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Content Marketing: 4 Tips To Engage Your Audience

The idea of writing content is likely to be daunting for your contributors. While there are some technical folks who love to write, it's an uncommon trait in most partner organizations. Changing gears from solving problems to writing about solving problems will be a little easier if you share these tips with your writing team.

Tell a story. One of the easiest ways to get started writing and to make your point is to tell a story about a challenge that you solved for a client. You don't need to use names -- just describe the situation and how you approached it. Simplify by focusing on one element of a project instead of covering too much.

Keep it conversational. When writing any marketing content, it's best to imagine that you're having an in-person conversation with your prospect. Think about how you would explain the topic in person. Take out the big words, skip the acronyms and write in plain, conversational English. 

What questions would your prospect ask you as you engaged in this conversation? How would your topic translate into your prospect's specific business challenges? How would you solve that challenge?

Break content into chunks. "Users don't read -- they scan Web pages," according to Hendrik-Jan Francke, owner of Bright Orange Thread, a Pennsylvania-based Web design firm. "Content needs to be 'chunkified' so that the eye can jump from nugget to nugget and quickly answer the question, 'Is what I am looking for in this section, in this list, this paragraph?'"

Hendrik-Jan has helped a number of Microsoft partners simplify their Web sites by "chunkifying" the content. "Chunkified means breaking long paragraphs into short ones with headers," he said. "Breaking long lists into two lists." 

You can also apply the "chunkify" concept to the structure of whitepapers and case studies, building smaller "bites" for downloads and calls to action. Instead of taking on a 10-page whitepaper, start with a three-page report with a high-level treatment of the subject. Or start a series of two-page reports, each addressing a different aspect of your topic. 

Use graphics. Graphics help keep readers engaged and illustrate your solution from a new perspective. Use PowerPoint and Visio to create charts and illustrations that simplify concepts so your prospects see the big picture. Keep it simple; don't try to accomplish too much in one graphic. Remember: one concept per graphic.  

It's also very important to help your readers put the graphics in context immediately. Captions should explain the relevance of the chart or illustration to the topic. Keep labels as short as possible to let the illustration make your point. If you need many words to explain the graphic, step back and rethink your approach.

And finally, help your team avoid getting too caught up in the details of creating content. A lot of content never gets published because there is too much focus on editing and tweaking to make it perfect. As Seth Godin would say, "Ship it." Practice will improve your team's output and their comfort level with the process. 

Is your team building interesting content? Please tell me about it so we can share the knowledge. 

This is the fifth installment in Barb's series on content marketing. Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Posted by Barb Levisay on March 17, 2011