Ann Handley knows good content marketing and how to make it accessible for others. In her role as Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs, she often shares her experience and explains how the everyday can inspire marketing decisions.
Here are the tips every content manager and marketing manager should learn from the pro:
1. Slow down
Handley advocates for slowing down to move faster when it comes to planning content marketing strategically. While the temptation can be to capture an audience’s attention quickly, it’s much more effective to build trust with them to see greater results in the long term.
Her three pillars to this approach are:
Listen to your audience and adjust your strategy accordingly
Building trust means making the shift from creating brand-to-target content and delivering peer-to-peer content instead. It’s about taking a step back and being empathetic to the audience’s needs in order to produce something of true value.
Involve the audience for investment in the outcome
Thoughtful content marketing that involves the audience will help to put them at the heart of your offering. A slow experience that enables them to be invested over time will help to establish brand loyalty instead of a quick win.
Find the human story to portray a universal truth
A common trap Handley finds marketers falling into is that they try to produce content for the entire audience at once. Instead, she recommends writing with a specific person in mind, so their problems, fears and potential solutions can be properly addressed.
2. Write clearly
The success of a content marketing strategy hinges on the quality of the writing and Handley has spoken often about how to ensure the best results are achieved. She recommends:
- Think before you write: Communicating a clear message to the audience requires presenting it in a simple manner, so the writer must have fully grasped the concept before trying to put it into written form.
- Write often: Marketers must write regularly to improve their skills and practicing on topics they care passionately about is a good way to exercise the creative part of the brain.
- Don’t waste your reader’s time: Distill the message into the most important points and convey them without unnecessary rambling sentences.
- Know when to use jargon: Peppering B2B materials with jargon can demonstrate your industry knowledge, but there are occasions when it can come across as pretentious and alienate your audience.
- Write empathetically: Handley said: “Put yourself not just in your customer's shoes, but also in their shirt and pants. And put on their hat and try on their skin. Really try to understand their point of view, their pain, what they might be feeling.”
- Write authentically: Cultivate a real voice for your brand that stays consistent and isn’t swayed by passing trends in digital marketing.
3. Email marketing should be an integral part of the strategy
Handley explains that too often email marketing is used simply as a method of distribution and not a unique channel in itself. She insists that the inbox is an inherently personal place that should be respected with tailored content and not simply considered as an afterthought.
By focusing on the ‘letter’ and not the ‘news’ in newsletter, Handley says it’s easier to find the human connection in email marketing. It’s about getting the tone right and speaking one-on-one with the reader in a way that’s both accessible and inviting.
Making the customer feel valued is at the heart of successful email marketing and that all depends on personalization. Some of these techniques are relatively straightforward and have been widely adopted, such as using the recipient’s first name in the subject line and body copy.
More advanced deployment of personalization for email includes dynamic content offers and VIP programs. Marketers that can think about the needs of their readers and how they will engage with specific offerings will do best.