Practicality is the word at the heart of my content marketing philosophy.
Readers are always looking for something when they open a book or an article webpage. It’s my job, as a writer, to understand what that something is and deliver it to the reader as quickly and concisely as possible. It’s not always obvious, even to the reader, what they’re looking for, but generally, there’s a sense of expectations, and if those expectations aren’t met, it will leave the reader feeling unsatisfied or uninterested.
That’s when you lose their attention. They’ll move on to something else—maybe better content created by a competitor.
Grab a Reader’s Attention and Hold on to It
In fiction, think of someone who opens an adventure novel. The reader is looking for an action-packed narrative that kicks off immediately and doesn’t slow down. If you wait too long to introduce the inciting incident, the reader will place that book back on the shelf and pick up another that looks interesting at first glance.
In online content, this same concept applies, except you’re dealing with an even shorter attention span due to the sheer amount of information on the internet. If you can’t immediately grab someone’s attention, they’re scrolling to the next thing in their feed. Sometimes, the headline is enough to satisfy them, so you need to think carefully about what you reveal in the title to grab someone’s attention and how to leave them with a promise of more to come within the content itself.
In my opinion, the “something” that the majority of online content readers are looking for is practicality. Regardless of industry and whether your business is B2C or B2B, people are looking to learn something practical to help them accomplish a task or gain more knowledge on a topic. You need to identify what that means for your business and its content.
Understand What Your Audience Wants
But where can you start? For me, I thrive on understanding the audience of a content initiative. I love to put myself in the shoes of the customer and ask:
- What problems am I dealing with or running into on a regular basis?
- What would make my life easier? How can I realize efficiencies?
After answering these questions, you can start to plot out your content journey. It may help to draw it out as a map, equating your business’s solution(s) as the “X” at the end of the treasure hunt. Then, reorganize the questions into order of occurrence. What’s the first question your customer will ask? What’s the second question? What are some challenges that present themselves beyond that?
Eventually, you will have mapped out a series of gaps that you can fill with content, all of which should aim to practically answer each question in the journey and help the customer through each stage. This type of exercise is a great starting place and is essential in discovering your content purpose early on.
Never Lose Focus
Even beyond the initial planning stages, I like to come back to the concept of practicality whenever I get lost or feel like my focus isn’t clear. It helps me understand the real need behind a piece of content, and once I have that, I can focus on getting to that purpose quickly and concisely.
I recommend using or applying this type of philosophy if you are building a content initiative from the ground up. And don’t be afraid to conduct a similar exercise once a year to check if your initial purpose is the same or has evolved. Your customers move quickly, and you need to stay one step ahead of them to meet their questions with the answers they’re looking for right away.
If you’re interested in discussing this concept more, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via my Contact Page. I offer a variety of content marketing services, including editing, writing, and consulting.
Looking for more on my approach to content marketing? Check out my other blog posts here.