67% of surveyed B2B companies reported marketing content as a "top three" or "high priority" within their overall marketing strategy for 2015.
With statistics like this one, it’s pretty clear that content creation is important. So how can we become even more efficient, better content creators? After all, there’s always room for improvement.
In fact, in a recent Gleanster Research survey, 67% of all respondents indicated they believe there is room for improvement in current content creation processes.
So, from ideation to publication and everything in between, here are 5 weird (but effective) things I always do when creating new written content.
1. Go back in time
Sometimes you have to go backward to go forward.
Start by looking at which content performed well in the past. Before I jump into a new piece of content, I always go back and look at what previous posts have performed well (and are still performing well) and try to find patterns. Fortunately, every piece of content in our Content Hub gets a score. I look at these scores to see which pieces of content are performing best.
When looking for patterns among high-performing posts I ask myself these questions:
- What is the format? Are they list-based? Do they ask a question?
- Are the posts covering a certain or similar topic, or written for a specific persona?
- Was this post successful right away, but died out quickly? Or is it gaining traction over time?
- Does the post address something in a seemingly controversial way? Or maybe it’s a completely unbiased comparison?
I also like to go back and see what sources work well with which posts. Are visits to list-based posts coming mostly from social media sites while visits to posts answering questions coming from organic search? If this is the case, I’d probably try to promote my list-based posts a bit more on social channels and maybe even sponsor them with a little-paid boost.
Finally, I see what types of topics resonate best with my buyer personas. For one persona it seems that more in-depth and technical posts do well. For the other persona, introductory and high-level posts are more well-received. Taking all this into consideration, I move on to my next step: Finding out what people want to know.
2. Immerse yourself in your audience
Before you start to write your post you’ll need to do some advanced research. I often head directly to my sales, customer service or project manager teams to see what questions they’ve answered recently. I ask them for something that comes up often or something really unique they’ve been asked. Next, I head out to communities like LinkedIn groups where my ideal personas are active and start asking questions or participating in discussions.
Pro Tip: I usually set up a stream to monitor a certain set of keywords or a hashtag and reply to tweets or questions in the stream. You can do this using tools like HubSpot’s social monitoring or Hootsuite.
I’ve found this tactic to be useful in two ways. First of all, I see what questions my ideal prospects are asking and what types of discussions get traction with them. In addition, it means I am genuinely involved in discussions already.
This way, when my post is complete, I can supplement my comments with my post without being too self-serving or overly promotional. This shows group members, or people who are in on the discussion, that I am genuinely here to help and answer questions and not just to sell them on something.
Plus it’s an extra outlet where I can promote content since we all know promotion is half the battle. After all, even the best content will be unsuccessful without strategic promotion. Set yourself up for success by getting involved in conversations about your topic ahead of time.
3. Schedule social posts first
Whaaaat? I know you’re probably thinking: “That makes no sense.”
However, once you’ve finished writing, these pre-written posts will actually help you evaluate whether or not your content answers the intended question.
Doing this also helps you consider which social outlets to post to depending on the nature of the post and the persona for which you are writing. After all, not everything that goes on Pinterest also belongs on LinkedIn.
When you’ve written a great post that you’re proud of, it can be tempting to want to blast it out to every outlet possible. Avoid the temptation by choosing where you’ll post ahead of time when you’re still focused on exactly whom you’re writing for.
But what about all those brilliant one-liners you come up with while writing that make a perfect tweet? This doesn’t mean you can’t use them! Add them as an in-line “Click to Tweet” option or use them to schedule future tweets of this post.
You can even pre-write your meta description for even more motivation to keep your post focused and on track. Speaking of focused, how do you stay focused while you write?
4. Create a writing ritual
My best advice is to write when you’re in the zone. If you’re like me, you’re more clear-headed in the morning. Use this to your advantage by blocking out the first hour or two of your day on your calendar (actually add it like a meeting) as your time to write. You might be surprised what happens especially once you make this a habit.
In addition, create an environment that inspires you to write. Maybe this means getting a comfortable chair, a specific playlist, a spot with a view or a hot cup of tea. For me, it’s all of the above.
As I’m sitting here writing this post, I am basking in the sunlight streaming in from my office window with my feet up on the chair across from me. I have a cup of hot tea and some chips and hummus (my brain food of choice) next to me. I have my “monotony” playlist on Spotify set to the lowest possible, yet still audible, volume. And most importantly, I have all notifications turned off and an alarm on my phone set for 30 minutes. The alarm is so I will focus hard for 30 minutes and then take a break.
Not only do these things put me in a creative mindset, but I’ve begun to train my brain to associate certain things (mornings, putting my feet up, a playlist, a type of tea) with writing. When I get settled in, my mind knows it’s time to let the words flow forth.
However, sometimes I get inspired at random times (some more convenient than others) and I try to write in those moments too. Whether I’m at my desk or in the shower, I write.
Life Hack: Use a dry erase board attached to your shower wall with velcro strips and keep permanent markers in a suction cup shower caddy. Your notes won’t wash off while you’re shampooing but you can clean them off later with rubbing alcohol.
Once you towel off, grab your phone and snap a picture of your notes for later. Or, grab one of these handy notepads from AcquaNotes.
5. Allow yourself to be inspired
Speaking of being inspired to write at random times, sometimes you have to give into spur-of-the-moment inspiration. Content calendars are great and very important. In fact, only 44% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy.
However, if an idea strikes you - write about it!
Find a way to fit it in later. Replace a scheduled post or work it into your future content (one less blog you have to write and schedule before that vacation or conference coming up!) Plus, the best time to post something is not on a Tuesday early in the morning or a Friday afternoon right before the weekend. It’s when you have something compelling and uniquely valuable to say.
Bonus: Finish a great post but just can’t lock in a compelling title? Sometimes if I’m stumped on the perfect title even after writing a post, I’ll ask my roommate (or someone who isn’t very familiar with the topic) to read the post. Then, I ask him or her to explain it back to me in one sentence. This is usually a pretty good start to a very clear post title.
To sum it all up...
So, next time you start writing a piece of content, be sure to start by going back in time and looking at the success of your past posts. Then set yourself up for success by going where your prospects are and getting involved in conversations with them.
Once you decide on the goal of your post, schedule your social posts ahead of time. Finally, create a writing ritual and encourage yourself to write when you’re most productive.