I've been doing a lot of content audits lately. Boy are they an eye opener! When you have to sit down and read a slew of content from one vendor in a short timeframe, it can be exhausting. But I always learn a lot of great stuff from the immersion.
I was reading a great post by David Brock this morning, "But we gave them every thing they wanted!?!" and it really brought home the point of how we can diminish our opportunities by requesting too much effort from our prospective customers.
One of the core principles I've rallied around for a long time is the need to simplify effort. In fact, it's one of five of what I call Catch Factors that I've written about since 2008. It's one of those things that marketers remain blissfully unaware of unless they subject themselves to the marketing process they expect their prospects to embrace...or do a deep-dive content audit.
During the three audits I'm conducting at the moment, I've found numerous things that I've earmarked for improvement. But, today, I'd like to share three elements that make your content too much effort to deal with.
Don't Belabor the Point
This is a common mistake that writers often make during a first draft. When you're not quite sure how to say something, you try it out in a variety of ways. The problem is that if you don't clean it up, you'll exhaust your reader. They're just looking for a reason to abandon your content. Make it too difficult for them to slog their way through to the good part (Assuming there is a good part.) and they're gone in a click.
Make the point and move on. Saying the same thing—albeit—in different ways for three paragraphs is irritating, but it also can leave prospects with unfavorable improessions, such as:
- You aren't confident in the ideas you're sharing
- You don't understand the topic
- Or, even worse, that you think they're a bit slow on the uptake
Drop the Self-References to Company and Product
I can't tell you how many content assets start out great to only rapidly deteriorate into the equivalent of a solution brief. This is especially true in content labeled as white papers, for some reason.
I'm on a roll, reading a great line of reasoning for why a problem must be solved and then a jolting leap is made to showcase the solution—complete with company and product names, trademarks, etc. Whoa! Stops me in my tracks. It's like the writer made the assumption that two pages of rhetoric bought them the right to shove 6 pages of product information in front of me.
Unless I'm a late-stage buyer looking for that type of information, you've missed the mark. But, the other risk you take is on not delivering on the expectations you set at the start. If your white paper is actually a solution brief but the title and summary promised thought leadership on a topic, you've disappointed your reader. Sometimes fatally.
There are a couple of things I'd like to point out about self-referencing:
- Whether on a web page or in a white paper, I'm pretty sure that your company's branding is highly visible. In other words, your buyers know who's producing the content. It is not necessary to beat them over the head.
- If you are discussing a problem that's on your buyer's priority list and following with expertise about how to solve it, do you really think the reader will think you're talking about someone else's solution even if you don't mention your product name?
Recent IDG research found that one of the biggest challenges for IT buyers was in finding content free from vendor bias.
By talking about the solution without using product names, you're more able to achieve the "illusiion" of less bias and more expertise. By sticking to the reasons why the problem should be solved and the value of doing so, you present your reader with the opportunity to consider your ideas without the impression that you're pitching the sale.
Buyers are not stupid. If what you say resonates and they want to learn more, they'll visit your website product/solution pages. You can even link to them from the paper to reduce that effort. Just do it subtly.
The point is to use your content to help position how buyers think about solving the problem by criteria that (amazingly) matches up to your solution when they go check it out.
Be Careful When Repurposing Content
When talking about solutions, we often draw comparisons to experiences or motifs that establish common ground. Sports, factories, space flights, the Wild West, cooking recipes, and other metaphors and analogies are incorporated into content because they're memorable and help us to help our readers connect the dots.
The precise problem that happens when we repurpose content and keep those metaphors is that they're memorable. Even with a new title and some new information, if an analogy is remembered, the prospect will assume they've read the content before and discard it. If this happens too many times, they'll discount your content as a valuable resource.
The same is true if you always discuss the challenges or problems your prospect is addressing in the same ways. Marketers must continuously think of new ways to approach the problem to create new takeaways and memories that motivate their prospects to discuss your ideas with others involved in the purchase.
Repurposing content is a good thing. Just pay attention to what gets repeated.
When's the last time you audited your content?
Seriously. Sit down and start reading. It's amazing what can become clear to you when you immerse yourself in your own content instead of only thinking about one piece at a time.
When you're doing this, try to determine what question each content asset is answering and for whom. It can be an eye opener!