Content Marketing

An actionable guide on how to consistently create content that's both unique and interesting

It isn't just about the headline you write, it isn't even purely about the content you create. It's all about your approach to the process.

“How are you different from XYZ?”

That’s a question every entrepreneur has had to field at least once in his lifetime. Even though it is not an absolute necessity for a startup to be unique to increase its odds of success (and actually uniqueness can even be a bad thing sometimes), this question continues to be asked.

Why? Because the desire to stand out from the crowd is deeply ingrained within us, and as such we put a lot of emphasis on being unique.

Uniqueness does matter though. Even though it doesn’t matter that your product is quite similar to a competitor’s, as far as consumer’s perception goes, you always want to leave an impression that sets you apart from others and gives you a unique, independent identity.

Marketing is no different, specially content marketing. When a user comes across your content in his search results, you want it to feel different from the other results in the lineup. Relevant, contextual, valuable, but unique. It increases your odds of getting that coveted organic traffic. But, when you have a sea of content floating around on every possible topic you can think of, it gets more and more hard every single day to come up with content that’s truly unique.

But, it’s not impossible. It isn’t even as hard as we think of it to be. So today, lets take a minute to create a framework that will help you create unique content every time you fire up your blog’s editor.

Why is it crucial to get it right?

I was invited to a SaaS panel by SAP a couple of years back. As we were mingling during a fifteen minutes break, I got to talking to a few SAP senior execs. At one point, one of them said - “At SAP everyone is a salesperson. Whether your responsibilities include marketing or tech.”

He was laughing when he said that. But even if he meant it as a joke (which I think he did), it is not a bad notion, to be honest.

It doesn’t matter what sort of a company do you run or are a part of, every single one of the employees is into sales. Whether you are selling the capabilities of your tech, the prospects of your business, or career opportunities and excitement while working for the company. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, if you feel connected to the business, you are probably selling something or the other all the time. We are all salesmen.

The content marketer is no different. He is into sales, and his tool of the trade are his words. He is responsible for the entire consumer base - past, present and future. He is supposed to, through his content pieces, bring in new customers all the time, and simultaneously, nurture, grow, and maintain the relationship with existing customers.

And this is where being unique becomes important.

Because when you are tasked with so much responsibility, the last thing you want to be is be predictable and boring.

After all, as David Ogilvy himself said - you can’t bore people into buying your product, and once your content starts becoming yet another typical piece floating out there, it does become boring.

Why is it a challenge to come up with unique content?

Because of the word unique!

For your content to be unique, it needs to be original content that hasn’t been duplicated elsewhere. Is it really possible for a content to be truly original, something that has never been produced elsewhere? Even if you do manage to achieve this rare feat, it would be extremely difficult to achieve it every single time. There is just so much content out there, and not enough unique topics and traits. Overlaps are bound to happen, and the more overlapping your content is, the less original it gets.

You would have noticed that I replaced using the word unique with original in that last paragraph. Because while it is nearly impossible for your content to be original, it is far more achievable to have it be unique.

Being unique is about presentation and leaving an image. A perception. In this context, your content, more than anything else, needs to appear unique to your audience.

Your content doesn’t need to be impressive, neither can it be every single time. What it needs to do is be engaging, delightful and valuable - all of which aiming at one goal, to get you more clicks and reads.

The simplest and surest way to do so is to define a new area of focus that hasn’t been touched upon previously.

The mistakes that prevent your content from being unique

So, if creating unique content isn’t an impossible task, why is it that we see less and less unique content around us, and more of a content stream that appears to have been crafted out of the same mold?

Overuse of lists

Are you looking for a wordpress theme? A SEO plugin? How about an admin template? No matter what you search for, you will come across a barrage of results starting with a number. All of them are list based posts, and while lists continue to drive traffic, neither the volume nor the quality is what it once used to be. There are just far too many options out there.

Keywords, keywords, keywords

I know marketers who start creating their content based on the list of keywords at hand, with the intent of ranking up higher for those keywords. If you do that, how can you even expect your content to be unique when your competitors are following the exact same approach? Some overlap is inevitable.

I have never dissed on the necessity and value of keywords, but this is exactly why I have always been a vocal opponent of over-reliance on keywords, or of creating content that’s aimed at ranking up for keywords. When you start doing that, your focus is no longer on your customers, and that is the worst thing you can do.

When you read a non-fiction, what is it that gets you? Are those the facts and numbers laid out inside, or is it the human narrating his/her experience? Your content isn’t much different. Your audience cares less about what your content has to say and a lot more about what you have to say on the matter based on your experiences.

And your experiences and your feelings about them, and what they taught you - that whole process is as unique as it gets. It is non-replicable.

Ulterior motives, aka Sales!

It is about sales, so you wanting to have a content strategy that consistently brings in revenue is not an unreasonable want. It is justified even. The problem though is that while you want your customers to care about you and your product, you didn’t yourself care enough about your customers to have them as the primary focus of creating the content.

As we have discussed a few times earlier as well, all your writing starts with the basic question - what are my customers’ painpoints. Everything you do after that is an effort, a journey to figure out the answer to that question. It was on that journey that you came across search queries your customers are making on Google, the keywords related to those queries, the content being produced by your competitors. The entire discovery process started with that one question. So, how is it that when all that research starts culminating into the actual content piece, that question no longer remains the central theme and focus of it?

I promote my product in my writings as well, and so should you, but the first and foremost focus has to be creating a content valuable for the audience. To that end, the content needs to be exhaustive and expansive enough to address the topic at hand. It should describe your thoughts, feelings and opinions, but it also needs to help the audience get a complete overview of the situation.

Having a content calendar never worked for me, so I don’t use it, but when I was writing about how to execute on your content strategy, I did mention it all. I explained why I do not use a content calendar, and why they should, if they find value in that approach. Doing it any differently would have been wrong. If I had simply laid out the steps, with content calendar being one of the steps, the piece would have been fluff and disingenuous. After all, how can I be the right person to advocate for an approach I myself haven’t found useful. But if I had dismissed it altogether, that would have been wrong as well. Just because I haven’t personally benefitted from that approach doesn’t mean it is without merit. So, I laid out the whole approach, and described what I myself do and why.

Taking the easy way out

Building on an already existing foundation is always easy. So it is only natural to look at content that others in your segment have produced and come up with something similar. The problem with that approach is in its ingenuity. If all you are doing is editing an existing piece and calling it an original content, the only thing you would have succeeded at would be convincing yourself that you created something original and unique.

You can look at existing content. Sure. I do it myself. It helps me fire up the engines and think of possible topics to pick from. But once the engines are up and running and the wheels are in motion, the final piece is my own. Whether the article that inspired me talks about an aspect or not, if I find it meaningful, I will. Similarly, just because I found something in my research doesn’t mean I will propagate that point unless I agree with it. Your research is supposed to help you structure your thoughts, it isn’t meant to structure and constraint the content you’ll produce.

The million dollar question : Then, how do you create unique content?

KYC

Know your customers.

I can’t emphasize that enough. You need to constantly try to understand your audience better. No amount of research is going to substitute good old fashion talking to your consumers yourself. That is why all my pieces end with me extending an invitation to chat up on Twitter. I want to know your painpoints better, I want to understand what challenges you face, where are those challenges coming from, what do you do when faced with those challenges, and what are the roadblocks in eradicating those challenges. I want to know it all.

Your customers would be at different stages of awareness as far as their painpoints are concerned. Some would be just discovering those painpoints, and some would be close to closing down on a solution to those painpoints. The content that would be found valuable and insightful for both those segments would look quite different from one another. For one you would need a more descriptive approach since he would find value in even understanding the pain-point and the challenge better. For other, it would be more solution-oriented, since he is at a stage where he can talk about the challenge to a fair degree.

Knowing your audience plays a huge role in ensuring the quality, contextuality and even uniqueness of your content.

Understanding your audience and where they are at helps you on all front. Before you have written even a single word of content, it would have helped you figure out what to write about, what to avoid, and most importantly, who are you writing it for.

KYC 2

Know your competitors too! ;-)

It is an extension of the original KYC. While going through the content your competitors produce is largely seen as ‘knowing thy enemy’ so that you can outexecute them, I see it largely as the customer research exercise. If I can analyse the content my competitors produce, and access the reach and popularity of the said content, I end up getting a better understanding of my audience. By virtue of ‘borrowed research’. If some content of my competitors is performing well, it stands to reason that my audience’s state of mind, and the questions and challenges they have is being addressed, to some degree, by these content pieces.

And once I know my audience, I would know what I need to do myself.

Put things in perspective

Don’t simply lay out the facts. Put them in perspective of the topic being addressed.

Take this article itself, for example. My intent from the get go was to help you get an ‘actionable approach’ to ‘consistently’ create ‘unique’ and ‘interesting’ content. Why? Because that is what most content marketers struggle with - present company included. And all of those traits matter. It doesn’t matter if I can help you come up with a unique and interesting content today, if I can’t help you do that every time, then any reward you’ll reap out of creating that singular content would quickly fade away.

That’s it. That’s all that you need to do, and every single piece of content you will create would be a unique piece of art in itself. It may not be a long post, it could even not be the best out there in related topics (though in time, that will come to you), but it will sure as hell be new.

Always remember, you are either adding to the value, or the noise. Which side you add to is your choice.

Questions, Suggestions, Feedback, Criticism? I would love to chat.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers

Abhishek

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