It’s impossible to be successful in modern marketing if content is not at the core of your strategy. Business owners hear this all the time, leading most to jump headlong into content marketing without a clear plan of action. Your content efforts must start with the basics. Here are the four steps to creating a killer content style guide.

1. Find Your Brand Voice

Failure to establish a unique tone of voice for your company is the quickest way to fade into the background noise of all the other boring brands.

Developing a clear and consistent brand voice is a crucial first step in communicating with your audience, as well as the first step in creating a content style guide. It has much wider implications than just building engagement on social media, however. You should use it in all company communications.

Finding your voice may take some time, but it can transform your business into a well-established brand. Here are three steps you can take.

Define Your Company Values

First, define your company values. What does your business stand for? In what does it believe?

Your values could include anything from making the most out of our short time on earth to promoting environmental awareness and sustainability. Whatever you choose, be sure it makes sense within the context of what you’re selling.

Think about your product or service and brainstorm the ways it benefits your customers. Expand that even further, and then distill it into a short list of values.

Speak in Your Customer’s Voice

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Looking at how your customers talk is one of the best examples of how you should speak to them.

Conceptualize your ideal customer and find where they congregate online. Analyze the language they use and find the words or phrases that continually crop up. Figure out their language style and let it influence your own.

Write It Down

I can’t stress this enough. It’s the whole purpose of this blog, yet most businesses fail as this very basic step. Your content style guide should include a broad picture summary, followed by the specifics, which include formality versus casualness, colloquialisms, humor, and even whether or not your brand uses swear words.

2. Stand Out in a Crowd

Once you have found your voice, make sure your customers can hear you over the noise from competitors. The more crowded the market, the louder you need to be.

Creating a unique selling proposition is like a bullhorn for your business. Highlighting what makes it different from the others tells your customers why they should choose your company.

Take brands like Warby Parker and TOMS Shoes, for example. The former sells fashionable eyeglasses and sunglasses and the latter comfortable, bohemian shoes.

Their brand voices couldn’t be more different, yet their unique selling propositions are very similar. For each product purchased, both will donate one to people in need. Their customer not only feels good about buying a new pair of glasses or shoes but also because their purchase positively impacts those less fortunate.

Take the following steps to discover what makes your business unique, and make them the pillars of your content style guide:

  • Find your ideal customer. Create a template for your ideal target customer. How old is she? What does she look like? What are her hobbies? The beauty is in the details;
  • Get inside her head. Determine how this customer thinks. What occupies her mind or keeps her up at night? Most importantly, find out what drives her purchase decisions;
  • Create a problem, and then solve it. Your ideal customer should be more than a concept; she should be a unique person. Detail how your product can solve her problems and simplify her life.

3. Create Content Categories

Your customer might be unique, but there are categories of content that consistently drive engagement, no matter the audience.

In its ebook, Contagious Content: What People Share on Facebook and Why They Share It, Marketo, a marketing automation software company, outlines seven functions of highly shared posts:

  • Give – People love free stuff. Utilize promotions, offers, giveaways, or contests;
  • Advise – These are tips and tricks that will help make your audience’s lives easier;
  • Warn – Scare tactics work. Use them;
  • Amuse – Be funny. Laughing disarms people and makes them more receptive;
  • Inspire – We’ve all seen those inspirational quotes in our feeds. Just avoid being cheesy;
  • Amaze – Show or tell them something unbelievable. Just make sure it’s real;
  • Unite – Bring your audience together. Give them a flag to wave.

Just be sure to keep your brand voice and unique selling proposition in mind. The danger of categories like these is that they’re universal. You still need to find a way to make your content unique.

Inspirational quotes are but one content category that drives engagement.

4. Be Bossy

Salesforce, a cloud computing company, said that brands need to tell customers what to do. Posts with a clear call to action can more than triple the rate of engagement compared to those that don’t.

While the mere presence of a call to action will increase the likelihood of that action being taken, there are ways to push conversion rates even higher.

  • Be Commanding – Use clear, strong commands as early as possible, e.g., sign up, buy, shop, download, call, etc.;
  • Elicit Emotions – Speak to your audience’s dreams and desires. It may seem like hyperbole, but it works;
  • Get Creative – As with all of your messaging, utilize your brand voice document and unique selling proposition to punch up your call to action.

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