“But What If the Content Sucks?”

Recently, I had a great call with a prospective client. Quite frankly, it was my favorite kind of phone call. He soaked up our proposal and had so many fantastic questions. Like so many of our clients, this will be the first non-traditional marketing engagement his company dives into. Aside from talking about each anticipated phase and line item, he asked a question that was so straightforward I nearly stood up and cheered.

As we explored the Content Creation phase, he paused and asked, “But what if the content sucks?”

How awesome is that?!

This is actually a question that I’m sure so many companies have. Yet, it’s the one question nobody asks! After all, they don’t want to offend or imply that Well Planned Web would ever produce rotten content. But, when investing thousands of dollars each month in a Content Strategy, shouldn’t you feel confident in what you’re getting? Yes. Yes, you should. So ASK that very question of any content agency you interview (okay, first choose whether the word “sucks” is part of your personal voice or tone 🙂 ).

But here’s an important question for you to explore beforehand…

What drives your definition of “good” content?

Okay, of course, the content has to be well written. But, let’s put sentence structure, readability and traditional writing standards aside here. We’re talking about the meat… or the message itself. What makes it “good?”

Truth is, we often see irrational fears and motives drive CEO, CMO and even Content Directors’ definitions of “good” content…rather than what’s ultimately best for the customer or prospect. It’s human nature and it’s a slippery slope.

Before you say, “that’s not me,” read on…

I challenge you to think through your own definition of “quality” content and where it’s coming from. 

1. Who are you hoping will hear you?

No, really. Every serious marketer better take a hard look at who their audience is. In fact, you may have several core audiences that you need to speak to.

Step out of the traditional “demographics” definition and spend some serious time observing them, putting yourself in their shoes, thinking about what keeps them up at night. Once this is defined, documented and embraced, you simply can’t lose.

Well-defined Audience Profiles ensure that every person on your sales team, marketing team and beyond are “one” with your audience. This is not a process that’s documented in a pretty binder and shelved so we all feel good. This is the ultimate accountability tool. After all, if we’re talking to anyone other than your audience, you’re wasting a lot of dough.

2. Who are you trying to impress?

Let’s be clear: ego is a part of business. But it has no place in communication with your prospects. Although everyone understands that we’re supposed to put customer and prospect needs first in our content, so many marketing teams, CMOs and writers get swept up in the need for internal or competitor approval and praise. This slope only gets slippery when you add infinite approval levels to the mix

The only way to get around this is to hold each other accountable — plain and simple. If the customer constantly asks about price, don’t create a shiny infographic about process. The infographic may gain you short-term praise internally, but a pricing worksheet will win the long-term conversion numbers. Is a worksheet sexy? Depends on who you’re trying to impress.

Bottom line: Your ideal audience defines “good” content. Not your competitors. Not your CEO. Not your ego.

3. Are you in survival or solution mode?

It’s no secret that leadership defines the culture and morale of a company. But, it can also define the mood of that company’s content.

It comes down to a simple list of “gut-check” questions.

Survival mode:

  • Do you have something to prove?
  • Do you have something to hide?
  • Do you have something to lose?

If you look hard and (often reluctantly) find that you or your leadership team is motivated mostly by survival, then it’s time to transform your group’s thinking.

Solution mode:

  • Do you have solutions to share?
  • Do you have answers to give?
  • Do you have insights to offer?

Content clearly falls into either survival mode or solution mode. Where is yours? Some of the best-written content is sadly trying to prove a point or mask a deficiency…rather than genuinely solve a problem.

Bottom line: “Survival mode” content lacks sincerity and meaning. “Solution mode” content is laser-focused on the customer or prospect’s questions, needs and fears.

So, if you fear content that “sucks”…

…be humble enough to step back, explore your motives and “snap out of it” if necessary. The result? Your content will not “suck.” In fact it will probably sing! Then, hire a team that will hold you (and each other) accountable and produce OUTSTANDING content that locks eyes with customers, wins their trust and builds their loyalty.

Deana Goldasich

Deana Goldasich, CEO and founder of Well Planned Web, plans and implements Content Marketing to help clients nurture leads, market their expertise and create an impactful presence online.

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  1. viivi on April 25, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Best Article! Actually I was searching for the answers to these questions. Thanks to your client who made a way for this fantastic Blog post.

  2. Deana Goldasich on April 26, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Thanks Viivi! Indeed, ya gotta love that client for being so candid! We love the spirit of honestly and openness and pride ourselves on nurturing those types of discussions!

  3. Anna Pham on May 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Hi there Deana, I really enjoy reading this, I think your tips are honest and practicable for me to try. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Deana Goldasich on May 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks Anna! Indeed, I always tend to go for practical posts. Can’t help myself 🙂 … glad the info was helpful to you!

  5. VectraSoft on June 12, 2013 at 1:39 am

    This is really great article because content is everything your website is totally depends on 90% of the content and if your content is not good you cannot meet the desired result. Thanks for sharing.