One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make when executing an inbound marketing program is to develop and promote weak content that has little value to prospects looking for answers. If you’re asking prospects to give up their contact information in exchange for a piece of content, you better make whatever you’re offering worth their while.
Yet we often see companies promoting what we call “better than nothing” content pieces, either because they don’t want to do the work involved in creating the right content, or they’ve not been guided appropriately by an inbound firm about what “sells” and what doesn’t.
Want to delight your prospects and clearly demonstrate why you’re the company to buy from? Stay away from these 5 types of content:
A Cursory Case Study
I recently downloaded a potential vendor’s case study and it consisted of 3 bare-bones paragraphs (admittedly, the design of the single page was nice, but you know: smoke 'n mirrors). I paid too much for that case study; they got my contact information and I got bupkis. It contained: 1) little information that I could relate to, and nothing that made me believe they understood my challenge or how to fix it; 2) no numbers attached to the outcome, so I couldn’t visualize what they could potentially do for my business; 3) nothing that created urgency to get in touch with the company.
A case study should include: a brief and relevant explanation of the customer (outline whatever characteristics that would allow your prospect to see that you “get” their type of industry or challenge); a detailed situation (how the company came to contact you and what they were facing); your problem diagnosis (How did you figure out something was wrong? How did you go about formulating the best solution?); an articulation of your approach; and detail about specific benefits (% growth, reduced downtime, improved performance, etc.) for the customer. Your prospects want to know that you’ve handled something similar to what they do, that you’re used to complex challenges, that you have an approach that’s different from others’, and that your engagement resulted in something tangible for your customer.
For more guidance on writing a powerful case study, check out our offer below.
A Capabilities Sheet
Would you, on visiting a vendor’s website, be upset to give your contact information in exchange for a list of what the company does? Your capabilities, in and of themselves, do not help a prospect. Let’s say your business is home remodeling; your capabilities are basically the same as your competitors’, right? Then you’re not giving prospects a reason to buy from you. Instead, take a capability and tell the hell out of why it means something to the prospect. For example, write a tip sheet “5 Ways To Stick To Your Remodeling Budget” or "The Best Kitchen Flooring For Families With Kids." With that kind of content you’re showing your expertise, helping people who are in that initial stage in their buying journey, and, ideally, demonstrating why you’re the best choice for their needs.
A brochure isn’t really answering a prospect’s questions; it’s you telling them what you want them to know. Your content should instead be exclusively about answering what they need to know in their buying journey. In addition, a brochure is generally created for all audiences, while your content offers should be crafted to hit different audiences at different stages of purchase: awareness of their issue/problem (“I know I want to remodel, but how do I go about it?”), consideration of options (“I want to look at the best local kitchen-only contractors who can deal with my unique issues”), and about to make a decision (ready to buy – just kicking the tires to identify the right contractor). Each prospect type needs tailored information, and needs it to address their questions at each of those stages.
A List of Features and Benefits
Anything that’s already on your website (and some kind of overview of features and benefits of your product should be) should not be offered as a download. Plus, there’s really no story in a list of features and benefits, and it rarely serves as a demonstration of your point of difference. If you offer a list like this, you can bet anyone who downloads it will not be back to your website for more.
An Article Featuring Your Company
If it’s an article, it’s already been published and your prospect can find it elsewhere (without having to give up his or her contact information). Furthermore, it’s doubtful that the article, no matter how lavishly the writer applies praise to your products, answers any of the questions your prospect has related to his needs.
When you set out to create content, put yourself squarely in your best prospects’ shoes: Identify the issues you know he or she needs to solve (like increasing productivity, reducing defects, improving performance, etc.), then create content that tells him or her exactly how your product will address it.
Remember, your prospects aren’t typing in Google’s search bar, “features and benefits of Acme’s widget.” They’re typing, “How to reduce throughput on my XYZ equipment.” Keep their likely questions in mind when you create and offer content. Do that and you've got a great chance of turning that lead into a customer.
Posted by Meg Hoppe Meg provides creative vision to all client projects and serves as the agency's chief content writer. She has extensive experience writing for a variety of industries, including manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare. Meg started in advertising and has become a thought leader in digital content creation and inbound marketing.