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Father, Forgive Me: I Failed to Provide Value

Father, forgive me. It has been 24 years since my last confession*. These are my sins: 

  • I created content solely for the purpose of creating content;
  • I distributed useless content; and
  • I failed to offer value to my readers.

Childhood Excuses: Sharing my professional blunder throws me back to my youth, when I knelt in the confessional, trying to remain anonymous before Father Ciaola, though I was fairly certain he could see through the dark linen cloth.

To ensure a light penance, I relied on the same three sins every kid my age did: I lied, I fought with my brothers and sisters, and I disobeyed my parents. (If you weren’t raised Catholic, just ask someone who was.) Anyway, like I said, I knew I would get off with a light penance if I admitted to these three rote, somewhat-acceptable sins.

A Teenage Error in Judgment: One time – one time, mind you – I told Father Ciaola the truth. What I had done was a bad thing for a 14-year-old girl (I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t THAT bad). Anyway, I confessed it, thinking my honesty would create a sense of mercy in Father Ciaola. It didn’t.

He told me what I already knew, “You shouldn’t do that!” Then he gave me a harsh penance and sent me on my way.

The Shameful Blunder a Professional Content Writer: I didn’t have to confer with Father Ciaola, or anyone for that matter, to know that I had gone astray. All I had to do was look at what I’d written and say, “I shouldn’t have done that!”

I’m a content professional, and I believe I’m good at what I do. When it comes to sharing a business message, I guide my clients in the following practices (which are also detailed in The Archery of Good Communications: 4 steps to convey value).

  • Figure out who needs what you offer.
  • Respect your own expertise; believe that you have knowledge worth sharing.
  • Share valuable ideas and useful, concrete tips.
  • Don’t write to sell.
  • Write well.
  • Give your audience something worth remembering or something worth doing.
  • Find out how your audience wants to receive information, and follow their lead.

Takeaways: The takeaway here is that professional blunders come with a cost, and that cost can be a lot more than a light (or even harsh) penance from Father Ciaola.

We should always think about what we have to lose before we push ideas or content or products or services that provide no value to our audience. We could lose:

  • Relevance
  • Credibility
  • The patience of a faithful audience
  • Our place as a trusted expert

Even worse, the failure to provide value to our audience can and will eventually result in a loss of business. So, whether we are delivering knowledge, services, or products, the onus is on us:

  • We must always put the needs of our audience first.
  • We must always respect the time of our audience.
  • We must, to the best of our ability, always deliver value and quality.

Sometimes the hardest lessons come in the form of failure, and that’s something even Father Ciaola could not have instilled in me.

*This content should not be construed as a religious or doctrinal statement; rather, it is a sarcastic bit of self-deprecating fun.

Bitcoin, Block Chain, and Other Things I Knew Nothing About

Five weeks ago, I knew nothing about Bitcoin and Block Chain. Four weeks later, an international firm published my article on the investment potential of Bitcoin and Block Chain.

Why would a company hire a writer who knows little to nothing about the topic they want to communicate? That’s a fair and logical question.

The answer, at first glance, might not seem as logical, but here it is:

Content writing has little to do with industry expertise.

Does that scare you? If you are going to pay someone to convey your coveted expertise to customers, why hire someone who possesses none of that expertise? Three reasons, actually.

Three reasons why you should hire a content writer to convey your message:

Internal technical people have little time to write. What company wants to pay their brightest technical minds to write, when they could be developing new products, driving operational efficiencies, or improving the company’s bottom line? Expecting your engineers or business development people to write is a poor use of your resources.

Technical people aren’t always the most capable writers. I’ve been told this dozens of times by the technical experts themselves or by their managers. Writing is a skill, and unbeknownst to many people, it is a time-consuming and somewhat painful process. Not everyone is going to be a strong writer, and that includes the most intelligent and forward-thinking members of your team. And that’s okay. It’s no different than the fact that only one person on a team is going to be the best goalie, the best three-point shooter, the best salesperson, or the best motivator.

Experienced writers can deliver what you need. A qualified, experienced writer can deliver timely, accurate, and effective content. (See samples of industry-specific content writing.)

There is no magic to content writing. Writers rely heavily on independent research and expert interviews. (For example, I read more than 40 articles and interviewed three people before writing my own Bitcoin piece.)

Writing is a craft that blends technical expertise with the flow of appealing, persuasive copy. Pure technical content belongs in the realm of user manuals and research papers. Marketing content has another purpose, and that is to call a targeted audience to action. Whether you’re positioning yourself as an industry expert, working to stay ahead of the competition, or pushing a particular product or service, a content writer is best suited to speak directly to your target audience.

A writer thinks like a customer. If I don’t understand what you have to offer, it’s likely that your customers won’t either. Your expertise is your selling point, but it’s important to share that expertise without losing the interest of your audience. A content writer gathers, absorbs, and distills information to fit the needs of your target audience through subtly-persuasive content.

Investing in an expert writer is a good call when you’re ready to get results by increasing awareness, positioning yourself as an industry expert, or calling your audience to action. Just be sure to find a writer who can understand your business and translate your message in a way that is understandable and impactful to your audience.

Influence Your Vertical Markets with Industry Content

A strong content marketing strategy helps you become visible within a particular industry. In turn, that visibility helps establish you as an industry expert. The result? Enhanced visibility and credibility pour directly into increased lead generation.

As with most things in life, you have to spend money in order to make money. Before you decide how to spend your marketing and business development dollars, it’s important to consider how you want to influence your verticals.

I’ve never had a business owner say to me, “I want to spend money to market to my competitors.”

Don’t dilute the value of your marketing dollars.
Many companies, unfortunately, waste money by marketing to their own industry. Let’s use this example: you are an IT consultant and you get an article published on a site frequented by other IT consultants. It’s rewarding to get published, but in truth, your voice is absorbed into a black hole, along with the voices of other IT consultants who already know what you have to say.

In this case, you are spending money on good content, and your content is being seen, but you’re not reaching the right vertical market. The result is a lack of influence. This example, by the way, is applicable to every industry.

Invest in a 4-part content marketing solution.
The best approach to content marketing is to write for one end-user niche, or one vertical market, at a time. This vertical approach to content marketing results in a consistent message that makes it easier for your audience to envision how your service is their solution. From my experience, when you focus on vertical marketing content, you will be sharing knowledge with an audience that few others have tapped.

Following are four important components of a successful content marketing strategy:

Identify your vertical markets. A good first step is to target one vertical. This allows you to refine your message and create enough visibility to make an impact. Once you have established a foothold in one industry, you can more easily adjust your existing content for alternate vertical markets.

Repurpose your content. Achieving content visibility through print or online channels is a definite win and a great first step. What you do from there, however, matters just as much. The key is to use that content again and again, through social media, on various blog channels, on your website, as a part of an email marketing campaign, or as a webinar resource. Make sure that your content strategy specifically addresses how the value of your content can be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d!

Engage a content marketing expert who does more than write well. Partner with a professional who can provide a comprehensive content strategy. in addition to producing top-notch content.

Trust the process. When a new restaurant doesn’t deliver what you expect on the first visit, you can quickly write it off as a bad spend. The same cannot be said of content marketing. Give your strategy time to work and your audience the opportunity to absorb why you are the answer to their problem.

Ready to learn more about influencing your vertical markets?  Take a look at my content portfolio, and then give me a call at 412-352-4830 or email me at Kathy@KathySerenko.com. I would love to talk with you!

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