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Must-Have Checklist to Creating Valuable Content

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Must-Have Checklist to Creating Valuable Content

A great content strategy takes the guesswork out of execution so creative content can flourish. But you need to get the details right. This five-step checklist for creating valuable content can help you do that.

Use the checklist to ensure your content reaches and helps the right audience and to keep your team focused on your strategy’s goals. (It also may give you a feeling of accomplishment –who doesn’t love checking completed tasks off a list?)

Use this content checklist to ensure your #content reaches the right audience and your team stays focused on the right goals, says @ahaval via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What makes content valuable?

Everybody wants their content to sparkle. But there’s more to valuable content than perfectly polished sentences. Let’s dive into the characteristics all valuable content shares.Must Have Checklist to Creating Valuable ContentThe checklist defines valuable content using five benchmarks:

  • Findable
  • Readable
  • Understandable
  • Actionable
  • Shareable

(Hat tip to Colleen Jones, founder and principal at Content Science, who inspired some of these benchmarks.)

Valuable #content must be findable, readable, understandable, actionable, and shareable, says @ahaval via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

1. Findable content

People need a way to discover your content. Make sure you follow SEO guidelines to create findable content.

TIP: Before creating findable content, perform keyword research based on your goals and user research.

1684394428 189 Must Have Checklist to Creating Valuable Content

Use one H1 and multiple H2 tags on each page [web content]

Headlines and sub-headlines help search engine rankings and create visual breaks in the text. Highlight them in the original text (or whatever system you use to move content from creation into production) so the team posting the content understands how to code it.

TIP: You can use H3 tags if the content necessitates it, but they won’t give the same bang for your SEO buck as H1 and H2 tags do.

Customize the metadata

These are your title, keywords, and description tag. Make sure the metadata describes the content on the page according to your keyword research.

Include links to other pages on the site

Links increase the value assigned by search engine spiders to your pages. Spiders are the robots that crawl through your site to find relevant content.

Include alt tags on your photos and other images

Alt tags ensure the images appear in image searches. Describe the picture in the image (because alt tags were first designed for the visually impaired) and use these tags to highlight your content.

For instance, if the image is doctors performing surgery, the alt tag could be, “The doctors at Sweet Valley Hospital in Sweet Valley, Calif., are experts in separating identical twins in a surgery known as identical separation, as shown in this photo.”

Post videos on YouTube or Facebook

Publishing your videos on social channels increases the likelihood they will be seen. I like YouTube because it gives accurate view counts. Tag the content on whichever platform so users can find it:

  • Include keywords in your title
  • Provide a detailed, keyword-rich summary

Distribute in different formats

Package audio content in multiple formats – MP3, WAV, and WIFF, so it’s available to different audiences. You don’t want a potential customer thwarted from listening to your content because they can’t use the available format.

Create a detailed summary and title for audio files

This information lives where the content can be downloaded. For some delivery vehicles, that’s the system where it’s stored, such as iTunes. For others, it might be the page where you post the file.

House each audio clip on a relevant content page

By creating a page for each audio asset, the text and sound work together to boost SEO efforts by demonstrating relevant content to the search engines.

2. Readable content

Once people find your content, is it readable?

1684394428 54 Must Have Checklist to Creating Valuable Content

Remember, readers scan until they find the content they need. Respect the person’s time. Consider using:

  • Inverted pyramid style: Put the most important facts at the top and the least important at the bottom. The image above was produced using eye-tracking software. You can see where the user’s eyes scanned on the page: See how that shape follows an inverted pyramid.
  • Chunking: Keep paragraphs short. Follow the rule of three: No more than three sentences in a paragraph. No more than three paragraphs under one heading.
  • Bullets and numbered lists: When people want to consume information quickly, lists and bullets are helpful.
  • Consistent language: Avoid confusing your readers. For example, how do you refer to your business, company, or institution? Switching between your organization’s name and “us” can confuse your audience. Use a style guide to help everyone get on the same page.

3. Understandable content

Creating content that users understand can be challenging with complex topics. My agency does a lot of health-care content creation. Many times, we write on an eighth-grade reading level. Even that might be too elevated for some readers.

1684394428 868 Must Have Checklist to Creating Valuable Content

How can you create understandable content no matter your industry?

  • Choose the right content type: For example, if users have an aha moment seeing something sketched, use a video or slideshow instead of text.
  • Create personas for your audiences: Match the level of the content’s complexity to the user’s ability to understand it.
  • Provide context: Briefly explain even the most basic concepts to your users. You never know where someone will jump into the conversation.
  • Apply a standard reading level for each project: And stick to it. Base this on your users’ personas and market research. Microsoft Word has a function for testing reading levels — experiment with that scoring.
  • Provide valuable information: This could be new information or a new way of articulating an existing idea. Sometimes metaphors help people understand better.

Always provide context to your audience. You never know where someone jumps into the conversation, says @ahaval via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

4. Actionable content

You create content because you want readers to act. How can you make sure that happens?

1684394428 974 Must Have Checklist to Creating Valuable Content

  • CTA: Include an obvious call to action.
  • Easy to use: Make it easy for users to comment and ask questions publicly and privately. Allow blog comments or direct people to your company’s Facebook page. If you accept comments through your contact us page, make it easy to find and use.
  • Provide links: Include links to relevant content or program your content management system (CMS) to suggest related content options automatically.
  • Actionable items first: Include a list of actionable items for the user at the top of lengthy content. For example, a long-form article on diabetes care could include three bullets at the top defining diabetes and explaining how to control it.

5. Shareable content

People trust peers more than brands. How can you get users to share your content with their friends? Consider some of these ideas:

  • Get emotional: Provoke an emotional response with your readers. When I first started writing articles on content marketing, one of my editors told me, “People are more likely to share controversial content.” Just be careful not to go too far over the line.
  • Provide a reason to share: For example, tell a story about how sharing health information helped one family increase its exercise efforts.
  • Make sharing easy: Work with your IT staff to decide which sharing widget is best for your organization.
  • Personalize it: Allow users to personalize the share. For instance, when Aha Media Group retweets things, we add hashtags and reference other sources.

To get the most out of the checklist, invite decision-makers in

Before you use the checklist, you need buy-in. Start with the executives at your company who can effect changes in your resources, influence your company’s social media policy, and become champions for your brand’s voice.

Explaining the one-page checklist gives them insight into the content creation process. It also opens the door for dialogue about your team’s challenges and the potential solutions, so together, you can bring the brand’s content to greatness.

Do you have experience using checklists in your content marketing? I’d love to see your examples. Or let me know what you would change in this checklist.

Updated from a June 2019 post.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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