I don’t remember where I heard it first – in some movie or in my college journalism classes – but it’s been said many times that a good news story covers the five “W’s.” Who, What, Where, When & Why. Of course, “How” is usually in there too. A humor piece in the New Yorker several years back added some additional questions in light of the degradation of journalistic integrity and truth.
Those six inquiries are great for police investigations, although they get translated a little differently. Why for a news reporter becomes motive for a detective. For most small businesses, creating content is less about strictly ‘reporting the facts,’ but the funny thing is – the five W’s work for marketing content too.
Just not quite the same way…
Who Am I Writing For?
If you’ve read many of our posts here at Grow the Dream, you know I usually cater to this question last, because it has a huge impact and it’s one of the central tenets of our process. In fact, I’ve written several articles just about the question of Who.
But I’m constantly amazed at entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even large corporations that have no idea for whom they’re creating their content. And, yes, you guessed it, it all comes down to strategy.
Every small business has one to three ideal customers. They are the clients who get the best results for a reasonable price they’re willing to pay. When we figure out who those potential customers are (often based on the existing customers we have), we place them, figuratively, in the bullseye of a target.
You always aim for the bullseye. Yes, it’s the smallest, often hardest to hit area of the target. But that’s the point. If you aim for the outer rings and miss, your arrow goes awry – or into some unsuspecting squire. If you aim for the bullseye and miss, it’s much more likely you’re still hitting the target.
So who do you write for? – your ideal customer! If you pinpoint your content to that perfect client, you have a great chance of hitting their pain points. And you stand a very good chance of reaching and connecting with people on the outskirts of the ideal. Both are acceptable marketing results. But if you cast a wide net (to really confuse metaphors), there’s a better chance you miss the perfect client – or any client.
What is the Purpose of The Post?
I know what you’re thinking – the purpose of the post is to make sales! That was easy. And yes, the purpose is to make sales – assuming profit and income are important to your business. But if it was that easy, you’d just do a post that says “here’s your thing, buy it”. (Which is kind of what the rest of your website is for.)
The purpose of your posts has to be more than just a call to action. There are a lot of different angles to take. One we’ve found that works well is an educational approach. This is how something works; this is how you do this; here’s the bigger picture.
But it’s far from the only one.
You can do testimonials – here’s what other people use it for, and here’s the success they’ve had. Or just straight up, I love this company or product and here’s why.
You can talk about pain points and how your product or service makes people feel. Decisions are always made from an emotional point – embrace that and talk about how your thing makes people’s lives better.
And, yes some posts can be very blatantly about how great your thing is and why you should invest in it right away. A call to action can be a post unto itself.
The most demanding aspect of a content blog post is that it does several things at once – educates, builds credibility, elicits an emotional response, and calls to action. It takes an effort and some practice to master, but if you are willing to put in the time, these posts can be the most effective.
Why Will the Intended Audience Care?
As I’ve pointed out before, decisions are made from an emotional point. Business decisions are made by people. People hate pain. If your thing means less pain or gives them more pleasure, they’re in.
Further, if your potential customer is searching for information, anything you can give them that makes their search easier, more assured, or less stressful will be successful.
Even if they ultimately choose not to do business with you on the first encounter (and most don’t), you establish your credibility as an expert in the field. And, you can display assurance and confidence by being okay with that – even pointing them to a competitor that better fits their needs.
Blog posts can isolate and inform your potential client – and by the same token, the less frustrating your content is the better. For example, a spammy post that announces by the headline that it will answer their question, but doesn’t – or tells them they need to check out parts 2 and 3 coming down the line to get the full answer, irritates people.
Think about how annoyed or angry you get when you click on the top Google result for your question only to find it’s misleading or a keyword farm with zero relevance. That’s not the emotion you want.
When Should I Post Content?
This question gets more into the nitty gritty behind the scenes. It is less about the customers and more about the impact. And unfortunately, there isn’t some one-size-fits-all answer.
For decades, Tuesday and Thursday were the best days to send email newsletters and post new content. There was some flexibility in times and whether Tuesday or Thursday was actually better, but overall, the previous sentence was true. And true for virtually all businesses.
But a strange thing happened when the majority of Americans suddenly started working from home. The whole apple cart was disrupted. There are now far more stratifications of businesses, client approaches and times and days that work. For a little while, Wednesday reigned supreme.
And my guess is eventually things will settle into clearer patterns. I’m not calling it the new normal anymore. Business and office situations have changed and evolved more in the past 12-18 months than they ever have. The closest comparison is maybe the shift in the 1920’s, as Madison Avenue became more important for the post-depression era after World War II. But the truth is, things are still in flux.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for consistency. Ideally, we recommend our clients post once a week – at the same day and time. Some spread it out more – every two weeks or monthly. But I wouldn’t recommend posting less than once a month. Otherwise, you lose momentum and what’s worse the Google bots can’t read a pattern and don’t scan your site as often.
How Does Your Content Stand Out?
Really, I’ve covered most of this already. Your content stands out because it’s written for your ideal client, posted on a consistent day and time and addresses the client’s pain in some way.
You get bonus points by addressing the audience directly, in your voice. In that way, you diverge from traditional journalism. Shifting from “all the facts, ma’am,” to explaining things in your own personality and personal style makes the content more accessible.
Personally, I always try to start an article with some sort of story or anecdote that draws the reader in. Sometimes, I have to pull back from that a bit if the story is getting too complicated. But story engages your reader. And if the story connects to what you want to talk about and already generates an emotion in the reader before you get to the “meat” of the post, all the better.
The other benefit is connecting to the person or personality. Remember, you want to address your content towards your ideal audience. This can even come into the voice of the writing. In addition to what I write for the Grow the Dream blog – for our ideal clients – I also ‘ghost write’ posts for several of our clients. My name isn’t on them – and if I’ve done them right, you don’t see my fingerprints on them. Rather, I write in the voice of the client, addressing their ideal clients.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Creating good quality content is not an impossible task. Once you’ve done the important strategic work, you’ll have a better handle on who needs and wants your thing and how to reach them and speak to them.
There is always more you can write about, and you shouldn’t worry about repeating yourself – I do it at least once a month. As the old adage goes, “In the first part I tell ’em what I am going to tell ’em; in the second part—well, I tell ’em; in the third part I tell ’em what I’ve told ’em.” Regardless of who came up with this particular pattern, the lesson of repetition stands. People often need a reminder of what was said or taught before. And it doesn’t hurt your Google ranking either.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that in addition to strategy work, Grow the Dream also offers content post writing services like the one I described in the above section. And I’m certainly not the only one – we have a team of great people working behind the scenes – including the amazing Betsy Dane, who delivers incredible copy for our clients as well.
We built our business helping other small businesses grow and expand. We’d love to help you too. If you want to learn more about any of our services, please reach out. Let’s Grow the Dream together!