You’re a good writer, so content marketing is going to be a cinch, right? Not so fast. Although being a good writer helps (a lot), it’s just one important part of what makes a piece of content marketing successful.

  • Understand your audience, and solve its problems with relevant, well-planned content.
  • Build expertise and rapport with your audience, and earn its trust.
  • Use clear, concise language to create writing with a conversational tone.

You’re a good writer, so content marketing is going to be a cinch, right? Not so fast. Although being a good writer helps (a lot), it’s just one important part of what makes a piece of content marketing successful.

Content marketing requires planning, keen knowledge of your audience, and concise, personal writing — something that isn’t true of every type of writing. Here are seven ways you can turn your writing into good content marketing.

1. Don’t assume you know your audience

If you don’t have an intimate knowledge of your audience, nothing you write is going to be successful (and it’s going to be hard to come up with anything to write about at all).

You need to understand your audience very, very well to create content it’ll want to read. Remember, you’re competing with a lot of other great content, and you want people to choose yours.

So, how do you nail down your audience?

You need to create a buyer persona. And don’t do it based on assumptions, no matter how good you think those assumptions are. You need to take the time to understand your audience based on cold, hard data.

2. Solve a problem

Now that you know exactly who your readers are you need to solve a problem for them. It’s not good enough to write about something just because you think it’s interesting or worth talking about.

Think about this: if your audience is full of millennial DIYers who love spending their weekends doing demolition, going to home improvement stores and painting, your article about backyard decks is going to look entirely different than it will if your audience is swamped lawyers and doctors who almost always hire contractors for home improvement projects.

Both groups of people might want to know how adding a deck increases a home’s functionality, but if you don’t know your audience, you can’t solve its problems in a way that resonates.

I know from my own experience that nothing’s worse than spending hours on a great article that your audience doesn’t want to read because it’s just not relevant to your readers.

You always need to know how what you’re writing is relevant to your audience. While you’re writing, frequently ask: why should they care? And if the answer is that they wouldn’t, you need to change your approach.

3. Build trust with your audience

Your audience needs to come to expect that you will consistently provide useful, valuable content. If your readers can rely on you, they’re much more likely to click on your content (or even seek it out) in the future.

If your content isn’t valuable, no one is going to give your content a second glance.

Each piece of content you create should work to increase customer trust in your brand. Then your audience will see you as an expert in your field and put you above your competitors.

And make sure while you’re building trust that you don’t simultaneously destroy it by trying too hard to sell your product. Sales will be a natural consequence of good content marketing. There’s no need to push the sale.

4. Have a clear plan for the future

You have to have a clear, overarching plan for all of your content marketing. Do you know what the big picture is? You can’t write based on a whim — you must know how each piece of content furthers your grand content marketing scheme. But also remember that plans can and do change.

5. Get your audience to act

A call to action is a statement in your piece of content that directs your readers to do something. This could be reading more of your content, downloading something, finding you on social media, signing up for a newsletter or leaving a comment on what they just read.

It’s important to guide your readers to the next step — they will likely not do it on their own. This means that you have to know what the next step for your readers is.

Here at my company, we have a clear plan for guiding visitors through a content funnel, so we’re never left wondering what we want our readers to do.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your calls to action:

  • Is my call to action clear?
  • Do I know where I am guiding my audience?
  • What is the goal of my content, and does my call to action support that goal?
  • How does this piece of content fit into my overall content funnel?

6. Make your content easy to consume

When’s the last time you read a research paper from your phone because you clicked to it from Facebook? Yeah, me neither.

You need short blurbs of digestible information that stand out. Bullet points, numbered lists, call-outs — these things all help you make your point in a clear, concise way.

Big blocks of text are challenging to read, and most people just won’t bother, especially if they’re on mobile devices. People want fast answers and quick solutions to problems rather than extensive discussion. If your article is too complex, they’ll just find another one that’s easier to read.

Remember to order your information in a logical way, so people don’t have to work hard to figure out what you’re trying to say. And make sure each of your paragraphs has a clear point, trimmed of all the fat.

For some help, check out Hemingway Editor, which “makes your writing bold and clear.” It will help you hone in on your message and make it easy for your readers to understand.

7. Write with a conversational, personal tone

Stick to simple language. Don’t use complicated sentence structures, long words or technical jargon. This is not the same thing as dumbing down your writing.

It’s just that not everyone can or wants to read college-level material. Keeping your language simple opens your content to a larger audience, which is exactly what you want.

I graduated with a degree in English and editing, and I also did a lot of freelance work in academia. And I’ve struggled with finding the right balance between technically perfect versus approachable, conversational writing.

Although I’d never advocate for inaccuracy, the truth is that most people don’t know or care if you use a comma splice or if you don’t know the difference between who and whom. Spend most of your time and energy focusing on your tone (and then get someone to edit or proofread).

And remember — people like people, not companies. It’s critically important to humanize your brand and endear people to you.

Sarah Jacquier is a content marketing manager at Top Left Creative. Connect with her on LinkedIn

Email Sarah Jacquier.

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