7 Characteristics of Really Great Marketing Content

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Executive Summary
Content drives business, and at any given moment
buyers are searching for information that will inform them,
educate them, or help them solve a problem. Whether
it’s a data sheet, white paper, demo script, or web page,
marketing content needs to speak to the needs of your
prospects and customers while being geared to targeted
points in your sales process.
It can be a delicate balance, but getting the right message
to the right person at the right time offers tremendous
upside: it establishes credibility and authority, creates
brand affinity, and – maybe most importantly – reduces
sales resistance.
So how do you craft great marketing content that
gets results?
While there’s no cookie-cutter methodology for every
business, there are specific characteristics that most, if not
all, successful marketing content shares.
This guide gives you the top seven characteristics – and
also gives you the seven best practices for developing
content that resonates with your target audience, no
matter where they are in the buying cycle.
1. The targeted audience: Know who
you’re talking to
Imagine pitching specialty cat food to a dog person.
Promoting the benefits of a buffalo steak to a vegan.
Pushing a SaaS solution to a person who isn’t familiar with
cloud hosting.
Great marketing content…
1. Speaks to a targeted audience
2. Fits a specific place in the buying cycle
3. Tells your story with customer-centric
4. Uses meaningful images
5. Can be used in interesting, varied media
6. Employs a clear call-to-action
7. Can be parsed into additional pieces for
optimum use and visibility
It’s amazing how much [content] is published
without ever answering the questions, “Who is this
for?” and “What do I want her to do?”
— Doug Kessler
Co-founder and creative director of Velocity
Instead, pick a target reader – a specific persona – and
direct your content to that person. By focusing on a single
individual, you give yourself the freedom to pursue a
meaningful conversation, which helps you create content
(a single piece or a series) that addresses the person’s
unique issues, challenges and aspirations.
2. Know where content fits in the
buying cycle
Whether they’re prospects or returning customers,
buyers go through several process steps when making
a purchasing decision. By understanding these steps
and aligning your content with them, you can satisfy
their concerns, answer questions, ease objections, and
increase their confidence at each stage, all of which
prompts them to take the next step.
Common buying cycle steps include Discovery, Interest,
Consideration, Purchase and Reconversion. But
regardless of how many steps you identify or what you call
them, the takeaway is to have a well-planned buying cycle
for each persona, which will help you craft content that
appeals to each type of customer at each stage of their
3. Tell your story with customer-centric
Storytelling works, particularly when it’s relevant to your
prospect’s needs and concerns. So instead of describing
your product’s features, tell the story of its benefits,
showcasing real-world examples of how it can be – or
is being – used to solve specific problems or achieve
specific goals.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Customer success stories
• Case studies or use case scenarios
• Solution briefs
• Best practice summaries or reviews from existing
• Matrices showing outcomes or ROI comparisons
By positioning your messaging to focus on what your
customers want and need, you’ll not only increase your
reach and readership, you’ll also make your offering feel
safer and more appealing to buyers.
4. Use meaningful images
Images make everything better – at least, everything
online. Case in point: according to recent research by
MDG Advertising, articles containing relevant images
have an average of 94 percent more total views than
articles without them. And when searching, 60 percent
of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a
business that has an image show up in local search
The benefits of graphics are well documented. From
intriguing photography to informative illustrations,
countless studies have confirmed what we all know:
the human eye likes pictures. But just because you can
capture attention doesn’t mean you can keep it. In fact,
the sheer volume of visual stimuli has made us somewhat
inured to a lot of it.
One or two stock photos are
fine, but how many more
beautiful women standing in
server rooms can we take?
— Paul McKeon,
President of The Content Factory
So the key is to ensure your images are meaningful to
your target audience, and that they communicate original
and relevant information.
For example: use real people, real quotes, customer logos,
infographics, charts, and photos of actual customers
using your product. Don’t use irrelevant stock images.
Images can make your marketing content pop, improve
searchability, and increase interest and engagement. But
use them wisely to ensure they relate to your prospect’s
needs and your content’s message. Otherwise they may
have the opposite effect.
7. Create once, amplify everywhere
After taking the (often considerable) time to thoughtfully
develop and design a great piece of content, it would be
easy to publish it and check it off the to-do list. Done and
But don’t do that.
Instead, make the last 100 yards of your publishing effort
about expansion – extending your content’s reach in order
to maximize its visibility and increase your brand’s authority.
This concept goes by many terms including scaling,
optimizing, repurposing, re-using, and Rule of 5. But
essentially it’s a form of “write once, use everywhere,”
where the goal is to capitalize on your primary contentcreation
effort by making it available in as many
touchpoints as possible.
Here are the key practices, with examples, to help kick-start
your brainstorming.
Build content that can be used in several
different ways:
• Have a meaty white paper? Extract two main ideas
from it and create two briefs, a handful of blog posts,
and an infographic.
• Planning a webinar? Make it available on-demand
from your website, iTunes, or YouTube. Post the
presentation deck on SlideShare. Create a Q&A from
the session.
• Conducting interviews for future content? Consider
turning the interviews into thought-leader Q&As,
capturing them as videos (each with its own landing
page), or creating a webinar.
Cross-promote content to increase traffic and
extend brand reach:
• Include social and share links in your content
whenever and wherever appropriate.
• Distribute your content across as many appropriate
social media platforms as possible. Social media
management tools can make this a relatively quick
5. Think beyond the PDF
Medium matters. Just as important as the content itself,
the format it’s delivered in plays a significant role in how
well – or not – it speaks to your prospects.
Although PDFs still have a sizable fan base in the B2B
space, today’s digital options have essentially blown the
doors off the old paradigm, opening a brave new world of
opportunities in delivering information.
For example, instead of defaulting to the standard PDF,
could you create a slide-share? Animation? Infographic?
Video? If a PDF is still the best choice, could it be
As possibilities and reader preferences continue to evolve,
be sure to consider your personas, messages, business
type, and sales funnel when determining which format (or
formats) are the best for showcasing your content.
6. Use a call-to-action
The goal of marketing content is to spur action. Whether
it’s a download, a phone call, a form completion, or
a purchase, your content is ultimately meant to move
prospects down the sales funnel and convert them into
To accomplish this, you need to tell readers what action
you want them to take. And the more explicit, the better.
So rather than simply adding “contact us” at the end of
every piece of content, create calls to action that match
where your prospects are in the buying cycle – their
questions and concerns. Be specific about what your
prospects can do next, guiding them along and helping
them take the next logical step.
Did you know … you can easily optimize your
images for search engines? For a comprehensive
guide to today’s SEO, download our white paper:
SEO 101: The Basics (and Beyond).
• Link to previously published content. For example,
if you mention a complementary piece of content in
a blog post, link to it. By cross-linking your content,
readers have more opportunity to spend time with
your brand and get introduced to other content
(read: expertise, offers, products, and services). The
cascading effects of this practice can be significant.
Ensure content can be found by the
search engines:
• Incorporate keywords and metadata appropriately
and correctly – including what the audience sees
and what the search engines see.
• Write compelling headlines to draw in potential
readers. Be sure to leveraging keywords.
• Unsure how to optimize for search? Our white
paper, SEO 101: The Basics (and Beyond), can
help. (See what we just did there? If not, re-read the
“cross-promote content” section directly above.)
By keeping a strategic eye on these content optimization
practices, you can expand your visibility, amplify your
messages, and increase your authority where it counts:
with prospects, current customers, and search engines.
It’s about working smarter, not harder.
Crafting the Conversation
No matter what business or industry you’re in, creating
effective, useful content is critical. Is it easy? No. Not if
quality is your goal, which is should be – it must be – if
you want to stay relevant and grow in a world overflowing
with unprecedented competition for the most valuable of
resources: time.
But it’s also completely doable.
By focusing on the needs, pain points, and preferences
of your target audience, you can create content that
encourages new conversations, provides the right level of
information at the right time, and ultimately gets results.
About Act-On Software
Act-On Software’s integrated marketing automation suite
is the foundation of successful marketing programs, from
simple and direct, to sophisticated and globally executed
Act-On is a cloud-based marketing platform that enables
marketers to tie inbound, outbound and nurturing
programs together in a single dashboard. Scalable and
intuitive, Act-On supports sales as well as marketing and is
fast to implement, easy to use, and powerful.