How many times have you heard that as a business all you need to do is write ‘useful’ content for your customers? Probably about as many times as you’ve heard that all you need to do is write ‘awesome’ posts.
The problem is that all the ‘experts’ tell you to write useful content, but don’t tell you what constitutes content that is ‘useful’. Last year I addressed the issue of how to write an awesome blog post, now let’s talk about how to create ‘useful’ content on your business blog.
What Exactly Is ‘Useful’ Content?
First, we need to tighten our definition of ‘useful’ content. For the purposes of this post, useful content on a business blog is any content that creates value for both the reader AND for the content creator. Too often, blogging businesses focus on creating useful content for itself, or its customers, but rarely does a business create content that nails both. In short, with each post you publish on your business blog, you should be able to point to the value being created for your reader, and for your business.
An easy way to do this is to ask and answer three simple questions before you write every post:
1 – Who am I writing this post for?
2 – Why will they care?
3 – What do I want to happen after they read the post?
Answering these three questions ensures that your content will be useful for your reader (#1 and #2) and useful for your business as well (#1 and #3).
Creating Customer-Centric Content
Now let’s talk about the content-creation process. You want to create content that is focused on the needs of your customer, not your brand. This is one of the most basic, and misunderstood, rules of online content creation. Many businesses believe that their blog should effectively be a dynamic website, ergo another way to promote the business. In other words, many businesses believe a blog should basically be brochureware. Instead, customers are used to reading blogs in order to get valuable information, which is exactly what your business should be creating via its blog.
So how do you create useful content for your customers? Start by writing content that teaches them a skill that’s associated with the products you sell. Instead of writing content that focuses on the product, you want to write content that focuses on how (and why) your customers use your product! If you sell lawncare products, don’t blog about your products, blog about maintaining a beautiful lawn. If you sell high-end audio components, don’t blog about your tweeters or woofers, blog about how to properly position speakers in your living room to create perfect acoustics. It’s not about your products, it’s about how your customers are using your products.
So what if you sell services instead of products? Then you want to create content that teaches your customers how to do the same services you sell. This sounds counter-intuitive at first (Why would I want to teach my customers how to do what I do? I’ll just lose business!), but it works because you are creating content that establishes your expertise, and makes it easier for customers to trust you.
For example, here’s a recent blog post that appeared on Sucuri’s blog:
This blog post is designed to teach me a skill. It’s going to teach me how to read my blog’s code and recognize when hackers have inserted malicious code that’s added malware to my blog. Instead, all this post is going to teach me is that I have no clue how to read my blog’s code, and I need to hire an expert like Sucuri to handle that for me. And I did, Sucuri handles security for this blog, and they are fabulous. As I wrote about last week, good content is the best commercial for your business. Posts like this that ‘give away’ Sucuri’s secrets are actually leading to new customers for the company. Why? Because this content is helping to establish Sucuri’s expertise, and validate to people like me why I should hire them to handle stuff that I can’t do, like protect my site against malware attacks.
But How Do I Make Content That’s Useful For My Customers As Well As My Business?
The goal for your content should be that it is consistently creating value for both your customers, and your business. That’s a win-win, and as long as that’s happening, your customers are motivated to keep reading your posts, and your business is motivated to keep writing them.
So how do you create useful content from a business perspective? Scroll back up and long again at the three questions I said you should ask before writing every post. The third question is important here: What do you want to happen after someone reads your post? What action do you want them to take?
That action is how your customers create value for you, and your content is the channel to make this possible. For example, going back of the previous example of the post from Sucuri’s blog. Note the banner running alongside the post to the right:
This banner is working along with the post to help drive leads. You’re going to read the post on spotting malicious code, you’re going to realize that Sucuri knows its stuff when it comes to Malware detection, then you’re going to see the above banner giving you a chance to learn more about Sucuri’s Malware detection and removal services. This works because as long as you have created valuable content for your readers you have earned the right to ask for the sale. Too many businesses want to ask for the sale without having created any value for their customers. That rarely works, but what does work is to first create value for your customers, then ask them for their attention in presenting a relevant sales pitch. Relevant is the key, in the above example, Sucuri created content that was valuable to its readers, then married a relevant call to action to that content. A banner about malware-removal services makes sense next to an informative post about spotting malicious code that’s been inserted into a blog’s code. A banner ad for an automotive salvage yard, does not.
So before you write a blog post, ask and answer these three questions:
1 – Who am I writing this post for? Current customers? Potential customers? New donors? New partners? Current partners? Each audience is different and has different needs. Tailor your content for the audience you are writing for.
2 – Why will they care? This is where you really address whether or not your post will be useful to your readers. Think about what value this post will create for your readers. Will it teach them a new skill? Will it solve a problem for them? By putting yourself in your reader’s shoes, you are creating content that creates value for them. Which leads to…
3 – What do you want to happen after they read the post? This is where you really address whether or not your post will be useful to your business. What action do you want your readers to take after reading your post? Do you want them to contact you? Do you want them to sign up for an email newsletter? Do you want them to request a custom services quote? Remember if you have created valuable content for your customers, then you have earned the right to ask for the sale.
The quick n dirty version is this: How do we create content that’s valuable to our readers and at the same time valuable to our business? In a perfect world, those goals will play off each other, as they did in the above Sucuri blog post with the post and the relevant banner alongside. Always be able to explain how the content will benefit the reader, and how it will benefit your business. Both need to be present.