The Five Characteristics of Compelling Content

July 21, 2011
Get buyers to eat up your content.

Content marketers know that compelling content sells. It sells airplanes, professional services, mops, houses, and bank accounts. Show me great content deployed and promoted skillfully and I'll show you an organization that's mastered the art of lead generation.

The word "compelling", however, can strike fear in the hearts of content specialists when they're asked to produce anything that fits that description. True, creating compelling content is generally not a trivial task, but it doesn't have to be a heroic endeavor, either. For the business owner or CMO, recognizing great content and separating it from the rest is also critical. So just what does make content compelling?  I believe content is compelling when it embodies the following characteristics:

Compelling content is purpose-driven.

Far too much time is devoted to writing content for the wrong reasons, such as:

  • I felt inspired.
  • It's cute.
  • It's funny.
  • It's easy.

Don't go there. Time is precious, so produce content to get your buyer (or any intended audience) to take action. Which brings me to my next point.

Compelling content is relevant.

Content is relevant when it addresses the needs, wants, frustrations, aspirations or fears of your audience. To write such content, of course, one must first know the buyer. But that's another blog post.

Compelling content is exclusive.

By exclusive I mean to say that plagiarism isn't an option. If you can't conjure and document something with an original spin, then you better try harder. Content at its best positions you as a thought leader, and you can't be a leader by following all the time. 

Compelling content affirms your brand.

Okay, feel free to dispute this one if you want. I suppose content can be considered compelling by your audience while completely turning them away from your brand. But this defeats the whole point of publishing in the first place. To tighten up the definition of "compelling" content, let's say that the result of publishing it has to be compelling as well. Therefore, if you want good results, your content has to somehow lead your reader to see your brand positively and consistently.

Compelling content is stylistically appropriate.

In other words, compelling content is easily read and understood by your audience. 'Nough said.

I'm not suggesting that knowing these characteristics will make creating great content easy. If it were easy, anybody could do it, and the value of content would diminish in a world of over-supply. Think about it, wouldn't you rather it be difficult, just so your own content can shine in a sea of really bad stuff? No, it's not easy, but there's nothing magic about these characteristics, either, and even if creating compelling content is still hard, at least you'll know how to recognize it when you see it.