Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you know the information age is in full swing. And information is likely what you’re peddling to grow your business and maybe even change the world. But if you’re going to stand out in today’s competitive and fast-paced information market, your premium content, blogs, newsletters, and your online presence need to deliver more than just information — they need to offer compelling information that will make your customers loyal and keep readers coming back for more.
Having standout content is absolutely essential — and you can have exactly that if you follow these seven techniques to win readers over.
1) Connect with Your Audience
You want to know the people to whom you’re talking. Know what they like, need, want, do. Know how they live, work, play. And absolutely know what information, answers, or help they are looking for so you can be the one to provide it. A good place to start is feedback on your own website or blog — but don’t stop there. What is your potential audience talking about on social media? Check out what your competitors are posting. Then take a careful look at the most popular posts out there. Chances are, you’ll see a pattern emerging. Then tackle that pattern with your unique angle and voice.
Along with honing your voice, be sincere and authentic. You have to strike a balancing act between being confident and being humble — have enough credibility to inspire confidence in your readers but enough humility to come across as friendly and approachable. Keep your voice upbeat and welcoming and make it clear you have confidence in your potential customer (focusing on their goals/aspirations and needs rather than their problems or fears). Depending on your audience, adjust your word choice and style to match the actual language they’re using. That’s one reason it’s so important to know and understand your audience. A website for Harley Davidson enthusiasts is going to have a very different tone and feel than one for stock market investors.
2) Keep Content and Organization Easy to Follow
Keep it simple and clear, no matter the audience. Readers don’t want to wade through long, convoluted sentences with multi-syllabic words. (Kind of like that sentence just had!) Even if your primary audience is college-educated professionals, everyone is in a rush nowadays. Your goal should be to provide concise, well-organized information that can be read at a glance or listened to while the viewer is exercising or cleaning house. If you use too many fancy words or jargon from your field, even the brightest reader will probably go looking for a quicker read that doesn’t require as much concentration.
Short, snappy sentences are great, but vary sentence length for interest. You can throw in a few fancy words — just make sure their meaning is clear from the context or define them for the reader (only using those your readers actually need to know).
The most important tactic is to make sure you stay focused on the promise of your hook and title and that your organization supports that. Write in scannable sections (for written content). But for any kind of content, break it up into clearly labeled sections and even subsections where necessary, using bold headers and plenty of white space or bullets or numbered lists (and/or sound/visual transitions and titles that make the logical organization clear). Doing so helps the reader stay focused and makes it easier for them to remember your takeaways (which is key to viewers feeling that they gained what they needed from your content).
3) Be Unique and Enlightening
Distinguish your material by offering at least one new insight into your topic. It doesn’t have to be the greatest thing since sliced bread — you don’t need to figure out cold fusion or the cure for the common cold, and you definitely don’t have to reinvent the wheel — but you just want to offer angles and ideas that haven’t gotten much coverage anywhere else. It may be new resources, a unique way of viewing or applying the info, or even an inspiring story that allows readers to comprehend the material in a fresh new light. It could even be as simple as old ideas combined in a new and exciting way.
4) Be Entertaining
The best way to make information stick with your readers is to make it entertaining. People love stories. If you can wrap your ideas around a story or anecdote, a fun analogy or interesting statistic, it will be memorable, and readers/customers will keep coming back for more of your brand of enlightenment.
5) Don’t Get Analysis Paralysis
Strive for quality, not perfection. The desire for perfection is the ultimate creative block. If you try too hard to create the perfectly inspiring, perfectly helpful, most brilliantly written, most innovative, award-worthy article or video, be prepared to fail. Nothing quells writing and communication like trying for perfection. And you’ll burn out pretty fast, too, when it takes readers longer to appreciate your efforts than you hoped.
Instead, strive for quality. Writing/creating is a craft and an art and a science and sometimes even a mystery. Do your best — do your homework, work your system, hire an editor if you can afford to, and have a little fun. But stop stressing about perfection. Even the greatest masterpieces ever written have some flaws. You’ll be in good company.
6) Be Accurate
Be absolutely certain that the information you offer is accurate. When possible, use references from trusted experts and recognized sources in addition to the evidence of how it worked for you, especially if what you’re saying goes against the grain or could be questioned by others in your field (and make sure you cite sources for ideas or quotes). Your source of information is as important as your message. A really great idea that doesn’t have any supporting evidence can’t be trusted by your reader, and, as a result, might be dismissed out of hand.
Testimonials and real-life experiences not only provide supporting evidence, but help readers relate to the material. When possible, use links to guide readers to your supporting material — you’ll be providing additional resources and expanded information that they can study and apply to their own situation. You’re showing them without question that you have their best interests at heart. (It’s fine to provide those links at the end of your content so the reader doesn’t wander into the Net and forget what they were doing on your site.)
7) Include a Simple, Actionable Takeaway
Readers come to your site/buy your content because they need to solve a problem. They want helpful advice. They want effective strategies. They want inspiration. They want hope. No matter the topic, they’re at your site because they’re looking for “actionable” solutions. You need to make sure that’s what you’re providing.
After you’ve checked off everything above, the final question to ask is whether you’ve helped your readers/clients solve their problem. Have you made sure to clearly tell the viewer HOW to put the concept you shared into action so they can get results NOW? Can they now look at things from a new perspective, and did you help them see the potential they can reach with the skill set/content you’re providing?
Highly “shareable” content that people pass on first created a strong emotional response that motivated them to action. This is why leads with “actionable” titles do so well to draw readers in (“Top Ten Tips for…” and “Step-by-Step Method for …” and “5-Must-Ask Questions Before You…”). And the more tangible the benefit of the action, the more excited the reader will be to try it and share it. Making sure readers have a clear, actionable takeaway they can apply to their lives today (that you specifically challenge them to do) taps into a part of human psychology that tells viewers they’ve already accomplished something just by learning a solution.
That feeling — that the reader has already grown/changed and can act on that change — is highly motivating and creates an excitement to share those inspiring ideas with others. It also prompts loyalty to the person who helped facilitate that breakthrough — you. So make sure the lead and content for each piece you create focuses on the takeaway readers are looking for, and remember to suggest a few specific steps they can act on immediately with that takeaway.
The Wrap-up: Creating your content can seem intimidating when you’re staring at a blank page on your screen. Don’t be daunted! Start with these seven tips as your checklist (and with practice you can use them as a recipe to write a little faster); soon you’ll have great content that keeps your readers engaged, excited, and satisfied — and that will keep them coming back on a regular basis to find out what’s new and cool with their favorite guru.