tone from your content alone.

The tone of your website should match the expectations of your target prospects. Playful or serious? Casual or formal? Relaxed or urgent?

Capitalized and embolded text can come across as chastisement, which could make building trust with prospects difficult. Clipped sentences may give a prospect the impression that a business is cold and unapproachable, or even rude.

Invite an outsider to consume your content and make notes of perceived tone. Consider changes to your content if the feedback warrants.

Word count and formatting

Internet users take in information differently than their novel-reading counterparts: web users are in a hurry, and tend to skim headings and page titles, taking in information and deciding quickly whether or not your website is worth reading.

Huge paragraphs of tiny text take too much time to read, especially if readers suspect they can get the same information elsewhere.

Make it easy for your readers to consume the content on your site. Break up longer sections of text, using clear headings to facilitate scanning. Use type and colors that are easy on the eyes; blue text on an electric green background is not the way to go.

Jargon

Visitors want to be able to trust you and your business, and nothing inspires a lack of trust like a smoke screen of technical mumbo-jumbo. It is important to be professional and competent while avoiding chasing away prospects with long-winded jargon that makes sense only to industry insiders.

Create content that is easy to understand; link to help text or supporting materials when appropriate. Simplifying technical language may be difficult for content such as case studies which are specific to your business, but if language overshoots your target audience, then you’ve fallen short of your objective.

In conclusion

Good is no longer good enough. It is not enough to provide good content to convert prospects into leads. If you want an abundant supply of high-quality leads, and if you want to eventually convert a healthy percentage of those leads into customers, you will need to provide compelling content. Fulfilling these five requirements will help you get there.