3 OTHER Popular Content Formats ‒ and 3 Superior Alternatives (Part Two)


This post is Part Two in a two-part series. If you missed Part One last week, you can catch up on it here. Or feel free to jump right in!

Last week, we took down some of the “sacred cows” of content marketing ‒ content that everyone creates in such huge quantities that it no longer delivers the results people have come to expect.

But guess what ‒ there are many more cows left to tip! We know: it’s a crowded pasture out there.

So if you thought you were safe just because you don’t create expert roundup content, or interviews, or list posts (this last one is especially hard to believe)… just you wait. We’re coming for your content, too!

Today, we’ll cover three more overused types of content. And because it would be mean on our part to tip over a sacred cow without giving you a rugged, friendly, and exceptionally productive dairy goat… we will also suggest high-performing alternative content you can try.

(And we’ll do us both a favor and stop with the livestock metaphors now. You’re welcome.)

Let’s dive in!

1. How-to content ‒ plentiful, generic, and incomplete

The goal of high-quality content, always, is to leave your target audience better off than before they consumed it. You can achieve this with entertainment value, presenting a different point of view, or helping to solve a problem they haven’t been able to solve.

Now, the content marketing crowd absolutely loves the latter… and we can see why!

The sheer amount of “stuff” that is flooding the Internet every second is overwhelming. See for yourself (especially recommended if you like cool interactive content)! The only way to possibly cut through the noise is to either: A) be completely different or B) be ridiculously helpful.

And we do mean ridiculously. Many influencers at the forefront of content marketing are talking about 10X contentas the only way to compete with the onslaught of mediocrity. And the most reliable way to create the content of that calibre is to forget about “how tos” and focus on something else ‒ namely…

And the superior alternative is… ultimate guides!

To your standard piece of how-to content, an ultimate guide is like Mount Everest next to an anthill. Or maybe a skyscraper next to a regular apartment building.

Our point is, as a type of content, ultimate guides are massively superior to what everybody else is publishing, and they can give you an effortless edge over the competition. Well, “effortless” might not be the right word…

…because creating an ultimate guide is capital-H Hard.

It’s a commonly-cited guideline that an ultimate guide should be at least 10 times better than the best piece of content on the topic. So it’s not uncommon to invest 100+ hours into an epic piece of content like that. And another 100+ hours into promoting it, updating it, and monetizing it.

But the ROI from a well-crafted ultimate guide can easily outperform a hundred mediocre pieces of content that you put out. For example, it could:

  • Attract hundreds and thousands more subscribers to your email list in a very short time.
  • Generate hundreds of social shares and high-quality backlinks for your website.
  • Pull in some serious revenue from new customers and high-end clients who will find you through the guide.
  • Substantially build up your industry credibility very quickly, even if you’re starting from scratch.
  • Give you a massive traffic surge of tens of thousands of visitors, and become an evergreen traffic source later.

For all their claims that they want to provide value to customers, most brands will never do something like this. So if you are publishing, or planning to publish, how-to content, you should consider going all-in and crafting your first ultimate guide on a topic your target market cares about.

2. Case studies ‒ vulnerable to the “special snowflake syndrome”

Wait a second… didn’t we just sing praises to case studies in Part One of this series?

We did, and we’re so glad you noticed!

Case studies are amazing ‒ they make for unique, shareable content that audiences love… as long it’s compelling and they can relate.

But those two requirements can be tough to meet.

For starters, having a dramatic transformation and going into hyper-specific detail is a high bar to clear. Especially if your brand is new and you don’t have a lengthy track record with a ton of social proof. Other companies might have dozens of viable candidates for case studies, while you might have just one or two.

And to make matters even trickier, your target audience might fail to connect with a case study unless it’s about someone they identify with. Someone like them. Again, it’s not something you can guarantee if you’re a new brand, or you work with a diverse target market.

Bottom line is, as effective as case studies can be, they are not the best option for everyone. You can (and should) still do them… but there might be a better way.

And the superior alternative is… surveys and experiments!

Doing a survey of your target market is an excellent way to create some attractive content (as an infographic, a detailed article, or a presentation) ‒ with a nice side-effect of tapping into a customer development goldmine.

As long as you have the numbers to pull it off ‒ we recommend surveying at least a thousand people if you can ‒ and the topic is relevant to your audience, you can drive great ROI with your survey. We’re talking social shares, engagement, new website visitors, and email subscribers.

Plus, as an added benefit, you will be able to use the insights from your survey to inform your content strategy for months, possibly years down the line!

In short, surveys give you a “shortcut” to meeting the core benefit of case studies: creating the kind of content your target market will identify with, because it’s about them.

Experiments are another kind of content you could create instead of case studies. Whatever industry you’re in, chances are it’s founded on faulty assumptions and generic “best practices” that everyone takes at face value. Sound familiar?

Now, if you can perform an experiment to test those assumptions and prove or disprove them, record your findings, and share them with the world…

…you will command undivided attention of your target audience ‒ because they will know they can’t get these kinds of insights anywhere else.

Plus, you will instantly set yourself apart from everyone else doing vague and unhelpful case studies to brag about how awesome their brand is at helping clients and customers.

Here are just a few potential experiments you could run:

  1. Publicly testing your product or service against a competitor.
  2. Entering a third-party competition that’s relevant to what you do, and sharing the results.
  3. Committing to a certain business goal, and documenting your progress towards it.
  4. Testing a widely held belief or assumption about your industry.
  5. Working with a high-profile organization at a discount or for free in exchange for getting to share the whole process with the world (if the potential exposure is worth it).
  6. Sharing behind-the-scenes information about your business processes, launches, and so on.
  7. Exposing your flaws and mistakes as a brand, and the process of fixing them.

The list doesn’t stop there. Anything you do that impacts your business or your target market, you can document and share. For example, here’s another really simple way to create share-worthy content similar to a case study:

Follow the so-called poster child formula.” Here’s how it works:

  1. Find an influencer with an audience similar to yours, and a famous piece of how-to content ‒ free or paid.
  2. Put their content to the test, documenting your experience along the way, and then share it publicly.
  3. Let the influencer know about what you did. They will share it with their audience (because who wouldn’t?), and you’ll get more traffic and subscribers. Win-win!

3. Anything (yes, really) ‒ because we could be here all year…

We know what you’re thinking:

“Anything? Wow, what a cop out! Did you run out of ideas for Part Two?”

No, not at all. We could have talked about forecasting content, review content, seasonal and holiday-style content, you name it. We probably couldn’t keep this series running for as long as a TV drama like “Dallas” ‒ but we’d have enough for a couple of “seasons” for sure!

However, we thought we would just give you an essential technique for revitalizing any kind of popular-but-overused content and making it produce better results for your brand.

Ready? Here goes:

And the ultimate way to reinvent popular content is… do the same thing, but with video!

Full disclosure:

We’re going to need you to find a grain of salt and keep it close at hand as you’re reading this. As a video marketing company, we obviously hold a bias. We believe that video makes everything better. “If all you have is a hammer…” ‒ you know the rest.

That said, there is an awful lot of data that confirms our point of view:

  • By various estimates, 68-73% of B2C and B2B marketers cite video as their most effective content marketing channel.
  • Customers are 4 times as likely to watch a video than engage with any other type of content.
  • 65% of viewers watch a video three quarters of the way through.

And almost anything you publish as a presentation, blog post, or infographic, can and will work better in video format.

Have an in-depth case study? Put your happy customer in front of a camera and have them tell their story. Alternatively, animate your case study as a cartoon!

Writing an announcement about an awesome event you’re doing? Create an awesome whiteboard animation trailer to promote it, or greet the attendees and get them pumped in advance.

Commissioned a shiny infographic that you’d love more people to see? Repurpose it into a dynamic animated video that will properly grab people’s attention!

You get the idea.

Unlike all the other tips we have discussed in today’s post, and last week, turning your content into a video doesn’t change anything fundamental about it ‒ just the delivery.

It’s an incredibly straightforward strategy that can bring you incredible ROI. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of views, a $250,000 surge in revenue, or even a book deal with a hefty advance!

Does this sound like something you would want to do? Then fill out the form below and book a risk-free, no-strings-attached pow wow to chat with us about your awesome video! Just send over your details, and we’ll be in touch with you post-haste!



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