Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.
How do we stand out?
It's a question many executives ask themselves.
Especially when it comes to online marketing. As more and more businesses begin to enhance their presence online, differentiation from competitors is becoming more important.
As simplistic as it may sound, the best way to stand out is by creating exceptional content.
Whether that be in the form of blog articles, videos, eBooks, whitepapers or something else, the heart of your inbound marketing campaign is the content you provide. Standard advice suggests centering your content around the questions customers frequently ask you.
While this isn't bad advice – do this in conjunction with keyword research and watch organic search traffic multiply – it isn't always enough.
The Missing Ingredient
To compete in a crowded space you need something else.
Something that can't be copied by others.
Something that makes prospects want to read more.
And that something is a brand voice shaped by your organization's internal stakeholders.
Personalized external input is what's going to make your company blog stand out. Tone, style, subject matter and word choice are ALL elements that contribute to voice.
Ideally, your speaking style will initially be modeled after that of the CEO or founder. It's his or her values, viewpoints and observations forming a foundation that is enhanced by team members over time.
Interestingly, most companies don't take the time to generate expert input – and it's a huge mistake.
How to Generate Expert Input
The reality is no marketer, brand advisor or content writer will ever know your business a good as you do.
Without routine insights from key stakeholders, they can do little more than create well-researched content that sounds like everyone else.
The reason most companies don't take advantage of the competitive advantage that's sitting right underneath their noses?
a). They don't realize they're sitting on a potential goldmine of knowledge and b). They assume everyone is too busy to contribute. The good news? Getting staff onboard may actually be easier than you think. Here's how to get started:
1. Create a Content-Centered Culture
Your first step is to begin communicating the importance of content marketing. Why are you doing it? What kind of results are you expecting? How is it going to make work better for everyone?
Executives might be glad to know they're potentially saving money long-term by diverting money away from traditional campaigns. Sales might be glad to know they'll potentially have less "work to do" in their 1-on-1 conversations.
And customer service might be relieved to know they can suggest an article that answers that annoying question they get asked all the time. They'll receive less queries and even be able to direct prospects to helpful online resources.
The key is to show how quality content helps the organization as a whole. Create a digital presentation or campaign to educate your team. Include detailed Buyer Personas, an explanation of the Buyer's Journey (awareness, consideration and decision) and individual department benefits.
Make it clear you want to hear about their content ideas, customer interactions and modes of thinking on a regular basis, emphasizing that ideas don't have to be fully formed. They could be as simple as, "Something interesting happened today..." Your content writers will take care of the rest.
2. Create a Sharing System
Once people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, you'll want to make it easy for them to do so.
The office is a busy place. But with the right systems in place, jotting down passing thoughts can become habitual. Work with your team members to come up with a collaborative method for sharing ideas. Here are some examples:
- A weekly email that gets sent out with a link to a Google spreadsheet.
- A special phone number employees can call to leave their ideas via voicemail.
- A notepad in the lounge area.
The system itself isn't as important as its ease of use. You may also want to consider providing additional incentives. Maybe employees who's ideas get turned into content get a photo mention at the end of the article they helped inspire. Maybe the names of all monthly contributors get entered in a raffle for prizes
3. Conduct Routine Interviews
While you're likely to spontaneously generate great ideas from every department, your bread and butter will come from scheduled interviews for pre-selected topics.
Whether you're a t-shirt company wanting to write a profile piece on how the garments are made, or a software development company wanting to write about the technology behind a new product, you need expert input.
Not only will it make your articles rich with detail, it will make them more educational, more interesting and more interactive. Once you've created your editorial calendar, set-up a system for requesting interviews in advance with the key stakeholders needed to write the content.
Share your editorial calendar with your stakeholders so they can see what's coming up. And send a link to an online "interview calendar" so they can sign themselves up for a meeting. While voice interviews usually generate richer material, some people may feel more comfortable answering questions via email. When scheduling time with busy executives, you may want to "batch topics" to obtain information for several future articles at once. The bottom-line: Find out what works for your stakeholders, and make it easy for them.
Get Started Now
Strip away all the distractions, and you'll find the heart of your inbound marketing program is the content you provide. As the competition continues to upgrade, the defining factor will continue to be what you say and how you say it. The sooner you begin creating a collaborative content process, the sooner you'll begin generating the kind of content that gets noticed.
Ready to take your content creation to the next level?
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