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June 19, 2015

Content Marketing for Boring Businesses

The content you produce (website copy, social media posts, blog posts etc.) serves several purposes; to inform & educate people about your company/products, to earn links & social media shares, improving brand awareness, and to flag search engines that your website is relevant for certain topics & key-terms.

But what if your business is boring? How do you produce engaging, compelling content, which is going to achieve the above aims, when your products/services are dull?

To find out, I interviewed some professional content writers (James & Ewan) for brands which are less-than-fascinating.

Question: You both write for brands selling window furnishings… How many articles can you write about curtains and blinds before your audience is bored to death?

Ewan: Well, we do spend all day doing what we love, so the universe had to get us back somehow, right?

In my experience the trick is to think of a good topic/idea that somehow links back to the main subject. Some people are fortunate enough to work within a team of creative types. This means that you can workshop, which is always a giggle, and usually ideas flow freely.

James: To keep your readers coming back time and time again – not only to check out your company’s products/services, but also read your content – not to mention make the process of writing an enjoyable experience for you, you are going to need to create some content a lot more innovative than “Look at our brand new blinds!” No matter how dull your industry, there is always a way to create content that is both engaging and interesting to your readers.

Question: What do you write about then?

Ewan: Think about the history of a subject, or the process used to manufacture it. Any recent developments in the technology surrounding it? You can always fall back on the W’s. Who, what, why, where, when? Ask these questions and something interesting is sure to come up.

If you’re really in a pinch then there are a couple of safe subjects that you can always rely on. Movies is one of them. You can create tenuous links from most subjects to films. Cushions? Best film pillow fights. Grass? Best sports stadiums scenes. Walls? Top 10 building explosions. You can do something similar with music. Other safe bets are general references to popular culture. If you manage to link golf clubs to Game of Thrones then just sit back and enjoy the bonus. The point here is to make something niche into something universal, so not only will it appeal to the specialist market, but a wider audience as well.

James: You need to know what your audience comes to you for; what niche do you fill in their day-to-day lives?

Ted Baker, for example, is a worldwide renowned fashion brand; you’re hardly going to go to them for advice on how to pay off your mortgage. The homepage of their blog is almost exclusively geared towards promoting their latest products and sales. However, to take the edge off the ‘hard sell’ approach, the Ted Baker blog is separated into categories, one of which is titled ‘Fish’. This totally random subject includes recipes, articles on fish, as well as the odd nautical-themed clothing design.

Other categories include: Music, Culture, Places and, of course, Style. Ted Baker have obviously done some research into their customers and established a good mental picture of who their ideal consumer is: someone with plenty of disposable income, who is keen to keep their finger on the pulse of the cultural scene. Why else would they dedicate full areas of their blog to these subjects if they hadn’t done some serious market research to determine who was visiting their site?

Question: Any other personal favourite content marketing examples?

Ewan: Intercom is a CRM consultancy who have found a very subtle but effective way of getting around the boring subject problem. Their blog posts are littered with colloquialisms and are written in a very conversational format, which makes them much more readable and easy to digest. I don’t particularly care about CRM, I still read about four blog posts, simply because they were easily readable and digestible.

And of course, I like my own work! This blog post for Wooden Blinds Direct manufactured a link between movies and wooden blinds. Hey presto, a fun, readable blog post.

James: When Compare the Market bizarrely brought a meerkat into their marketing campaign they became a household name, almost overnight. They even gave him his own website! Over six years after Aleksandr and his chums were introduced to television audiences, the advertising campaign remains a staple of British TV, and Compare the Market has gone from being yet another boring car insurance comparison site to a zany and unique business.

Fun fact; Aleksandr’s 2010 ‘autobiography’ generated more pre-orders than Tony Blair’s memoirs. A successful campaign? You bet!

This tactic can be applied just as easily and effectively in written content for your website or blog (or both!).

For example, one of my sites Roman Blinds Direct recently featured an article on its blog, entitled Looking into you: a window to the music. This was a Top 10 post, showcasing ten music albums which featured windows in their artwork; a tenuous link to roman blinds, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Was it an article directly related to roman blinds? No. Was it showcasing any of Roman Blinds Directs’ specific products? No. But it was a much more engaging everyman article than another generic post about how great our store is – who doesn’t love music? The beauty of it was that I could work in a few cheeky links back to our products, each of which looked completely natural within the article and did not appear too obvious.

What do windows need? Window furnishings; something Roman Blinds Direct knows quite a bit about. This article has become the most-read post on Roman Blinds Direct to date.

A boring niche can sometimes be an utter nightmare to try and come up with engaging content for, but in many ways it has the potential to pay off even more than a mainstream subject more interesting niche does. If you come up with something zany enough, you could just mine gold and take your company viral – all thanks to your content.


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James Armstrong is a partner and consultant with Haystack Search where his SEO and Digital PR expertise is put to good use. He's also the owner of Caveman Store. Before moving into digital marketing, James spent several years as a broadcast journalist with the BBC.

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