Working on a proposal for a client the other day, I was looking at a previous project that they had done and noticed two words in small, sans serif type in the top right corner: "white paper." It might as well have read, "let your eyes glaze over now."
What if, at the very early stages of development, you approached your next content marketing project with the thought that, in the top right corner, it would be labeled, "Not another boring … whatever"? What would it look like compared to what you do now? What would the actual content be compared to what you've done in the past? Or what you have planned?
I'm not talking about going crazy and creating something all neon green, reversed out type on black with pop-ups--unless your audience is into that--which could turn off potential customers. The essential educational elements would still be there. And it would be as entertaining as it could be and still be appropriate for your audience. But what could you do differently to make something really bold that would knock people's socks off (in a good way)?
The challenge I'm making here is to envision what people in your target market would find extraordinarily engaging. Of course, different markets can have vastly different style standards and formality expectations. But the essential attributes of compelling content are fairly common. How would your next white paper be different if it was more authentic? More original? More honest? More enlightening? More visually striking? Hence, more useful and valuable.
Or think about your next case study. In addition to the challenge and solution could you include some missteps and lessons learned? How about some detailed financial data? Or an on-site video? Such elements are difficult to get clients to develop or share. But because they're rare, they're more valuable.
Only you can figure out the content elements that will make your next project extraordinary. By all means ask your current customers and audience what they would really like to know or see. Who knows? You might get a useful idea or two. But in my experience with focus groups and the like, people often don't know what they want or what information they could really use until they get it.
In the end creating great content always comes down to execution. But you can't do it if you haven't first envisioned what something extraordinary might look like.
What content have you seen or created that really stood out? What made it not boring? What could you do?