Marketers have to continually earn and reward people’s attention. If we fail at that task, there are plenty of other content options out there. People — yes, even B2B buyers — want engaging, entertaining and valuable content.
That’s great news for those of us on the content side! It means we should be regularly exercising our creative muscles, breaking free of boring B2B, and coming up with new ways to delight our readers. How cool is it, for example, to make Ghostbusters references… for your job?
But as fun and creative as the work can be, there’s a cerebral and analytical side to marketing that we can’t neglect. If you came into marketing through creative writing, not the other way around, you may need to develop the left-brain part of the job:
- Writing for a specific audience
- Meeting audience demand for information
- Prompting the audience to take action
- Staying organized
- Improving results over time
Here are 10 tips that I use to make sure I stay grounded and organized, even while working on wildly creative content. (Speaking of which, our client Dell Technologies just published this spy-movie-themed eBook which is just lovely).
1 — Embrace Keyword Research
For too long, content creators treated SEO like an add-on — something you sprinkled in after the content was done. It wasn’t part of the creative process. It was just a thing you had to do to make sure the bots recommended your content.
But now we know better. Keyword research should be part of the content planning process. And not because it makes bots like your content better, either. A high-volume keyword means it’s a keyword that real actual people are searching for, because they have a need that must be met.
Every keyword is a statement of desire. For a creative content marketer, it’s the next best thing to a telepathic bond with our target audience.
And speaking of which…
2 — Learn Your Audience
If you’re a creative writer, you probably have an audience you’re used to addressing. When I was writing for my online comedy game, it was nerds like me — people who lived and breathed Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, et al.
At TopRank Marketing, however, I’ve written for CFOs, CEOs, cybersecurity experts, small business owners, millennials in the job market… in other words, a lot of people who aren’t a lot like my default audience. So I had to learn what each of these groups wanted, loved, hated, were afraid of, and needed. That means a lot of research to underpin your creative content.
3 — Involve Diverse Voices
How can you make absolutely sure your content will resonate with a broader audience? Bring more people into the creation process. That means bouncing ideas off of both the millennials and boomers in your office. It can mean talking to people in other departments, too — if you’re writing for CFOs, take a meeting with people in the finance department.
But beyond the internal collaboration, look for ways to highlight both respected industry experts and potential clients in your content. All of which requires you to…
4 — Release the Ego
There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your work, of course. But we writers tend to be protective of the things we write — we don’t like too many people meddling about with our precious words.
When we’re writing for personal expression, that’s fine. But when it comes to marketing, we have to make sure the content is the best it can be for the target audience. And that means plenty of editorial oversight. It’s important to get feedback and quality checks on your work, and to keep your eye on the ultimate goal: Content that serves the brand, no matter whose name is on the byline.
5 — Read Other People’s Content
Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” That’s true in marketing as much as in thousand-page novels about killer clowns from outer space. There are three absolutely vital reasons to read other marketing content, especially content targeting the same audience you’re aiming for:
- Find great ideas to steal… er, borrow
- Find gaps where you can insert your own brilliant ideas
- Identify cliches to avoid
For example, you might want to start a blog with “In these uncertain times…” however if you’ve been reading other content regularly, you’ll know that 99% of all blogs written in 2020 started with that phrase, and you’ll be compelled to be more original.
6 — Don’t Confuse the Garnish for the Meal
About a month into my time at TopRank Marketing, I finally got to really flex my creative muscles. We were writing a superhero-themed eBook for a client. I went all out — each section had a full page about a superhero, followed by a page comparing the superhero to the client’s subject matter. So there was a section on Batman, and his methods, and his utility belt, and then a section tying in the metaphor to the cloud software we were writing about.
That first draft was one of my first lessons in letting go of ego and collaborating, too. My colleagues gently informed me that people wanted to learn about the technology, not the superhero stuff. I was giving people too much parsley and too little steak.
The creative theming in your content should provide a hook for your audience and liven up the subject matter. But it shouldn’t get in the way of the information you’re trying to get across.
7 — Have a Clear Next Step
Marketing content should compel your reader to take specific action. No matter how creative and fun your piece is — and it should be plenty of both — at the end, there should be a logical, meaningful, and measurable next step.
You should plan out the content journey and the calls to action before you write a single paragraph of content. Keeping the focus on the customer and their journey will help make sure your content is doing the work it should be.
“Marketing content should compel your reader to take specific action. No matter how creative and fun your piece is, at the end there should be a logical, meaningful, and measurable next step.” — Joshua Nite @nitewrites Click To Tweet
8 — Get Invested in Results
When you have measurable calls to action, the logical next step is to — wait for it — measure them. As a creative writer, my impulse when I’m done with a piece is to release it into the world and never look at it again. As a marketer, we have to do the opposite.
Don’t just check in on your content’s performance from time to time. Get into those results — who is reading the content? Who is bouncing off of it straight from the search page? How long are people spending with it, and how many of them are clicking your CTA link?
A larger organization might have people whose full-time job it is to look at those results. But you should be fixated on them, too; these metrics are an ongoing performance review from your target audience.
9 — Collaborate with Analytics Folks
As much as content marketers want to be invested in results, it can be hard to collect, analyze and visualize the data. That’s why we should be partnering up with people who eat, sleep and breathe data. Those analytical types who are writing queries and building pivot tables are indispensable allies for quality content marketing.
Talk to them, make friends with them, buy them cookies and take them out for the beverage of their choice. The more you learn about each others’ disciplines, the more effective your marketing will be.
And speaking of learning…
10 — Continue Your Education
I came into the marketing field with one very particular skill: I can write stuff people want to read, and I can do it quickly. But I only stayed in marketing because I kept learning about all the other aspects of the business.
We’re in the era of the T-shaped marketer now. If you’re a content specialist, you should also know a little about SEO, be conversant in analytics, and even take a lunch with the sales team from time to time. Everything you learn will inform your content and make you a better marketer — and will enable you to explore your creativity and still get meaningful, measurable results.
Looking for creative B2B content that inspires action? We’ve got you covered.