Your business likely has pieces in its content arsenal that have fallen flat or aren’t performing as well as they could. The content could be fluffy or too high level. Maybe it’s uninspiring or boring. Perhaps it’s redundant, having been said by others 1,000 times before.
The truth is: Unless you’re a monopoly or selling something rare or one of a kind, substandard marketing content can easily become the deciding factor in a buyer’s sale or no-sale decision.
If buyers are hungry enough for what you’re offering, they’ll be willing to overlook a multitude of content sins. If they’re not, then mediocre content might push them away from you and into the arms of your competitor.
Think about it. If your content is poor, and your competitor’s content is not, then all else being equal, whom do you think a buyer will choose?
Whom would you choose?
In this article, I share five easy actions that can bring new life to your marketing pieces, colorizing and accessorizing them to boost their appeal and lead more buyers to say YES to the next step in the journey.
Customer Quotes, Stories, And Insights
Have you ever started an online search hoping to find some new tidbit of information—some useful, recent morsel—only to come away from the search without answers?
Suddenly, you dread the thought of having to read even one more article, blog post, ebook, or report that regurgitates the same tired content?
The same is true for your buyers.
It feels even worse if you’re writing marketing content, as I’ve been doing for the last 20-plus years. I don't appreciate plundering page after page of search results, looking for some new fact, angle, or answer to my pressing question.
That kind of research gets old fast.
If your marketing content regurgitates what's already out there, your prospects will quickly move ... [+]
Your prospects will skedaddle if your marketing content repeats what's already out there.
Getting Close To The Team, Prospects, And Customers
Getting close could mean:
Those actions fuel writers with the language of prospects, which leads to better marketing content. The alternative is content based only on information already out there and what’s in the writer’s head.
If the writer’s a subject matter expert, then what’s in their head may be good enough. But subject matter experts usually aren't great marketing writers, especially if they're technical experts.
I’m shocked by how many content professionals are okay with using this method to create content.
It’s What I Call The MSU Approach
MSU stands for making shit up. It’s what contributes to the flood of redundant content online.
I’ve hated using it, knowing full well that with a little give from clients, I could have created unique, differentiating content no one else could replicate.
Those pieces would be rich with language, quotes, and stories that resonate with prospects. I’d be proud to add them to my portfolio.
And my clients would publish pieces prospects want to read because, “Hey, look! It’s not the same generic stuff I just saw on the last 10 websites.”
I can’t emphasize the importance of this tip enough.
If you make only one change to improve your marketing content, make it this one.
If you make only one change to your content, let it be this one. If your content is unique, people may not care whether you make the next four improvements.
Eliminate Unnecessary Elements In Your Marketing Content
Imagine your readers are astronauts. They're busy, smart, and expect just the right information at the right time—nothing more, nothing less.
These readers don't have the time to puzzle out what you mean by reading things twice or thrice and drawing diagrams.
They need your help to get to the crux of the message. They need you to do the hard work of cutting, culling, tightening, and ensuring the message is crystal clear.
Look at your latest blog post or an underperforming ebook with a critical editing eye. Is there anything you could eliminate without hurting the message and meaning? An image? A quote? A paragraph?
One tip that works well and can shave some length: Remove the first paragraph (or more) from your piece and see if it still makes sense.
First paragraphs are often warm-ups for writers, so removing those early words might help your readers.
I pull my first paragraphs often.
Mark Twain expressed this thought best: "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Mark Twain at a desk (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images) CORBIS/VCG VIA GETTY IMAGES
If you want your content to stand out, then take the time to tighten it. A good marketing editor can help you here.
Trust me: Your readers will thank you.
Turn Groups Of Three of More Items Into Bulleted Lists
Here are three reasons to use bulleted lists wherever you can:
Now consider if I had delivered that bulleted content to you like this:
Here are three reasons to use bulleted lists wherever you can. First, bullets, whether numbers or points, add white space and breathing room to your text. Second, when content looks spacious, it appears less daunting to read, which means people will be more likely to read it. Third, you read this, didn’t you?
See what I mean? Bullets are great for helping readers consume groups of three or more items.
But don’t go wild; a list of 100 bullet points is a wee bit overboard. If you have a long list of bullets, format them in columns to save space and make things easier for your readers.
To save space in your content, place a lengthy bulleted list into a table.
Then, turn off the table’s borders, and you’ll have a nicely formatted bulleted list.
Format a long, bulleted list in a table, and then turn off the table borders.
Include Less Stuff On Each Page Of Your Marketing Content
This recommendation touches more on design but affects how people perceive your content.
Perceptions shape reality. If people perceive that your content looks difficult to read, then to them, it is difficult to read, even if you’ve written at the sixth-grade level.
Roll your eyes over the two images that follow.
The first is from the ebook that changed how I approach ebook design when I first encountered it many years ago: The B2B Marketing Manifesto by Velocity Partners.
A page from Velocity Partner's B2B Marketing Manifesto
The second is from an ebook a prospect shared with me years ago. I blurred its content to protect the innocent.
An ebook dense with text, leading to the perception of being a difficult read
Assume the text in both pieces is the same.
Which looks easier to read? Which would you prefer to read?
Me, too. I'd much rather read a well-designed ebook with 100 pages than a 25-page paper dense with text.
I’m not suggesting that you avoid dense, long-form content, but you’re better off saving it for buyers further down the funnel.
People early in the buying process will be more easily distracted. Please don’t give them even one reason to turn away from your content and toward your competitor’s content.
Rewrite Your Marketing Content With Real People In Mind
A quick-and-dirty way to improve the readability of your content is to swap out $1.00 words for $0.25 words so more people can understand what you’re saying.
The table that follows lists a few examples. Search your content for words in the "Instead of" column. Where it makes sense, replace those words with words from the "Write" column to quickly improve readability.
Search your content for words in the "Instead of" column. Where it makes sense, replace those words ...
*By the way, the word utilize is my pet peeve. Use it only when you’re talking about utilization rates or uptake.
Your readers are smart and busy. Treat them that way.
It’s not that your readers are dumb or can’t understand those $1.00 words; it's that those words, especially when piled on, one after another, make the content read and feel more like a textbook.
Who wants to read a textbook after downloading a marketing ebook to get answers to questions or solutions to challenges?
Not this reader.
No one will ever tell you your marketing content is too easy to read.
I feel for companies that publish poor-quality content.
Their writers generally include good, worthwhile information. But they don't present it in easy language and easy-to-consume ways.
Copywriter Bob Bly, whose work I followed when I first got into the writing business, once said that he never had a client tell him that his copy was too easy to read.
The same is true for your content and readers as well.
Image Credit: Unsplash.com/ Issac Smith
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