At Dreamforce, a member of the audience asked:“How do you create content that cuts through the noise? How do you get attention now that there is a glut of content being created?” It’s an excellent question. How do you create compelling content? What do you do to bring attention to your company, your brand, or yourself now that the social web has gotten so crowded? How do you stand out in a world of content shock. Here’s a framework for thinking about content creation for sales and marketing.
What Is Compelling?
First, we have to deal with the idea of “compelling content,” and this is the difficult part. Compelling to whom? Compelling how? Here’s the thing, compelling is in the eye of the beholder. If you want to be compelling, you have to know what is already compelling to your prospective clients or customers–or what should be compelling to them.
If you are going to create content as part of your “above the funnel” marketing or nurturing efforts, you need to decide who should be compelled and why. There is no better lens with which to answer this question than your buyer’s journey.
“I Hate Everything Right Now”
Most buyers beginning their buying journey are compelled by some recognized gap in their performance. They realize that the status quo is no longer serving them, and they are motivated to change. When they start typing their query into Google, they search for content that speaks to that dissatisfaction.
The gap might be something as simple as not knowing where to eat dinner in a city you have never visited. It might something more personal, like how to lose weight or get back in shape. But it’s a little more complicated for sales organizations that sell business-to-business where the outcomes are more complicated. The best of your time and energy is spent thinking about the challenges your prospective clients face and how they talk about those challenges.
What are the challenges your clients face right now? What are the areas where they struggle to perform as well as they need to? What words do they use to describe those challenges? Writing content that speaks to these challenges is compelling because it is aligned to what your buyers need right now. It serves them by helping them to understand their dissatisfaction, and it puts them on the path to finding answers.
“I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know”
Buyers need help uncovering their real needs. They have their own ideas about what needs to change and how they might need to do things differently. But they don’t know what they don’t know. When they search for help, they look for help discovering their real needs. They also search for people and companies that can help them understand their needs.
One of the strongest benefits of creating compelling content is that you can give your prospective client some idea of how you view their challenges and how they might think about what they need.
What do your prospective clients need to do to overcome their challenges? What do they need to change, why do they need to change it, and how does that change make a difference? Your answers here give your prospective buyers the insight as to how they might think about their needs while providing clues about what you believe and how you might help.
“What Are My Options?”
Once your prospective buyers understand what they need, they want to know what their choices are to effectively deal with that need. At this stage of their journey, you have a lot of great options for producing content.
What are the range of choices available to your prospective clients? What can they do? What are the tradeoffs they may need to consider? Would you recommend one course of action over another?
But there is a second set of questions here that can guide you towards compelling content. How are you different? And more importantly, why do you do what you do in a way that is different than your competitors? How does that difference make a difference for your clients?
Some of the content you create should help you position yourself in your market. It should differentiate you by explaining what you believe makes a difference in producing the results your buyer needs.
The final stage buyers march through on their journey is avoiding risk and ensuring execution. Stories are compelling, and so is data. What stories can you tell about where your clients were when you found each other, what you discovered together, and how you produced better results? What measurements can you use to speak about the impact of the changes you made?
Content that tells the story of how you helped your client get to the better results they were seeking give your prospective clients the vision of what they can look forward to. It helps them to see their future results. That vision can be seriously compelling.
You create content to help your prospective buyer through their journey, but you need to compel them to take some action. Your content needs to leave them with a call to action. If you can help them better understand the source of their dissatisfaction, your content needs to compel them to connect with you in whatever way best serves both of you in exploring ways you might help.
How do you make it easy for your prospective buyer to connect with you? How do you assure them that by connecting you that you are going to be helpful instead of desperately trying to prematurely push them for a deal? What is the first commitment you need them to make and what is the value proposition for them when they agree to that commitment? Is it signing up for more information? Is it scheduling a call?
A Final Warning
The biggest mistake you can make in designing a content strategy is to withhold. Your content will never be compelling if you don’t tell your prospective client the what, why, and the how. If you aren’t willing to share how they can improve what they are doing now, your content will fall short of the mark. It won’t be compelling because it doesn’t provide any answers and it leaves your prospective buyer even more dissatisfied. You can’t create content that leaves your prospective client in the same stage as where you found them.
Many sales organizations are too fearful about sharing content that answers their buyer’s questions with actionable information. They believe that their answers are their intellectual property, and sharing deprives them of the ability to capture some of the value they create. There is some truth to this, and there is some risk. But the greatest risk for most sales organizations now is that they share content that isn’t compelling, doesn’t help their prospective client with their buying journey, and doesn’t give them the experience of what it might be like to work with them. The greater risk is irrelevance.
Create compelling content by looking at what your prospective clients or buyers need as they work their way through their buying journey. The more helpful you are in serving their needs here, the more your content will be compelling. And the more likely you are to create new clients.