Many parts of content marketing are slow. It takes a long time to build up an effective library of content. Establishing relationships with people is not a fast process. The sales cycle can be many months, or as much as a year or more.

But there is one part of content marketing that requires speed.

See, the average attention span when people are visiting websites or looking at e-mail is very short. You only have a few seconds to show them that the content you are providing is worthwhile.

If they have to read through several paragraphs before they get to something interesting, it won’t work. They will never get there.

This is where the importance of design comes in.

Words are wonderful, but people cannot take in very many words in a short period of time. We can, however, assess the entire feel of a piece based on the images and the design in just a few seconds. We make a lot of judgments just based on what we see immediately, including whether or not we want to spend more time fully taking in the content that is being offered.

There are two types of design to consider for your content pieces. I’ll call them general design and specific design.

General Design

General design only has to happen once, and it will last for a long time. This could be the design of your website, including your blog pages, your e-newsletter template, or other pieces that you will use over and over. Your overall branding, choice of colors, layout, etc. have a huge impact on the impression people get when they first see it.

If your pieces look professional and have a sense of high quality, people will assume that your business has a lot of value to offer. If, instead, your website or newsletter look crummy and cheap, people will make assumptions based on that as well, and you will likely have a difficult time keeping people around long enough to build relationships with them.

Marketing design is not my area of expertise, but I can tell you that it is worth while investing in good design for the platforms that you will use over and over again. I do design e-mail templates based on already existing brands, and I have seen the difference between those that are well-crafted and exude a level of quality and value, and those that do not.

Specific Design

By this, I mean design components that are specific to a particular piece of content. It could be a post on your blog, or an item in your newsletter. Even though these pieces of content are contained within your general design, you want to have something visual to distinguish them from one another.

If you use only words for a blog post, an offer, even a note, it will not have nearly as powerful an impact as if there is an image with it. The image can grab people’s attention and explain what you are offering or talking about in just a few seconds.

Here are some ideas of how you can use design to improve the impact of your content using specific design:

·      Create an image of your free opt-in offer. Even if you offer a digital item, design an image of a book or case with a cover that helps convey what it is that people will be getting.

·      Use graphics for your articles. Whether you are posting on your blog or including it in your e-newsletter, include a picture that is intriguing and makes people want to read on. It could be a stock image, a picture you took, or even a visual representation of a quote from the article. An added bonus is that you can post that image on your social media sites to promote the content!

·      Create a visual brand for your program or package. While it is obvious that there should be a picture of a physical product you are trying to sell, it is also important to have an image to represent a service-based program or product. Since there is no physical item, it is more like a logo that captures the essence of the program. It will help people understand what it is all about.

·      Take pictures of yourself regularly. This is one of my favorite visual tools because it is specifically about building relationships with people. By including pictures of yourself regularly, people will more quickly establish a connection to you. They don’t have to be professional pictures. In fact, candid photos of you in real-life context are even better for showing a part of yourself that people can relate to. And if they feel connected to you, they will want to read or listen to what you have to say.

Now, take a look at your use of both general and specific design, and pick one thing you can improve today!

 
 
I believe strongly that creating compelling content is the best way to get lots of ideal clients to hire you... eventually.

But too many people come to me and they want to do a campaign for a service they are offering in a few weeks. They expect that by sending out a few e-mails, they will be able to fill their program in a short period of time. Even when they haven't communicated to their list in 3 months!

I hate to break it to you, but that's not how it works.

Content marketing is not designed to produce quick results. What it is really good at is building relationships that will yield amazing results in the long run.

As you probably know, only a very small percentage of people want to hire you right away when you first meet them, or when they first come to your website, or hear about your business. Usually only about 1-2%. However, many of those people will hire you eventually, if you stay in touch with them.

Here's a statistic I often share: 60% of sales happen more than one year after the initial contact is made. A whole year! (And sometimes more!) If you aren't staying in touch with people on a regular basis, you are likely losing a lot of clients who would have loved to have heard from you, and would have hired you... eventually.

Content marketing is all about staying in touch with those people over an extended period of time, and strengthening your relationship with them during that time. This requires creating valuable content consistently.

If you send them two e-mails and then disappear, you will lose them. If you post on your blog once, and then don't put out anything for a couple of months, you will lose them. In fact, I have come to believe that the impression people get from businesses that don't put out content consistently is that they don't have enough value to share.

I'm not saying its true. Of course you have a lot of value to share. But if you aren't sharing it, it is as though it doesn't exist.

So I encourage you to start creating content on a consistent basis. It is a powerful tool for the future of your business. But know that you have to be in it for the long haul.

I know that in the beginning it can be daunting, and many people start out on this path but end of giving up after a few months. But here is the silver lining... the longer you stick with content creation, the faster it will start to work! 

Once you establish a library of content (25 pieces or more), and demonstrate your reliability and trustworthiness to share things regularly, your reputation grows. People will start referring others to you. New people can take in a lot of content very quickly because it is already there, and the magnitude of your value can be perceived immediately.

That doesn't mean you get to stop creating content! But it does mean that over time, the results will multiply. And you will see that all the effort you put into was indeed worth it... in the long run!
 
 
As a content creation coach, I am often mistaken for a copywriter. I am NOT a copywriter. For starters, copywriters write copy, not content. What’s the difference, you ask?

The difference is huge! And it could be the reason your content isn’t working. Here are five distinctions between content and copy that can help you determine if your business is creating effective content.

What’s the Purpose?

Copy is intended to inform people about something, like a business, a product, a service, an industry, or a person. It can also have the goal of causing the reader to take a particular action around that subject, like buying a product or signing up for a service.

The purpose of content is to build a relationship with the reader. That’s it. To interact in such a way that they get to know you, like you, and trust you.

The Content of your Content

The most important distinction between Copy and Content is what they contain. This is how they achieve their respective goals. Copy is informative, but not immediately valuable. It is based around facts, it is descriptive. It can talk to the reader and evoke a particular response, which is usually a purchase of a product or service. In order to take action, the reader must acquire something that they don’t currently have.

Content, on the other hand, is of immediate value to the reader. It is based in the knowledge, expertise, or opinion of the person writing it. Facts can be used to back up the advice, but there must be something new that the reader will learn that they can use immediately in their own life or business, without being expected to buy something. It is through the personal nature of the content (it is written by someone with particular knowledge) and the value given away that it is able to build relationships.

What? How?

Perhaps another way to think about it is by using Who, What, When, Where, How and Why. Copy focuses primarily on What, as well as When and Where if they are relevant. These are words that are informative. What does the program entail? When does the event take place? Where do I get that product?

Content focuses primarily on How and Why. How to improve your life or business in a particular way. Why something is important to the reader, or should be. Keep in mind that the immediate benefit to the reader may be a shift in mindset.

“Who” can fit under either copy or content, depending on its goal. Telling a personal story because it will benefit the reader in some way can be content. A biographical statement listing your accomplishments and credentials is copy.

Format matters

Content can come in a number of different forms. Content is generally either written or spoken, but can be in the form of a video, a webinar, a teleseminar, an audio program, articles, e-books, etc…  Copy is exclusively written, and is usually shorter in its format. Common forms of copy include website copy, advertising copy, e-mail copy, and sales copy for printed or digital media.

Who Can Write It

Copy can be delegated. With some basic information, the job of the copywriter is to make a particular thing (product, company, program, etc…) sound as interesting as possible. Content is much more difficult to outsource. It has to come from the person who is building the relationship. It is nearly impossible to write on someone else’s behalf without the knowledge and experience and personality that they have. I’ve seen people try to delegate their content creation, and it is rarely successful.

There is a place for both content and copy in our businesses. In fact they are both important. But too many business have only copy, and no true content.

And here’s the thing. People will read content consistently, but copy only occasionally. If you are sending good content, people will follow you for months and even years. You will build loyalty and strengthen relationships. If you are only sending copy, they will lose interest and stop reading your materials.

It’s not an exact science, but I have seen a recommendation that businesses should send 5 pieces of valuable content for every piece of sales copy. That’s 5 to 1!

So now that you know the difference, how can you start creating and using valuable content in your business?

 
 
With the new culture of content, there is a shift in the kinds of skills that are necessary.

Garrison Keilor, who does the NPR show “A Prairie Home Companion” likes to make fun of English Majors for their lack of job prospects. (Even though he is one!) He invented a fictitious organization called POEM – the Professional Organization of English Majors – to support them in their floundering.

But in all seriousness, writing and creative thinking are critical skills in the growing world of content marketing.

I just listened to an interview between my business mentor, Fabienne Frederickson, who has created a multi-million dollar business and Amy Cosper, the Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine and Media. It turns out that Fabienne majored in French Literature and Amy majored in Art History!

They took some time to talk about the virtues of a liberal arts education, and the value that is gained by learning to look at things from different perspectives, analyze things, and express your thoughts clearly, both in written and spoken form.

I practically jumped for joy!

I have a confession to make. I majored in African Cultural Studies. It was actually a major I pieced together by taking classes in history, music, dance, language, and studying abroad. I often tell people that I am a poster child for a liberal arts education.

The value of learning to communicate and connect is immeasurable.

I understand that everyone isn’t wired like this.

But those of us who are should not be forced to climb the same ladder as everyone else. Majoring in engineering or business may increase your chances of getting a predictable job in a particular field, but it does not mean that you will be happier or more successful.

Now, I realize that we aren’t in college anymore. And I’m not proposing that you go back to school.

But it is never too late to learn these kinds of things and hone your skills of creative thinking, writing, and communicating. I believe the world is your classroom.  Your business is your classroom. Experience is your teacher.

Learn by doing. Don’t expect to learn how to do this from a coach, or from a book. We can help you with a lot of things. We can give you direction, we can hold you accountable, we can help you get exposure for your content.

But creating content is something YOU have to DO. And you will learn as you go.

So register for your Content Creation Course now. It takes place once a week, so put it on your calendar, and meet yourself there. You’ll be amazed at what you will discover.