It’s a truth universally acknowledged that people are more interested in themselves than you. It’s human nature. We’ve all been in that awful situation where someone somewhere asks us what we do for a job, and as we answer, their eyes glaze over.
We all secretly fear being boring. And many companies use that as an excuse for their content marketing not working. “I’m a pool manufacturer (or some other non-glamorous job),” they say. “No-one would want to read about that.” Or they try to write about other things. “Let’s do some lifestyle articles so people have something to read,” they’ll suggest, because the widgets they sell are not, in themselves, at all interesting.
Both those assumptions are mostly wrong.
Why your content is more interesting than you think
Both these approaches assume the customer is like you. They assume they already know about your products or services. And that your customer is reading or watching your content as an alternative to the newspaper, or your favourite magazine.
People won’t want to read or watch your content all day, that’s true. But people don’t want to read or watch ANY content all day—including their favourite content.
And they will find your content more interesting if it solves problems they are having. Yes, you may manufacture a unique mechanism for kitchen cupboards. And yes, that may be quite dull to explain at a party. But it’s fascinating to people who are building a kitchen. Even more fascinating if they have a specific problem in their kitchen design that your mechanism solves.
You already know what that problem is. It’s why you sell the products or services you do. You probably have a good idea of who your customers are. If they are losing interest in your content, or not responding to it, then you’re either not reaching them, or you’re talking too much about you, and not enough about them.
Elements that make content more interesting
The two elements of your content to address if you’re being too boring are your distribution, and your content formats.
To extend that party analogy—you have to be at the party to have the conversation. If you’re not in the same place as your potential customers, you can’t start a conversation with them.
It’s best practice to publish your content on your website. You’re probably already doing that. But if you’re getting low engagement, one reason could be that potential customers just aren’t there.
The two key distribution mechanisms for online content are email marketing and social media.
Strategies for more effective email marketing will revolve around how you use gated content and calls-to-action on your site. If the call to action at the end of your content is simply for people to contact you, you have given them an ultimatum—‘call me and talk to a salesperson, or go away’.
This is a little anti-social. They may be keen to learn more about you, or your products or services, but may not be ready to buy yet.
If you gate a few pieces of content that people would be willing to give their email address to get, you are giving them the option of opting-in to ongoing communication, without a hard sales push. What content you gate depends on what you have. It may be a tool that helps them budget for using your product or a DIY guide.
The calls-to-action on your site should guide people to your gated content that is appropriate for the stage they are at.
Careful social media promotion
Social marketing presents its own challenges. While you may be posting to a social media account, and even paying to boost posts to reach a larger audience, you may not be getting any real results.
I’ve recently been watching the interaction on a boosted Facebook post to a very specific audience. I chose the option of boosting for ‘engagement’ (ie: likes and comments), but did it to a custom audience who had expressed interest in the industry I was targetting. I also narrowed the geographic area I was aiming at as well. When the engagements started coming in, I noticed most of them did not meet the custom audience I had created. I’d pretty much wasted my money.
If you are going to advertise content on a social network, start by building your own custom audience based on your current customers. You can Google how to do this—the information is readily available out there online. Then upload that list to the social media site. The more specific and narrow (and small) the target audience is, the better your results will be.
Mixing up content formats
The format your content is in may also be turning potential customers off. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Most blog posts look a bit like this one. They will be education pieces or opinion pieces, made up of a wall of text broken up by sub-headings.
That’s not a disaster, but it isn’t very interesting either. Especially if your readers first encounter your content through some kind of distribution method like email. And an email newsletter with three identical-looking articles isn’t that exciting to look at.
There are a number of different formats you can use for stories that look different to each other. A while ago I wrote a long piece on templates you can use to keep blog content fresh. You don’t have to use every ‘type’ I list there. Just doing a normal blog post, followed by a Q&A, followed by a case study, will be enough.
Mixing up the content formats gives the appearance of variety. The human brain is hardwired to look for novelty, so if each new article looks different to the last, you will immediately grab a reader’s attention.
Your content is not inherently boring. If you are experiencing low engagement rates with the content on your site, you are either not promoting and distributing it well. Or you’re not presenting it in a way that will engage readers.
Promotion and distribution through email marketing and social media should be very targeted. Even though millions of people use social media, it’s a waste of your money to try to reach all of them. Creating and targeting a custom audience will get much better results.
And mixing up the format in which you publish your content will also grab attention, which gives you a much better chance of starting an ongoing dialogue with them.