This article originally appeared in the December 2013 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter. This article was contributed by guest author Jeanne Davant.
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about developing great content, to attract website visitors through search and convert prospects into customers. You’ve also heard that great content for your website, blog and social media supports your business goals and reinforces your brand. And, that search engines increasingly value fresh content. But where does all that great content come from? This month, we’ll help you find it, with the assistance of Dan Krause, Founder and President of GraceWorks Ministries.
Focus on your goals
Ideas for great content are all around you if you know where to look, and the best place to start is right where you are.
“Content flows from the end of your organization; it begins with really understanding what problem your organization is trying to solve,” says Krause, a problem-solver who has worked with nonprofits for 22 years and now specializes in helping Christian schools thrive. Krause urges his clients to think deeply about what they are trying to achieve, what their customers want from them, and how those objectives work together.
“If you’re really focused on the goals of your organization, you’re giving people ongoing resources that show you care about their problems and genuinely want to help,” Krause says. “If I’m a Christian school, my goal is to raise up servant-leaders and world-changers. I need to convince people my school will do that, but if I can show examples of people who are spiritual champions, that’s far better.”
To Krause, that concept could translate into profiles of successful graduates who are shining examples of the kind of people the school is striving to produce. The website could display testimonials from these people about how the school contributed to their success, from brief quotes to video interviews.
That’s the kind of content that brings mission statements to life, and it’s the kind of content you should generate, too. It goes beyond simple testimonials, and it means your customers become advocates for you.
Think like your customer
No doubt about it—the best content ideas come from your customers. Thinking like your customer almost automatically sparks content ideas.
“A lot of my work is trying to get schools to think like their customers—that is, parents,” says Dan Krause. Recently Krause worked with a school whose board wanted to offer a tuition discount to attract new students. While that might encourage some parents to take a look at the school, Krause thinks it’s about more than money.
“People often say they don’t have enough business and need a more aggressive pricing strategy, or some sort of special,” says Krause. “A lot of times, however, they’re not thinking about what it will take to get this person to buy.”
Even with the planned discount, Krause’s school client wasn’t considering that parents still would be paying a lot of money to enroll their students. So he counseled the board to steer parents away from considering only cost, and toward thinking about the unique benefits the school offers that makes the purchase worthwhile.
Krause pointed out that the school’s website lacked details on several programs that directly address parent concerns. These included a block-scheduling program that allows students to be placed in the right class for their individual reading levels, a special-education teacher, an interventionist, and other programs to assure students are comfortable and able to make the transition between grade levels. Adding such detail provides further evidence of the school’s added value, that helps explain its cost structure.
To help gather needed background information for quality content, reach out to your customers. Ask your Facebook fans to answer an open-ended question attuned to one of your key business goals, such as: What is the one characteristic you most want your child to have when he or she grows up? The answers (free market research!) can tell you a lot about your prospective clients and what they’re looking for. You can write a blog post – and perhaps even a press release – based on the answers you get.
The experts who can help you create those resources are usually right in front of you. In the case of a school, you could put a smartphone or videocam in front of an experienced teacher and ask questions like:
what can parents do to help a child with a mild learning disability?
what skills are essential in the 21st-century marketplace?
how do you teach kids to be creative and thoughtful?
“Every business has people like this,” Krause says. He advises people to look for conversational or situational patterns: “This is the third time this week I’ve talked about this issue. I need to write about it.”
Your associates and employees themselves are great sources of content. “We know from Google Analytics that one of the most popular parts of a Christian school website is its bios,” says Krause. “Parents love to look at them. I’m forever telling schools to get their staff to write something personal. What’s your philosophy of education? What do you do for fun?”
That tactic was quite effective for one of Krause’s school clients wanting to attract Christian students and families. After updating the school’s website to emphasize its teachers’ strong Christian commitment, new-student enrollment soared.
Find content everywhere
Sometimes you find the best content ideas when you’re not looking for them. Once you’re clear on your goals and you’ve learned to think like your clients, stay on the alert for fresh content ideas, and ways to reuse and repurpose existing content.
Do you, like some of Krause’s educators, give presentations or speeches at events or conferences? Make sure they’re recorded, so you can post video snippets to your website and social media. Transcribe presentations into informative blog posts that answer questions you know your clients are asking. Upload photos from events and gatherings to Facebook. Write a blog post that talks about what you learned at the event from other experts in your field, and how that knowledge can benefit your clients.
Everyone loves stories with a message, so tune in on everyday occurrences. Did you see a movie that really resonated? Did you have a surprising conversation at a party? Did you make a small social mistake that you were able to turn into an advantage? These can all be foundation for an interesting blog post or email.
Other websites—industry news sites, or even your competitors’—also can spark content ideas. Make a go-to list of important informational websites and Facebook pages you can check regularly. You can post links and comments to articles that will help your clients solve a problem, or use them as a jumping-off point for your own views. You can survey competitors’ sites to identify content gaps in your site. (Of course, you want to create original content for your own site.)
Many people use curation tools such as ScoopIt and Google Alerts to find content ideas. They can be great sources, as long as you keep your focus on your customers’ wants and needs. The bottom line, says Dan Krause, is to: “keep adding content that solves people’s problems.”
Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles on content development. Next month, we’ll discuss how you use a content-strategy plan to assure that great content gets developed and posted.