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Go Big for Your Niches: 11 Keys to Creating Content That Sells

Content marketing may be all the rage, but how do you cut through the noise when everyone, including your audience and your competitors, is creating content? Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, says it comes down to creating content that is useful, empathetic and inspired.

Ann Handley - Demand Success

Ann speaking at Demand Success 2014.

She also says marketers need to emulate publishers in some ways and ignore them in others. The publishing model only goes so far within marketing and PR. While publishers have the ability to publish almost whatever they wish, marketers and PR professionals have no such privileges.

They are instead challenged to develop content that their customers want and need. Ann suggests 11 principles for creating that content, six of which are based on the traditional publishing model and five that go beyond it.

1. Have a mission. Define who you’re trying to reach, how you want to reach them, why you want to reach them, and what you want them to do.

2. Develop a pathological empathy for your audience. What would make them turn to their friends, family and co-workers and say, “Now listen to this, Ira…”

3. Tell stories about people. Human interest stories always win out against product-driven stories.

4. Build a subscriber model. Make yourself necessary to your customers’ lives. Deliver value to them each and every time.

5. Think content eco-system, not content campaign. Campaigns have finite time frames. Eco-systems are sustainable and long-term.

6. Tell true stories well. Transparency and authenticity may be buzzwords, but they are essential to telling a story well. The words, too, are important. Ann says they are “currency” and are not to be squandered on fluff and untruths.

Ann Handley - Too Big for Your Niches

7. Think experience rather than narrative. Tell your story with whatever means necessary to reaching your audience. Don’t use a single channel; invest in the channels where your audience is. If it wants video, use video. The same goes for audio, visuals and text.

8. Address your audience. If it helps, use “you” – i.e., second person – when speaking with your audience. Also remember to show the story. Don’t simply tell it.

9. Innovation is relative. Borrow ideas from your life; borrow concepts from your friends; and even borrow tactics from your enemies. Wed those ideas with your brand to produce something exciting and interesting for your customers.

10. Invest in experiments and place a lot of small wagers. Don’t put all your dollars into a single basket. Another analogy: don’t bet on only one horse. You never know what’s going to happen. Your zany idea may crash and burn, but it might just fly. You’ll never know unless you experiment and experiment often, a concept also known as “testing.”

11. Monitor conversations so that you can respond in real-time. Your goal is not to copy Oreo but to identify topics relevant and timely to your audience. Create content around those topics and go big with it – you’ve just discovered a niche within your audience and customer base.

Finally, remember that the “best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” It feels like great stories and experiences that captivate attention and motivate action.

Want more content marketing advice? Beat content overload with Vocus’ free guide!

Images courtesy of Vocus.

About Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is the director of editorial services at Tenacity5 Media. When she isn’t researching, writing, and editing blog posts and white papers, she writes poetry and essays, draws her favorite Write Right character, and plans what art form to study next. She’s based in Austin, Texas and can be found on Twitter @erinmfeldman.

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