Fresh off the annual Content Marketing World conference, I have distilled 48 hours of elite content coaching into a 24 character-long guardrail to guide your content ideation and creation.

Content marketers have been conditioned to create loads of content for the brands they serve.

But your brand’s content destination would be a much more useful, lead-generating space if every piece of work had to be put through this filter (and no, it’s not Valencia).

Before pressing publish, ask yourself this one simple question:

Is this content helpful?

If you can answer yes, then you’re on your way to better content. But if your answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” then let’s go.

create better content

A World of Helpful Content

At the annual Content Marketing World conference, which attracts top brand storytellers, there were talks of COPE strategies, customer journeys, and more industry jargon than a mere mortal could decipher.

When brands are consistently helpful, potential customers consistently show up.

(Read the #CMWorld tweets to get micro-lessons in content marketing!)

But the core of every publishing-focused session, including those presented by brand marketers from REI and Zillow, tied back to the theme of helpfulness.

Whether that’s embellished as “adding value” or “being relevant” depends on the marketer, but the message remains the same: Be helpful.

Why? Because when brands are consistently helpful, potential customers consistently show up. And the more these people come to you for help, the more likely they’ll convert into customers.

Educational Content: Helpful for Both Brands & Customers

Focus on helping customers get the information they need, and your brand will reap the benefits of customer attention, loyalty, and advocacy.

Creating content that answers customer questions builds trust and authority over “me” brands.

By creating content that answers customer questions, your company can build trust and authority over the brands who instead opt to play the “me, me, me” game of product messaging and promotion.

For example, outdoor retailer REI fills its “Expert Advice” section on with robust content that addresses questions its audience — outdoor enthusiasts — are researching.

A succinct topic (think “how to eat healthy while backpacking”) addressed in a helpful, detailed format is all it takes to capture information-hungry customers. “When we’re looking for help, we want thoroughness,” says Eric Hess, REI’s Senior SEO & Content Marketing Program Manager.

With this approach, “Expert Advice” became the most positively rated section of the website. Customers devoured 3200-word articles and bulleted-checklist content alike — all because the posts were helpful.

Is Your Content Helpful? Another Simple Test.

Educational content isn’t the only kind of helpful content. Helpful branded content typically falls into these four pillars:

  • Educational content
  • Informative content
  • Entertaining content
  • Inspirational content

Before you hit publish after answering “yes, my content is helpful,” dig a little deeper and ask yourself the following:

  • Did my content teach the customer something new?
  • Did my content inform the customer of important news?
  • Did my content inspire the customer to do something new?
  • Did my content entertain the customer when they had nothing to do?

Still saying yes after reading this Seuss-like rhyme? Good! Not so much? Let’s brainstorm ways to create better, more helpful content.

How Can I Create Helpful Content?

Identify FAQs

What questions do your customer service and social media teams frequently answer? These answers can help more than just the people who take the time to call or tweet.

Tap into the people at your organization who interact with customers the most. They are a gold mine of helpful content ideas.

Mine Your Digital Data

Which pages on your website or social media posts have earned the most traffic and engagement? Most likely, your customers found this content helpful. Can that helpful content be broken apart into new, more detailed pieces and delivered in new formats?

“When you have a great idea, double down on it. Tell that story every way you can.”

That’s the approach the content team at Zillow, the online real estate database company, takes with its editorial content. “When you have a great idea, double down on it,” says Stephanie Reid-Simmons, Zillow’s Director of Content Marketing. “Tell that story every way you can.”

Empathize with Your Audience

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What leads her to your brand? You can effectively “read her mind” by considering everything your customer may be thinking, feeling and doing and creating content around those important moments.

Was this post helpful? What content strategy and creation topics do you want to learn more about? Tell us in the comments, or tweet @DEGDigital or @kimberlyloc with your content questions.

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