One Equation and Five Tips for More Effective Content Marketing

How can content marketing drive business? Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, shared several tips and words of wisdom with the audience at ASAE’s 2015 Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference on Monday.

When it comes to content marketing, quality really is better than quantity, content marketing pro Ann Handley said during the opening general session at ASAE’s 2015 Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference on Monday.

“We’re swimming in content,” Handley said. “There is so much content out there, but I do think we need better content.”

Chief content officer at MarketingProfs and author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, Handley aimed to flip the perspective on this area of marketing—from simply adding to information overload to creating content that makes an impact—by sharing one equation and five tips.

While there’s no single road to more effective content marketing, several guidelines can help associations navigate the journey, Handley said. She recommended three key steps:

  • Sharing empathy and experiences.
  • Telling relevant and inspiring stories.
  • Being “ridiculously useful.”

Or, put another way: Useful x Empathetic x Inspiring = Great Content

“Those multiplication signs are key,” Handley said. “Because if the value of any one of those things is zero—so if it’s not useful, [not] empathetic, [or] not inspired—then the [product] is also zero. You’ve got to have elements of those three things in place.”

How do you incorporate those elements? Handley outlined five tactics that the most effective organizations are implementing in their content marketing efforts.

Start with strategy. “The most effective organizations have a documented content strategy,” Handley said. “They have a sense of what they’re doing more broadly. It’s not a random act of content.”

This starts with your bigger story, she added. What you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Example: the American Heart Association, which incorporates its message “To build healthier lives” into all of its content to advance that big-picture theme.

Focus on audience. The most effective content marketers are thinking about content from the audience’s point of view. One way to do this is to “find interesting ways to say boring stuff.”

“There’s a huge missed opportunity in not thinking about things on an ‘About Us’ page or your landing pages or your calls to action,” Handley said. Those are places your members and audience go to learn more about you, so make it interesting.

Be irresistibly useful. “Will they miss you if you don’t show up in their inbox, if you go away?” Handley asked. To look at it in a slightly different way: What will people thank you for? What information do they need to live their lives better, do their jobs better, to connect better, and to grow?

Tell stories via social media. Don’t just share your content on social media, but use those tools to tell stories. Follow the lead of the Transportation Security Administration, which uses creative hashtags—such as #TSACatch and #TSATravel Tips—to share tips and cautionary tales on what travelers should avoid packing while traveling.

Don’t skimp on the writing. The most effective content marketers have a unique tone of voice and strong writing, Handley said. And it’s not primarily about grammar or proofreading; it’s about getting inside the heads of your audience so you can figure out what they need and care about.

“Content marketing is the packaging, but the writing is the guts,” Handley said. “Writing is the heart and soul of your story.”

(ASAE photo)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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