Monthly Archives: September 2010

Old MacDonald’s Method for Creating Engaging Content

Okay, previously, the discussion was around the differences between “Big C” (Content Marketing) Content and little c content – how focusing on customers’ higher-order needs helps to ensure that communication is relevant, engaging, and will be acted upon by customers.

Like many mysteries in life, there’s both an art and a science to creating engaging Content.

First, the science:  all Content must serve objectives.

Great, you say; I need to create reach or consideration, or increase sales or referrals – just show me how Content can help me reach my objectives.

But here’s the  twist in the science:  content (small c) may help in achieving your objectives, but Content (Big C) is created when you focus on serving your customers’ objectives.

Customers’ Objectives?

Yes.  Your Customers’ objectives – while they map back to your overall brand marketing or business objectives, it’s important to place these objectives in terms of customers and their points of view.  No customer goes out to ‘increase reach’ or ‘increase sales’ – but they do need to become aware or gain a sense of reassurance.  C.A.R.E. ™ — Customer Acquisition and Retention through Engagement, a proprietary strategic framework from Nutlug, maps the stages a customer goes through in her journey with a brand, and as a basis of viewpoint, pairs marketing objectives with corresponding customer goals.

If content is created to address customer goals (Objectives), then it’s well on the way to becoming “Big C” Content .

But there’s more.  Just because content is geared to address Customer objectives doesn’t mean it’s necessarily engaging.  Customers have to enjoy it, learn something from it, be motivated by it, shown how to do something by it.

Short of market researching absolutely every blog post, every upload, every bit of “small c” content you create to gauge its likelihood to engage your customers, there is a simple checklist passed down from folksong lore to serve as a litmus test of sorts, to make sure your content is on the right track.

It’s called Old MacDonald’s Method for Engaging Content.

And here’s how the little ditty goes:

First and foremost, your Content needs to be ENTERTAINING.  This might seem logical, but in the scope of the world wide web, there’s a glut of customer options containing a flood of content that isn’t.  There’s really no sure fire formula for creating something that’s entertaining (or viral, for that matter), but it’s safe to start with placing oneself in the customer’s shoes and determining what’s entertaining to him or her.  Knowing your audience and creating robust customer personas is a good first step.

Next, check to see if your Content is INFORMATIONAL.  Allow your customers to experience the breadth of your knowledge on the subjects and topics that likely have drawn them to you in the first place.  This is really the key to in-bound marketing – creating Content that informs your customers in the higher order need areas they require.  Thought leadership is built around informational Content.

The other E in the “methodology” is EDUCATIONAL.  Yes, this is indeed different from Informational – it takes information to the next step by explaining and showing your customer how-to with your Content.   Some of the very best B-to-B Content is focused on being educational.  There is always an underlying fear of offering too much education to customers that they won’t need to purchase your products or services; do your best to ignore this irrational ghost.  If a wireless router manufacturer provides a three minute video on how to set up a wireless router, I’ve been educated…but will still need the product (and likely the services to have someone do it right for me!).

The other I stands for INSPIRATIONAL.  Often the overlooked element to Big C Content, persuasive storytelling goes well beyond ‘selling’ – along with offering entertaining content that informs and educates, Content also gives the pep talk, the slap on the back, the kick in the rear that urges the customer to do something.  Case studies play well in this sandbox – showing how another small business owner leveraged social networking to increase referrals, for example, can lead to inspire others to follow.  Inspiration’s muse is often emotional, but founded in rational Content, particularly when it helps achieve the aforementioned higher-order needs.

It doesn’t stand for okay (as in ‘Okay, I can see where you’re going with this E-I-E-I-O thing, Keith) – but it refers back to the Customer OBJECTIVES discussed earlier.  Efforts can be entertaining, informational, educational, and inspirational… and still not be Big C Content.  Adhering to customer objectives (and yes, they do tie in with your brand’s objectives as well) is the key note in our tune.  Otherwise, it’s just E-I-E-I….

So don’t forget the O.  It’s the basis of Big C.

That’s what MacDonald says, anyway.

content vs. Content (Marketing)

There are content strategist, content creators, content curators, website content, video content, audio content, blog content, all sorts of content.          And then there’s Content.

A little clarification, please…

The idea of content, all by itself, is quite literally anything created to be viewed, read, listened to.  This general type of content includes product descriptions, FAQs, videos of your cat walking across the piano, product brochures, really anything.

Go to any website, and everything you read is ‘content.’  The history, the about us, the contact us, the site map, the FAQs, everything.

Just ask a content strategist.  It’s their job to plan for, execute, govern, and archive every piece of content that could be found on a website.  Some of what they oversee is Content Marketing content, efforts that impact their audiences based on customer wants & needs; much of what they oversee is not, and is just ‘content’ –  necessary (most of the time) information that the site wishes to push out to prospects and customers.  It doesn’t necessarily have the best interests of the reader/viewer/listener in mind, although it may be optimized, governed, tagged, and/or created following user experience (UX) guidelines.

Don’t get me wrong – there are some terrific content strategists out there and their websites reflect this:  engaging, experiential, customer-centric.    But in turn, there are just websites, just like there are just magazines, video, newsletters, and so on – filled with content.  Not necessarily engaging, customer-centric, or anything beyond self-serving, but with content nonetheless.

Some content works within Content Marketing; all Content Marketing is content.

Big C Content

I like to think of Content Marketing as “Big C” Content, and all other content as small c content.

So what marks the difference?  How do we get from content with a small c to Big C Content?

Well, the key step is to focus on higher-order needs of the customer. What does this mean?

Here’s a great example:  I once worked with a custom communications agency and their global chemical company client which manufactured, amongst hundreds of other things, a unique termicide…that is, a termite killing chemical.  And, along with microsite content, the marketer wished to put a custom magazine into the mailboxes of prospective homeowners who lived in upscale homes located in ‘termite-friendly’ regions.

Now, just like you, my first reaction was ‘who on earth wants to read a magazine about termicides?’  It’s one thing to want resolution once you’ve discovered your home’s already been infested with the wood-eaters, but quite another to want to make the topic salient enough to want to prevent it, without beating the prospect over the head with the idea.  After all……yeech.

The solution came about with the agency and client determining the higher-order needs of the customer.  Telling the prospects solely about termicides would surely seem to benefit the marketer, but not really the customer.  But speaking to the higher-order need of what termite-production provides – that is, ensuring protection of their greatest investment, of making their home life that much better – the Content flowed naturally and effectively.  Yes, the Content mix included the termicide brand and articles about termite protection, but was chiefly about doing things for one’s home, for one’s family, for oneself that preserved, enhanced, and protected these.


And it worked.  Not only did the program accomplish its stated marketing objectives, but also won awards for design.  Content about termites!  Truly leveraging Big C Content.

The next posting will talk about a simple formula to ensure your content is Content!

And here’s a hint:  I’ve deemed it Old MacDonald’s Method for Engaging Content.