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Five Questions to Answer to Create Effective Content

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jul 24, 2015 1:00:00 PM

content-marketing-questionsI often get (positive) comments about the quantity and quality of the content we create here at Imagine. The comment is typically followed up by a question along the lines of, “Where do you find the time to create all of that content?” 

While we certainly create a lot of content, and we’ve sustained that volume for nearly 10 years, we don’t really spend as much time as people would think. A primary reason that we are able to create a high volume of effective (as measured by engagement and conversion rates) content is that we utilize a simple formula for creating content.

This enables us to make content creation a continuous process that allows us to pick up a number of efficiencies in the content creation process. Don’t get me wrong, creating content is certainly a significant investment for us. The formula we’ve created allows us to maximize the impact and return on that investment.

The formula is really answering five simple questions. It starts in the content planning process and permeates all the way through the final review of the content we create. These five questions create clarity around what the finished piece will look like. From there, we just create the content to match the vision.

Admittedly, we no longer answer each question specifically when developing our material. The questions are so ingrained in our thinking that they’ve become hard wired into our process. In the beginning, however, we did start by writing an answer to each question before we started to write or create.

What is the purpose of this piece of content?

We start with why – why are we creating this piece of content to begin with?  There are several reasons you’d want to create content. They include:

  • Stimulating awareness of your teaching point of view.
  • Provoking awareness of a problem or opportunity.
  • Simply sharing a rant or insight that your market would find interesting or entertaining.
  • Creating content that can be used by a persona to introduce or share with someone else in their company that we are unable to connect directly with.
  • Address a specific sales problem or a sales issue that shows itself a lot.
  • Creating content that can be used to leverage our sales efforts.

The list of reasons can get quite long. The first challenge I see with people who struggle to create content is that they try to do too much with their content. This makes the entire creation process complex and burdensome and typically leads to a final product that doesn’t do anything particularly well.

We always limit the primary purpose to one reason and will add a secondary purpose when justified.

Who is your persona?

Our next question revolves around the “who.”  When we’re clear on why we’re creating, then we focus on who we want to influence. This helps us focus our tone, language and even who’s going to create the content.

In my experience, the second challenge people face when creating effective content is the focus. Many times their content is too generic in tone or too complex in an effort to appeal to too many people. Being clear on who the piece is being created for can eliminate the questions that bog down the process.

Where in the buyer's journey is this piece focused?

The difference between good content and effective content is like the difference between a lightning bug and lightning. Good content is well written and represents the creator well; effective content does that and influences the reader, leading to action.

The key component in creating that type of influence lies in contextual alignment. A piece of content that is effective at the bottom of the funnel may be wholly ineffective at the top, and vice-versa.

This is why mapping your buyer’s journey is so crucial. Without clarity into where your content fits on that journey or what’s on the mind of your persona at that stage of the journey, you can’t easily align contextually and the likelihood of your content being effective drops precipitously.

When I see a company that has invested the effort in creating content and they’re not getting satisfactory engagement and conversion, the problem is almost always because they’ve failed to answer one or more of these first three questions adequately.

What is the one thing you want them to remember?

While the first three questions focused on the strategic aspect of creating content, these last two are all about the tactics of actually executing. These are my two power questions; I ask them before I write or create anything.

The biggest weakness I see in most communication efforts is that the creator attempts to communicate too much. These multiple messages compete with one another and the result is content that is difficult to grasp, and a failure to influence.

Of all the questions that I ask, I’ve found this the toughest to master. It’s hard to narrow down what you want to communicate, but it’s absolutely necessary. Before creating anything, get clear on what your primary message is and stick to it.

This is a reason that I like blogging so much. When I have multiple messages or thoughts to communicate I can create a different piece for each, thus improving the effectiveness of my writing and making the editorial calendar easier to fill out.

What is the one thing you want them to do?

This last question is what makes the content sales/marketing related. We’re not creating content simply to add to the pantheon of content available to the world. As our answer to the first question indicates, we’re creating content for a business purpose. The reality is that our content is only successful when our target recipient does something.

Before you start creating that next piece of content, or write that next email, be sure you’re clear on what one thing you want them to do. That action does not have to be (nor should it) call us to inquire or buy something. Sometimes it’s you want them to answer a question (or in this case 5 questions). Other times it’s to click on a CTA, or purposefully consider something.

The answer to this question helps guide the tone and style of your content and aligns the content to its original purpose. It also allows you to learn from it to make your future content better.

By consistently asking these five questions before you create content, you’ll find the entire process much easier to manage, less time consuming and, most importantly, you’ll get much more bang for your effort.

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