Content marketing is a critical tool for lead generation and organic traffic building. When most people hear “content marketing,” they envision having to sit in front of a computer pecking away at the keyboard for hours and hours—and maybe that’s why many businesses don’t try content marketing.
Can you run a successful content marketing business as a lousy writer? Can you work in this area if you really dislike writing?
Absolutely. These tips will help even the less-than-stellar writer create excellent content.
Focus on thought leadership
The very best content is full of actionable ideas that your audience can use. Even if you’re not a natural writer, let yourself be a natural thought leader, sharing novel, interesting ideas with an audience. An influencer or thought leader possesses insights and can teach readers based on years of experience.
This means it should be your ideas and insights that are featured in your content marketing strategy. Think of your content as a vehicle for your ideas and authority, not as being about the writing itself. The writing just showcases the ideas.
Create a process that works and stick to it
Meet with your team regularly, at least once a month, to brainstorm and keep your list of topics and ideas robust. If writing it down isn’t your forte, that job goes to someone else on the team. Do make sure there is a process in place that all team members can follow easily.
Just get it down
Sometimes staring at a blank page sabotages your writing process. It can be intimidating to think about writing hundreds of words when you are starting with nothing. Your trick here is to just get an idea written down—just an idea. You don’t need complete sentences or complex organization to get started; you just need to get a list of thoughts or ideas down in list form.
Set a goal for yourself so that you are on the hook to write something down at least once a week. Even if it’s not your best work, make it happen according to schedule; you can revise and get help from your team later. Consistency is important because this is what trains your mind to write regularly.
Start with a few hundred words per week. Just get the words down so you get into practice. Once your mind learns to clear this hurdle more easily, double the word limit for your weekly goal. You will find that it gets easier and easier to write this way; like working out, you’ll be getting stronger each week.
Play to your strengths
Maybe you have a lot of experience and great at coming up with useful anecdotes, but you’re really not good at tying it all together. Or maybe your grammar and spelling is a little weak, but you have a great way of telling a story. Whatever you are best at should be the strength you play to as a writer. The rest of your team is there to cover your weak side, so don’t worry about it.
Assemble a great team
Choose your writing team based on your weaknesses and outstanding needs. Since you need to make sure that someone on the team can handle each essential area, it may help to identify each area in list form when you start this process.
For example, someone should be very strong on technical issues like grammar. Someone should be a solid editor who can reign in unwieldy pieces and make concrete, constructive comments about drafts. And don’t neglect to ensure that someone on your team can bring some creativity to the process. Make sure you aren’t overloading team members, and that their existing tasks won’t make their writing team tasks too onerous.
Figure out what you’re doing wrong
Do this exercise to get a better sense of your writing problems. Take the few hundred words you write one week during one of your “be consistent” sessions, and pick it apart. What don’t you like about that writing? What are the ideas you intended to express; are they different than what you wrote down?
To know how to improve you are looking for concrete problems, little things that are hurting your writing. These kinds of little problems can be fixed one at a time once you’ve identified what they really are. This is a great space for your team editor to help you out!
Use space and formatting
A lot of the less-impressive writing I see online suffers from what’s really just bad formatting. Remember to format with lots of space to instantly improve your written work. Make your writing easy and pleasant to read with space and clear formatting.
Say what you mean
Make sure your ideas got turned into words. This may seem silly, but many, many writers get their ideas lost in translation as they struggle to get the ideas written down. Make sure each thought you wrote down, line by line, says what you meant. Test how well you’re doing by asking a team member to paraphrase what you’ve said line by line; you may be surprised to see that your real message isn’t coming across.
Even the best writers need something to say. A major part of good content writing is providing more value in each piece of content, and doing thorough research can make that happen. Even if you are very knowledgeable about your topics, there is almost always more to learn from research—which means there is more value you could be adding.
Start with a skeleton
You could also call this an outline, but the point is to have a central structure in your article that holds the whole thing together and provides a strong source of organization. Don’t get bogged down in whether you’re using letters or Roman numerals in your outline; leave that back in high school writing class. Instead, create your section headers to give your piece its basic structure. Make sure you can get the main idea of the whole piece just by reading the headers.
Lose the jargon
Sometimes you need to use very specific, industry language. If you really need to, do it. Otherwise, cut jargon out of your writing like it’s cancer. It’s boring, ineffective, and hard to read.
Simple is best
Make sure your sentences are simple. Each sentence should clearly express one simple idea. A paragraph should contain no more than 3 to 5 of these short, clear sentences, which together make one basic point.
Write like you talk
You have good ideas and people want to hear them. That’s why you’re running a successful business. Just write the way you talk, as if you were giving your colleague a few pointers.
Hack your headlines
Posts with compelling headlines grab more readers. You can work on making yours stronger by keeping track of your most successful posts; which are people pursuing, and what do those headlines have in common? You can also watch your favorite industry writers to see how they create headlines.
Expand your definition of content
If you’re really not a writer, remember that there’s more to content marketing than written posts. You can create Google hangouts, infographics, podcasts, Slideshare presentations, webinars, YouTube videos as part of your content marketing strategy. If you do, don’t forget to optimize each piece and use strong tags and keywords.
Smart, targeted repurposing
Although your emphasis should be on creating new, excellent content, if you have older content that you can repurpose, this is also an option. This does not mean simply republishing the same piece elsewhere. It might mean taking an article and basing a video on it, or otherwise changing the form of your content. It might also be taking an existing piece and updating it with the latest information.
Savvy content marketing is entirely possible, even if you’re not world’s greatest writer. In fact, you have just as much to gain from content marketing as someone who writes content effortlessly. The key here is to provide great value in ways that you can handle and improve where you can. What are some creative ways that you’ve been able to create excellent content that works for your strengths?