In learning how to build my own news platform, I’ve taken a renewed interest in reading through lots and lots of blog posts every day, searching for trends and interesting perspectives different than mine. In that process, I’ve come to realize something.
Nobody Reads Your Corporate Blog Because It’s Boring
I’m not the first to say this. It’s been said for years. Really smart people have written books around it.
But there’s a NEW challenge afoot. The attempt at a solution for most companies was to either outsource their content creation or to assign the task to someone internally. In both cases, the person usually tasked with creating the material just isn’t all that into the company, the customers, and the space that they’re covering. Meaning, they don’t really talk about anything useful or interesting to the person hoping to learn more and get involved in some way with what the company does or sells.
Plus, they’re writing “me too” and boring content. But let’s just assume that.
Problem One: Junk Content Doesn’t Yield You New Prospects
I went to a company site today. Their business is in the machine learning and big data space. Being somewhat interested in how this will be used by companies while still encouraging improved human interaction, I thought maybe this company’s blog would have some great articles or thought pieces. Maybe they’d give me some material to study, some ideas and serving suggestions for the future.
They had a press release about some funding. The next post was something about why companies need to hire the right kind of people. Then, well, I forget what the next one was because it was boring, too.
I’m their prospective buyer/user. What did *I* want when I showed up? Something that got me even more excited about the world around their product. I wanted something to bite into. I wanted a peek inside their minds.
This problem doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It starts at the roots of it all.
Problem Two: There’s Absolutely No Content Strategy
Someone said “Hey, you need a blog” and someone else said, “Okay, well here you go.” Or maybe the strategy was handed to you by some “guru” who told you that if you write enough posts, people will show up.
Blogs and any kind of content are “attention assets” (we cover that in Earn More Customers). Strategically, you use them for wide funnel lead generation. You’re looking to get someone interested enough to determine if they’re the right buyer for your product or service. (Same in B2B – only usually you’ll need more to convert the sale.)
As such, there are a handful of goals each time you generate a post:
- Earn traffic from Google Search efforts on problems you solve for buyers.
- Provide “next step” areas in your posts and material so that people who determine they ARE interested know what they might do next.
- Create instruction and recipe posts to give existing customers (and some potential new ones) ideas on how better to apply your products and services to their own business or lives.
- Help customers compare and differentiate between other solutions without sounding like a sales letter. This helps in the often overlooked area of DISQUALIFYING potential buyers.
- Warm potential customers up to the rest of your sales cycle, if what you offer solves their problem.
- Engage connectivity of any kind between the potential buyer and the person who can best help them decide what’s next. (And I mean human connectivity of some kind like an email exchange, phone call, etc.)
Look at your last five posts and ask whether what was posted advances any of these strategic goals. If no, you already know why your efforts with content marketing aren’t paying off.
Match every piece of content to a strategic outcome or it’s not content marketing – it’s typing.
Problem Three: There’s No Spice or Individuality
This one is huge. Content marketers who write me-too content often look around and pick me-too graphics from huge banks of boring photo sites, and write articles using the same language and same approach as everyone else.
Lots of people tend to write as if they’re doing a book report, or will later be presenting this information to a really smart friend that they don’t want to let down. To that end, they create material with lots of big words, complicated sentence structures, and if you’re really unlucky, a bunch of horrendous analogies and metaphors that don’t really help. Oh, and cliches – tons of cliches.
I learned early on that humans are great at pattern recognition, and that this particular excellence makes us MISS things all the time.
If I say “Let’s all try to think ____” , a lot of people will want to fill that blank with “outside of the box.” Some, attempting to be clever will write “Let’s think INSIDE of the box” and they’ll pat themselves on the back for it.
The name of the game is a blend of two approaches:
- Create new or different or somewhat jarring language to express yourself.
- Sprinkle in enough familiarity and resonance that the person sees herself or himself in what you’ve written.
Holy cats, Chris. You’ve just told us to do two conflicting things.
Yes. Yes I have.
This is how comedy works on some levels. You tell a story that sounds familiar and then you JAR the person with an unexpected turn. Our brains LOVE what happens during comedy. (If you’re sciency, here’s a journal report.)
Our content marketing, our blogging, our media has to do the same: people have to be shaken out of their blah mindset and yet reassured that we know what they’re struggling with.
As it relates to spice and individuality, you have to speak to a really specific person and type of person (David Meerman Scott’s “buyer persona” strategy). If you try to write for “everyone,” you write for no one.
Are you targeting younger people? Are you targeting highly educated people? Are you hoping to connect with decision makers? They all have a perspective and that changes the approach and also what a person goes out searching for on your site.
Write for the person you want reading your stuff. If you’re talking to executives, write about the higher view and the integration of multiple teams and departments. If you’re talking to the front line users of what you sell, talk from their view. You can sprinkle in both for sure, but write to them.
Shake it up. (What do you mean, Chris?)
You’re not writing a book report. You’re sharing a point of view plus information. It must be entertaining. So don’t write sleepy sentences. Just don’t.
Conversational tone like what I use throughout this post is useful in this regard. Pretend you’re going to actually say these words out loud to a real human. That’ll help you improve your tone.
Consider getting more visual, but with fewer boring “stock” photos.
You weren’t expecting that. (And some of you are now singing a song – others are wondering what the heck I just did.)
Look at other ways to deliver your material. Video? Audio? A mix? A slide show? You’re not tied to JUST blogging, even if you run a corporate blog platform.
Avoid “hip and cool” chat if you yourself aren’t really all that hip and cool. (I put this in because my 11 year old son loathes anyone who uses emoji in marketing.)
And get damned strategic about creating what you create. Do NOT give this job to your random nephew or some person with really bright socks just because you don’t understand the value. Learn the value because you’re paying for it one way or another. This is losing you sales.
There. Oh wait. Did you JUST NOW wake up on this one?
My last point, way down here, is that if you keep giving content marketing the “someone else has to worry about it” treatment, don’t bother doing it. Because once you rope someone’s attention in, but then deliver them junk, they’re off to find something else that better matches their interests and needs. This isn’t kid stuff. It’s revenue.
Want More Help?
I sell a Content Marketing Plan Builder that can deliver a step by step walkthrough of the path to delivering better content marketing and earning more customers. It’s delivered in video format with downloadable materials and you can pick it all up at your own pace.
Oh, and it’s designed for a busy professional, not someone who is going off on an island for a retreat somewhere. Check it out.
And please make your corporate blog less boring. Please?
Chris Brogan is a business advisor, keynote speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of 9 books and counting. Learn more about him here.