(Article originally published on Forbes.com on May 2, 2019)
Good marketing content can inform or entertain, ideally doing both for maximum reach. In the best-case scenario, a business develops content that’s so engaging that it attracts users to its website, rather than just having content for users who would have come anyway.
Yet, creating effective marketing content takes effort, requiring consideration of audience interests, multiplatform accessibility and ease of navigation. To help you differentiate your site from competitors, we asked 14 members of Forbes Agency Council to weigh in with their best content creation ideas.
1. Utilize Search Data To Differentiate
Look at the specific questions people are asking search engines and ensure you have the right content to answer their questions. Specifically, think about the “why” behind a search query—what are they thinking and feeling? Being the brand that can accurately answer people’s questions can drive new visitors to your website and will ultimately build trust within a consumer base. - Donna Robinson, Nina Hale - Digital Marketing Agency
2. Listen, Listen, Listen
Good content starts with active listening. Use social listening tools to monitor customer conversations about your brand and your competitors, at scale. Understand what they care about, what frustrates them and what gets them excited. And use these insights to ensure you are producing customer-centric content. - Andrew Au, Intercept Group
3. Adopt The End User’s Point Of View
Businesses must look at content in a way that presents innovative disruption in order to gain traction. That can vary from industry to industry, but the fact remains that you have to shake the norm to be noticed. Your media should speak to your market in a way that will make them emotionally driven. Illustrate your product from the end-user point of view so they can relate and buy in. - Michael Smith, iTribe Social Inc.
4. Ask And Compare
Beyond monitoring what content topics draw engagement and earn further development, ask your customers/prospects—informally or via incentivized polls—what new content/influencers interest them the most. Back this up with a comprehensive assessment of competitors’ content topics and authors (and sharing trends), which may be guided by similar research. Align it all with the brand’s purpose. - Jim Heininger, The Rebranding Experts
5. Spend Time With Sales
Some of my best content ideas come from sales. They’re on the front lines and know common sticking points before a prospect reaches that “a-ha” moment. Sales also identifies vertical trends that translate into public relations and marketing campaigns. It’s the same with account management and topics for retention or upselling. It always informs content ideas in a range of formats. - Nicole Jordan, Radix Collective
6. Think Like Your Customers
Too many businesses focus on what they want to sell, rather than focusing on the needs and pain points of their customers. Stand out from competitors by using interactive content such as quizzes and calculators to entertain and provide value to website visitors. As an added bonus, resources that are found useful by a wide audience may attract backlinks from other websites, thus enhancing your search engine optimization (SEO). - Adam Binder, Creative Click Media
7. Run Focused Surveys
Our company has found that being a fast follower on generating content that everyone else is already discussing doesn’t quite do the trick. Instead, every four to six weeks we send out a newsletter with questions asking what’s on everyone’s mind, problem child or exciting subjects, fears, successes and so forth. The replies are very useful and insightful, helping our content stay fresh and more digestible. - Timothy Nichols, ExactDrive, Inc.
8. Be Authentic
Great content is authentic to your brand, which means it’s inspired by what you do every day. Content ideas can come from a number of places, including sales or networking conversations (e.g., what questions keep coming up?), industry news (what’s your take on forecasted trends?) and from issues that clients are having that you’re solving time and time again (e.g., what are their pain points?). - Natalie Nathanson, Magnetude Consulting
9. Use Online Tools
Despite evolving technology, there are always pain points that plague any given business. Finding what business owners are talking about will help you uncover these. I’d suggest SEMrush’s “Topic Research” tool, BuzzSumo and Answer the Public to help you uncover hot topics in your industry. I also love using social media, like Facebook and Reddit, to uncover what individuals are discussing. - Kristopher Jones, LSEO
10. Make Documentation Part Of The Creative Process
There is one piece of content that only your company can create that your competition can’t—the content of you. When you document your process and make it public, you not only create content that your competitor cannot duplicate, you also build credibility by showing your abilities. Your customers trust that you are actually in business because they see you doing business. “Be Content.” - A. Lee Judge, Content Monsta
11. Hook Them With Stories
People are hardwired to like stories. Stories give us an easy way to learn from the experiences of others without having to go through the pain of forced change ourselves. Incorporate short but compelling stories about your product or service into your brand building to hook your consumers’ interest. Testimonial campaigns that focus on stories do better than those waxing poetic about the brand. - Kathy Broderick Selker, Northlich
12. Do It Three Times Better
First, know the audience you want to create content for, then speak directly to them. Then, make sure your competitor has not already done it! Better yet, dig around on your top competitors’ sites and see what they are doing, offering and using to “wow” their audience. Take that information, meet with your creative team, mesh your ideas and do it three times better. - Bernard May, National Positions
13. Find And Fill The Gap
First of all, you need to think about the market sectors your business is competing with. Your company should be looking to innovate and fill the gaps with services and/or products. The best way to attract customers is to offer them something that is missing from the market. Social media is a great tool to asses and see what is missing. - Cagan Sean Yuksel, GRAFX CO.
14. Address Their Pain Points
Customers usually search for solutions to their problems, not products to buy. If you are not familiar with the problems your customers were trying to solve when they found you, ask them! Then take the most common problems your happiest customers had and build your narrative around those problems. Tell a story about each issue in a way that people can connect with, and new customers will find you. - Brian Handrigan, Advocado