Let’s get this straight: You, content marketer, are not in control. You never have been and never will be. Engagement rests purely in the hands of your audience. You can’t make them engage with your content. You can only offer them content choices. The best content marketers aim to make those choices compelling, but the game is always rigged in the audience’s favor. You will live and die by their whims.
That’s not to say you’re powerless in your content-creation efforts. Quite the opposite: You create the world for your audience to navigate, tug on the industry and product narratives that pull them in a certain direction and aim to deliver a satisfying story. Now, being a B2B content creator for … punches number on the calculator and gasps 16 years … you may think I learned these lessons on the professional beat. But I did not. I learned about the audience’s power in content engagement by playing Dungeons & Dragons.
If you’re still with me, I’ll drop the content-creator screen and teach you the tactics to keep your content rolling and your audience engagement strong. Here we go…
Roll for (content-creation) initiative!
To create successful content, you actually have to create the content. It can be a grind, but you should approach it as a labor of love. First, set a schedule. (We covered that in a previous blog.) Then, pick your topic. Start with a topic or story idea that you’re excited to write about. If you’re excited to write it, that’ll shine through and your audience will likely be excited to read it.
“But wait, snarky editor!” you yell. “You said I won’t have any control over my audience engagement.”
That’s still true because once you land on your topic, now you have to come up with the angle that resonates with a problem your audience is facing. The most interesting conflict in content marketing always will be the conflict your audience is facing – maybe it’s supply chain challenges, a need for product and service efficiency or even an increasingly innovative landscape that challenges business norms.
What you shouldn’t do is try to shove your product story in their faces. Audiences are clever. They can see through transparent sales tactics. They’re always more interested in their story than your story. You have to come at it from their point of view and then work toward where you want them to get: a compelling call-to-action that sets the hook once you’ve baited them with interesting and relevant topics.
If you’re racking your brain for ideas, the D&D dungeon master always has a handy random roll table to come up with quick answers on the fly. So, grab a 1d6 and give it a roll (that’s D&D shorthand for rolling one six-sided die) if you need help getting started:
1-2: Write about something seasonally relevant. We’re moving from fall to winter, currently. What challenges are your customers facing that your product helps them overcome?
3-4: Write about something topical. There’s no shortage of sea changes happening in all industries. How is technology impacting your customers? What changes do they face? And how do you help them weather the new market climate?
5-6: Back to basics. You got into this business because you saw a problem that your product addresses. Even if you’re killing it in the market, the problem likely still exists. It never hurts to go back to the basics ¬– “blocking and tackling,” as the business types like to call it.
Re-writing the rules to run a successful content marketing game
Rules are a funny thing. They’re needed to get into the game, but people rarely want to play by them. And why should they? It’s way more fun to riff on the rules as you go. Sticking to preconceived notions of content marketing rules can stifle creativity. In D&D, we call someone who kills creativity with cries of “rules as written!” a “rules lawyer.”
Don’t be a content marketing rules lawyer. Try new things and push your ideas too far. (Write a corporate blog based on D&D, for example.) You’ll know when you’ve skewed too far into indulging in your own whimsy because the audience’s demands always should pull you back. It’s their content to engage with after all. You just created it.