How to Create Content That Stands Out from the Competition
Everybody and their mom, dad, aunt and cat are creating content. So how do you make yours stand out? We thought that Marcus Sheridan, author of The Sales Lion blog and highly sought after public speaker, would be the perfect person to ask.
By Kristen Dunleavy March 2, 2015
Did you know that 91 percent of B2B marketers and 86 percent of B2C marketers are using content marketing? Everybody and their mom, dad, aunt and cat are creating content. So how do you make yours stand out?
We thought Marcus Sheridan, author of The Sales Lion blog and highly sought after public speaker, would be the perfect person to ask. Marcus grew his swimming pool company to one of the largest of its kind – all thanks to awesome content marketing. These days, he uses his powers to help other entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
Read on in this Q&A to learn how to get started in content marketing, specific topics you should write about and the one thing you need to add to your website today.
Kristen Dunleavy (KD): Customers can form an opinion of a business’s website pretty fast. What’s the first thing they notice?
Marcus Sheridan (MS): I actually do this experiment a lot with smaller groups and workshops, and it’s done by asking a very simple question: What emotion do you experience as soon as you see this website? Then, I’ll show the website and they are asked to say the first emotion that comes to mind.
Most companies have never actually done this with a group of people unfamiliar with their business or brand, and the reality is reactions and impressions can be profound.
Ultimately, what people “feel” as soon as they open up a webpage is whether or not it’s cluttered – and therefore whether they can find what they’re looking quickly. If they can’t, they’ll quickly leave. That’s reality.
KD: What’s the best way to quickly make your content stand out from the competition?
MS: In every industry (B2B, B2C, service, product, whatever), there are subjects that “move the needle.” In other words, there are subjects consumers very much want to talk about, but few businesses want to join in on the conversation online. These five main subjects are:
- Cost/pricing questions
- Problems/issues questions
- Comparison/versus questions
- ‘Best of’ questions
KD: Do you have any tips for business owners that want to keep tabs on their competitors? What should they be paying attention to?
MS: I think paying attention to the competition is way overvalued. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care, but what I am saying is that the competition doesn’t pay your bills, and therefore don’t merit the attention. Who does merit the attention? Your ideal customers, that’s who!
Businesses should be obsessed with the way their ideal customers think, feel and what they want to know. And for those that are obsessed, they usually are the ones doing incredible things – online and off.
KD: What’s one thing that every business owner needs to add to their website?
MS: A definitive guide to product/service pricing for their industry. Unless a consumer sees at least some cost/price info on your site, they’ll leave. They won’t call you. They won’t fill out a form. They’ll leave…just like you do when you feel like a business is “hiding” something from you online.
KD: How can businesses build trust with prospects using their content?
MS: Content, in my opinion, isn’t worth a grain of salt unless it’s incredibly honest, transparent and unbiased. If it’s those things, it will build trust. If it’s not – or it’s too sales-y – forget about it.
KD: What’s one content mistake that too many businesses are making?
MS: This goes along with the previous question. Business are naturally biased. They are, and consumers can sense this immediately. Unless a business learns to “disarm” the reader with their content, they won’t experience great success.
KD: A lot of business owners aren’t sure how to get started with content marketing. What’s the first thing they should do?
MS: Brainstorm every single question consumers ask as they are researching your product/service/company during the buying process. Now take each one of those questions and answer them one by one in a blog article on the website.
KD: Time can be an issue when it comes to content marketing: people just don’t have it. Any tips for maximizing your time when it comes to content?
MS: I actually don’t agree with this question. “Time” has nothing to do with content marketing. Rather, “value” and “understanding” have everything to do with it. In other words, if a company comes to me and says, “Marcus, we simply don’t have the time for content marketing,” what they are actually saying is, “We don’t value content marketing, Marcus.”
In life, we magically find the time to do that which we value.
And if we don’t value it, we don’t get it done.
It’s that simple.
KD: In your opinion, what turns mediocre content into game-changing content?
- It’s gutsy – It addresses subjects others won’t touch.
- It’s unbiased – Read above.
- It’s thorough – Great teaching is key here.
- It’s real – This is something we “feel” when we read or watch something. It’s hard to define, but easily felt.
KD: Can you name some companies that you think are doing content right?
MS: I’ll name some businesses that have amazing blogs and content most folks haven’t heard of:
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