Don't Try to be Sexy in your Content Marketing, Be Helpful

Debbie Williams

Written by Debbie Williams on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

For about ten years I worked as a writer in New York City, in what would be called a “glamour” industry, for beauty and cosmetic companies. This was in the late 1990s to mid-2000’s, before content marketing and inbound marketing were even commonly used terms, and more of evangelist movements by Joe Pullizzi of what is now the Content Marketing Institute and HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Darmesh Shah, respectively.

HelpfulisSexyLike many others who grew up in “traditional” marketing, those of us who worked in luxury goods were usually directed to lay it on pretty thick, giving a hard sell about the amazing benefits that our products delivered… and the more adjectives the better! After all, who wouldn’t want luxuriously silky, smooth hair with mirror-like shine and touchable texture?

Throughout my career, which has evolved from consumer marketing writer to Content Marketing Agency co-founder, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to, “Make it sexy.” I cringe.

It’s not just the cosmetic and shampoo brands who want to bring the sexy back, I’ve heard it from SAAS, B2B and business service companies as well. Now, there’s an industry that sells “sexy software” but I am pretty sure that’s not the market they were going after.

Sexy Doesn’t Mean “Not Boring”

While at Hubspot's #INBOUND14 conference last month, I was immediately drawn to Dan Moyle’s presentation on “Boring Content.” Finally, someone else was speaking my language! We talk a lot about “boring content” here at SPROUT Content, so of course I wanted to see what my kindred spirit Dan had to say.

In the beginning of his presentation, Dan talked about the idea that many businesses, in stereotypically “boring” industries, like mortgage, accounting, HVAC, manufacturing, etc. often make the mistake of trying to be sexy. Then he said it, “Helpful is the new sexy.”



Yes, your content can and should be interesting, and even fun at times, to your target audience, but above all else, it has to be helpful.

Here are a few simple ways you can always ensure that the content you’re creating is truly helpful to the people you’re trying to reach.

Define your Buyer Personas

We’ve said it time and time again, if you don’t know exactly who you are in business for, and whom you are talking to, you’re not going to truly help anyone. Dig in and find out:

  • Who are all of the people involved in the research phase and decision making process of buying your products or services?
  • What do they need from you?
  • What are their biggest objections to choosing you?
  • What are their fears or concerns?
  • How are you going to help them?
  • Why are you different?
  • Why should they care?

How do you dig in? Talk to them! The best way to get to know your audience is by asking them directly.

Develop your Help Strategy

Research from Google and CEB titled, The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing offers new insight into buyer behavior. It reveals that customers reported to being nearly 60 percent through the sales process before even engaging with a sales rep (actual person). Think about it. What is your company currently doing to educate or help people as they are researching solutions?   Having a website with pages about your services is great, and necessary, but if you’re not offering real help to them in the form of interesting content, then you will be losing prospects, quickly.

After your buyer personas are defined and finalized, come up with a list of potential questions that each of your personas might have. For example, say you’re a software company specializing in technology for the senior living industry. One of your key personas is the financial decision marker at an assisted living community. What would they need to know about your services, beyond the facts, that will help them choose you? A few ideas could be:

  • 5 new amenities that will make your senior living community more competitive and profitable.
  • How to upgrade your community infrastructure for Baby Boomers

This is being helpful.

Be Helpful and Real

You know the best way to be really helpful to someone? Talk to them like a person. We’ve said it time and time again, no matter what industry you’re in, communicating not as B2B or B2C, but P2P, person-to-person will make the best connections. Using a bunch of jargon, tech terms and acronyms might sound cool to you, but it rarely resonates with the people you’re trying to do business with. Talk to them in a way that will really help them understand how your products or services will make their job or lives easier in some way. Use real terms, and clearly explained ideas that will make sense and help them understand that you’re in it for them.

In the of spirit being helpful, we've created a free ebook that will help you start communicating with your customers person-to-person. Download it today to start doing business in a different way.

Performance Content eBook






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