Content Marketing

How to Create Attention-Grabbing Content for a “Boring” Industry

Brad Smith
May 1, 2012

Content marketing is the backbone of improving your marketing ROI.

And a blog writer can get more traffic, leads and customers than advertising.

But what if you’re in a “boring” industry. You know, the type where no one reads or shares anything.

Is content marketing still important?

And if so, how do you create content that will actually bring in business?


Why Every Business is in the Media Business

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re interested in internet marketing, then you have to create content.

Because creating a “media marketing asset” gives you direct access to building an audience. You won’t have to rely on other sales channels or “pay an advertising toll” each time you want to reach your customers.

Think about your favorite magazine. Why do they give away so much valuable content for next to nothing?

They do it to build a loyal subscriber base. They want to build a “media asset” that people willingly come back to each day, week or month.

They’re then able to monetize that attention. That’s why so many companies spend billions on advertising each year. They’re paying for your attention.

The same is true online, and it’s why content is an essential component of “inbound marketing”. It also scales better than advertising, so you’re able to grow larger and faster, for less over time.

That’s why creating content is essential for any industry. But not just any content. You need exceptional content that gets your target audience’s attention, and keeps them interested.

How do you do that?

By intimately understanding your customers.

Who are they? What do they like and dislike? What keeps them up at night?

Until you understand these things, you won’t be able to create content that speaks to them and compels them to take action.

The difficult part about creating content for a “boring” industry is figuring out what your target customers actually want to read.

Here are two ways to help you with that.


1. Narrow your focus on a specific audience

Most businesses have several different customer segments. Which is great for revenue, but difficult for marketing. These people all have different motivations. So it’s hard to create content for a vague, general audience.

The first solution is to narrow your focus and go deep.

This works well when you want to develop a market segment, like college kids for example, and you focus specifically on their needs, wants, and desires.

If content marketing starts with a specific audience’s problems, then it’s incredibly difficult to create content for different types of people from different age groups and interests. They’re all going to respond to different things.

So by narrowing your focus on one specific audience segment, you can create and design everything for their unique characteristics.

For example, American Express created the OPEN Forum to cater to small businesses.

Instead of trying to go after every type of AmEx customer, they focused on one subset and built out a deep, content rich site that caters to this market’s unique needs and desires.

In 2010 alone, OPEN Forum had over 10 million page views. How much do you think that would have cost in advertising?

And it was created (and is owned) by a finance company… not some “traditional” business media entity you might expect like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes or Fortune.

This level of audience specificity and attention to detail is why the OPEN Forum site is one of the largest online media websites for small businesses.

But there’s one more thing.

You won’t find many articles on OPEN Forum about their company, or credit cards in particular.

Here’s why.


2. Focus on what your product or service does for others

The most common excuse for not blogging is, “My industry/target market doesn’t want to read anything”.

You’re right… no one wants to read about you or your industry. But they would read about their own issues.

Instead of being topic-focused, be audience-focused. The topics will change or evolve depending on what your audience cares about.

Think about how your product/service helps other people. How does it take away their pain? What is the solution they get?

For example, no one wants to read about your hotel. But they would read about planning a vacation (where your hotel is located).

Or how about home improvement and appliances? Many people could care less about paint, power tools and dishwashers (myself included).

Lowe’s understandings this. So they focus on what you’re trying to do with their products.

They have a content-driven site, Lowe’s Creative Ideas, to help you transform your own indoor spaces, outdoor spaces, and weekend projects. It’s packed full of video tutorials, educational articles, and step-by-step instructions to walk you through your own DIY projects.

Take a look at their Pinterest account, where they’ve put together attention grabbing “boards” like Grillin’ and Chillin’, and 50 Projects Under 50 in an easy-to-spread format.

Oh, and they’ve also created a magazine based on all of their content. The digital team at Lowe’s understands that they’re in the media business.

But more importantly, they understand their audience, and the benefit their products are trying to give them.


Conclusion

Savvy online marketers know that they’re in the media business. Because you can’t sell anything without first getting your customer’s attention.

But content is a commodity. Millions of blog posts go up each day. So “good” content just doesn’t cut it anymore. You’ll just get lost in a sea of mediocrity.

If you want content to drive sales, then it needs to be exceptional.

That’s easy in a sexy industry. But what about all those boring ones?

No matter what industry you’re in, the key is understanding your audience, and translating the benefits you provide.

Because people consume content and share it with their friends on a daily basis.

Last year, Twitter sent 230 million Tweets with links per day, and Facebook had over 30 billion pieces of content shared in a month.

If people aren’t Liking or Tweeting your posts, it’s not because “that audience doesn’t”. It’s because your content doesn’t move them.

5 thoughts on “How to Create Attention-Grabbing Content for a “Boring” Industry

  1. Wanted to commend you on a succinct and useful assessment of what interests and motivates prospects/customers to come back, read and take action. However, it reminded me of the original assessment of good direct marketing component success 1. Know your customer – 70%, have an offer that interests them 20%, and the actual copy 10%. In simple terms good copy is a derivative of knowing the customer, their pain points and offering a quality solution without which the actual prose will fail.

  2. Hey Brad,

    Great article. I’m starting to wonder whether the most useful thing to do would be to throw content out there and see who bites.

    Kind of like baiting a fishing line. You don’t really know what might bite if you put a tennis ball on the hook.

    I can always be pretty certain that certain pieces of content will attract someone. It’s just too hard to figure out who it will be at the beginning.

    The other challenge is figuring out whether these people will pay money for what you have to offer. You can spend a whole lot of time developing content only to discover, in the end, that it only attracts free loaders.

    How can we solve this dilemma?

    1. Hey Martin, great questions.

      1. Regarding Topics: That’s absolutely right – you don’t really know what will resonate with an audience. You have to focus specifically on who your audience is, and then try a lot of things around the edges.

      Here are some more tips:
      – Scan big blogs and voting/news sites for ideas, and what you can drill deeper
      – Popular types: Deep how-tos, tactical or lists
      – Keyword research: Use Google Keyword Tool to find popular keyphrases and long-tail variations.

      2. Regarding Paying: Again, you don’t really know ahead of time. Try looking at similar alternatives or solutions to what you want to sell (i.e. types of services, products, etc. that other competitors or people in other industries are selling).

      But at the end of the day, you will also have to try test and experiment. You can also think about different business models, like advertising/sponsorship.

      Hope that helps!

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