Yes, It’s STILL King: Andrew’s 4 Rules For Creating Content That Converts

04.08.2021 Blog , Expert Insights
By Andrew Catapano, Chief Digital & Marketing Officer (CDMO) at BDSmktg

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Summary: In 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay titled “Content Is King.” 25 years later, that saying is a well-worn adage, but it still rings true. However, when creating content that actually converts, it’s important to remember four things: make it personalized, keep things consistent, flex your creativity, and relevancy is key.

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If you approach any marketer on the street and ask, “what’s the most important yet underserved strategy in any go-to-market plan?” I’m willing to bet money (well, maybe your money) they’d say, “content!” And then probably followed by… “hey, can you step back a bit… still social distancing here… my shot isn’t until next week!”

For as long as people have been selling stuff, storytelling through content has been key. And if you’re wondering where the phrase “content is king” originated, you can thank “THE” Mr. Bill Gates. Way back in the olden days of AOL dial-up and fax-sounding connections in 1996 – before blogs or anything we recognize as the internet today was mainstream – he predicted that, “content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet.” And boy, was he right.

Fast forward to the on-demand “internet everywhere” days of 2021 and high-quality content is STILL hard to come by. I’m talking GOOD content… content that can go toe to toe with the very best creative and promotional strategies and win. Too often… thoughtful content, effective storytelling, solid brand positioning, and consistent communication falls by the wayside and causes most go-to-market plans to fall flat, become boring, and burn out quickly.

In the words of Vivian Ward: big mistake. HUGE.

People buy from brands they know, like, and trust, and NOTHING develops a bond like engaging, consistent, relevant, and personalized content. And I’m not just talking about blogs. Yes, they’re important, but so are emails, social media, videos, infographics, podcasts, case studies, and livestreams. And remember – content isn’t JUST the written word, and it doesn’t necessarily serve to sell in and of itself. Instead, it attracts the attention of buyers, immerses customers in an experience, triggers emotion and desire, and invites people to sit down and stay awhile.

All that said, what I’m trying to drill home is that you can have the BEST go-to-market plan in the world, but if you don’t have the right content to support it, that dog just ain’t gonna hunt. If you want to create a truly integrated and connected strategy that follows through on its commitments, you NEED to abide by four rules when creating content that converts:

  1. Make It Personalized
  2. Keep Things Consistent
  3. Flex Your Creativity & Free Your Mind
  4. Relevancy Is Key

Let’s dive into each one.

1)    Make It Personalized

Imagine a 19-year-old college student is scrolling through his Instagram feed and stumbles across a sponsored ad for a state-of-the-art Viking range. That’s not to say the average frat dude isn’t interested in quality kitchen appliances, but odds are he’s NOT the right target audience for that ad; it’s not properly personalized to his interests… whereas an oversized YETI cooler might be. Likewise, content needs to speak directly to the person or people it’s trying to persuade; failing to do so has major consequences. According to a global poll by Marketo, “63% of respondents said that they are highly annoyed by the way brands continue to rely on the old-fashioned strategy of blasting generic messages repeatedly.” Additionally, 78.6% of consumers said they are only likely to engage with a brand using coupons or other offers if those promotions are directly tied to how they have interacted with the brand previously.

One company that pioneered personalization early on was Amazon with its “recommendations for you” section directly on every account’s homepage. The feature isn’t creepy or overly pushy, but it provides product recommendations based on previous purchase and browsing behavior. And now, that technology is available to other brands in the retail, media, and entertainment industries via Amazon Personalize, a fully managed machine learning service. Thanks to the growing power of data and analytics, marketers can identify patterns and generate content accordingly – content that will actually convert. Personalization isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a need-to-do. As the Content Marketing Institute puts it, “it should be an integral part of your content marketing strategy so you can build the sort of audience loyalty we all dream of.”

2)    Keep Things Consistent

With so many communication channels to choose from – websites, blogs, emails, social media, YouTube, etc. – it can be easy to let small content inconsistencies slip through the cracks. But when you’re developing a strong content strategy, you need to focus on keeping things consistent if you want to build a brand identity and maximize your impact. Just like you’d expect your company’s logo and color palette to be the same across all platforms, you should also expect your brand voice and core messages to clearly communicate who you are and what you stand for to your customers, no matter what channels of communication they’re interacting with you on. According to Forbes, “from social media and blogging to responding to customer reviews and replying to emails, your content needs to maintain a consistent voice, tone and style.”

Equally as important as voice, tone, and style is the schedule in which your brand publishes content. If you’ve been silent on Twitter for two years and then suddenly post 4-5 times in one week before taking another month-long break, you will confuse your customers and leave them wondering what the heck is up with your brand. If you find it difficult to maintain several channels of communication, turn to data and analytics to determine what 2-3 channels your target audience prefers, and then dive into developing the very best content strategy you can maintain on a consistent basis on those important platforms. Alternatively, a content management solution like Hootsuite can help you easily manage all your social media activity in one convenient location. With Hootsuite, you can also optimize your search and social ad campaigns and build a library of branded content to refer back to.

3)    Flex Your Creativity & Free Your Mind

With so many brands realizing the importance of content marketing and implementing sales strategies online, it can be difficult for any one brand to rise up and stand out against the competition. In 2021, the average person is estimated to encounter between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every day. That’s why it’s so important to flex your creativity, think outside the box, and experiment with new campaigns to see what truly resonates with your core audience. However, when you’re juggling monthly campaigns with weekly email blasts and daily social media monitoring, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and forget about advancing the big picture. Sometimes, it’s not that you don’t have creative ideas, but you just don’t have the freedom to see them through. Rome wasn’t built in a day; likewise, the most creative plans often take a little time to come to fruition.

If you’re ever feeling stuck in a rut, try examining your workflows to streamline operations and eliminate time-sucking assignments. Why not try a program like Trello, which speeds up the content request and approvals process? Or perhaps Airtable, which allows marketers to easily develop and manage their content calendars? Instead of relying on a designer for every graphic, simply create your own in Canva and move on to the next task. When you cross tasks off your mundane to-do list and eliminate back-and-forth, remarkable ideas often follow. Not to mention, more content does not equal better content. According to Business.com, “the average attention span is going down from 12 seconds to a mere 8 seconds.” Instead of trying to hit that 2,000-word count on a blog, publish a short listicle instead. Alternatively, challenge yourself to produce three 15-second videos per month instead of one long one; Animoto is a great tool for creating free videos on the fly.

4)    Relevancy Is Key

When creating content that converts, perhaps the #1 most important thing to consider is whether or not it’ll be relevant to your target audience, i.e., will they even give a sh*t? You don’t want to go to the effort of drafting a month’s worth of social media posts if they’re not going to make an impact. Before you even begin, you need to overhaul your existing customer persona(s) so that you can truly UNDERSTAND who you’re trying to speak to. In other words, customer personas should “capture the basic essence of who is buying your product, and why they’re buying it.” Depending on whether your customer persona is a stay-at-home mom with two kids in the suburbs or a single man who’s living it up in the big city, the content you create for each target audience needs to be relevant if you want it to resonate.

Beyond WHO you’re trying to target, your timing is also a key component of relevancy. When developing your content strategy, you need to decide if your brand will release content in a chronological way that coordinates with current events, or if you’re better off taking an evergreen approach to content creation to keep things more manageable. One major perk of the former approach is that people might be actively searching for information on a specific subject matter and come across your brand’s messaging. According to Sprout Social, that’s a good thing: “70% of consumers say it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political issues, up from 66% in 2017.” But here’s something to keep in mind: if you decide on a chronological approach to content creation, you need to develop a plan that will help you achieve speed-to-market when big news stories break.

The Bottom Line: Content Is King And Having An A+ Partner Helps.

Although the phrase “content is king” has become cliché, it’s the honest-to-goodness truth. Not only does content help brands build trust, generate leads, and cultivate loyalty, but it also helps brands develop a unique personality to help them stand out. Nevertheless, it’s one thing to create content, and an entirely different beast to create content that actually converts. You also need to consider the full spectrum of the senses and invest in visual and audible strategies like photography, animation, and design to bring your content to LIFE. A few things to ask yourself include: 1) do you have a bank of approved music to play in the background of your brand videos? and 2) have you invested in high-quality photography that will display well on mobile devices? That’s just the beginning, but it’s a good place to start.

When creating content that converts, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Maybe start with a blog, and then figure out how to maximize that piece. Can you create a 30-second introduction video that hits on all the major points? Or maybe cut direct quotes for a series of social media posts? Content isn’t a one-and-done thing; you can and should take everything you create and figure out how to repurpose it in some way to hit another channel and reach another audience. If you need help getting started, it’s time to talk to BDSmktg. Our talented digital and social media team can help you transform the entire buying journey through top-quality content including blogs, sharable infographics, video tutorials, press releases, newsletters and magazines, and so much more. Drop me a line and let’s start converting together.