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Lackluster content marketing is missing one of these 3 ingredients

Craig Clarke

By Craig Clarke
February 10, 2023

Lackluster content marketing is missing one of these 3 ingredients

Is your content marketing getting the results you want? If not, you might be missing something. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have something substantive to say?
  • Are you saying it clearly?
  • Are you saying it in an engaging way?

If you answer any of these questions “no,” your content is incomplete, and that may be why people aren’t responding to it.

Luckily, the solution to this problem is simple. What your blogs and other content need is this memorable trio:

  • Gravity
  • Brevity
  • Levity


1. Gravity—Keep it grounded

All writing needs substance, seriousness, weight. What is your topic? Is it interesting? Is it relevant? Do you have a different take on a worn topic? Or are you just curating what others have already said better?

The main difference between copywriting and content marketing is that content informs. It’s useful. Your reader wants to learn more than they already know. Sometimes the basics are enough. But often, people want more in-depth coverage to raise their knowledge to an intermediate or advanced level.

Creating content for its own sake will backfire if you focus on quantity over quality. People tire of motivational quotes and inspirational platitudes. Don’t waste their time. Readers want hard facts and solid advice, written so they are clear and easy to understand and act upon.

Draw the reader in with something they won’t get from anyone else. Offer insights gleaned from experience and backed by evidence. Support your ideas with other sources. Cite those sources, and track the information to where it first appeared. (“Studies show” is not a source.)

If you can’t find the primary source, keep digging. If you dig diligently and still can’t find it, it may not be factual. A large number of quotes shared online are paraphrased or misattributed, and many are spread because they agree with our biases.

Having gravity in your content gives you authority. Authority gives you influence.

“Anything you call a ‘newsletter’ should actually
live up to its name.”

—Peri Pakroo, The Small Business Start-Up Kit


2. Brevity—Keep it accessible

Now that you’re giving your topic the respect it deserves, get to the point quickly. Don’t waste your reader’s time. Say only what you need to—no less than necessary and no more. Explain yourself clearly, simply, and concisely.

Though some would like you to think otherwise, even technologically complex topics can be explained simply enough to be understood by anyone. Given that your reader has to understand before they’ll want to buy, doing so is simply polite in addition to being good business.

“It never occurs to sloppy writers that they are being fundamentally rude… An article that makes its case succinctly is the highest form of courtesy.”

—William Zinsser, Writing to Learn

Most of us learn to write toward the wrong goal: an assigned word count. This teaches us nothing more than how to use filler to reach the specified number. When I was in college and hadn’t studied well for an essay test, my primary tactic became putting down as many words as possible, hoping to fool the professor into thinking I knew the topic.

Nothing has changed, but now we can see that approach from the other side. If you can’t explain your topic simply and concisely, your reader will sense that you don’t fully understand it.

Are you trying to hide behind big words to make you feel superior to the reader who “must not be smart enough” if they don’t understand your deliberate obfuscation? That’s not what true experts and thought leaders do.

Unlike my college professors, the readers of your content marketing grade on a pass/fail system. Either you give them the information they want right away, or you lose them (and their sale).

“No one who has something original or important to say
will willingly run the risk of being misunderstood;
people who write obscurely are either unskilled in writing
or up to mischief.”

—Peter Medawar, Nobel Prize–winning biologist and science writer


3. Levity—Keep it engaging

A light touch can ease the delivery of the most serious subjects. (“A spoonful of sugar…” and all that.) Fully constructed jokes aren’t necessary, just the suggestion that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

Self-importance implies you’re better than the reader, and no one wants to be made to feel inferior. You’re not better than your prospect, but you are more informed about this topic and want to help by sharing your knowledge.

It helps to imagine explaining your topic to one person. (As adman Howard Gossage said, “I don’t know how to speak to everybody, only to somebody.”) Use informal language, contractions, and short words and sentences. When you know your subject well, you can explain it to anyone.

“If the language is overly complex, then it may very well be that the authors are hiding something behind this façade.”

—Ian Mathieson and Dominic Upton, A Podiatrist’s Guide to Using Research

Add a different perspective. Present things from your own angle, especially if you notice patterns you’ve not seen covered before.

It’s okay to be different. In fact, you have to be different to be remembered. Despite popular opinion, the more skewed your perspective is, the more likely someone will identify with it and the more memorable your content will be. (From Carl Rogers: "What is most personal and unique in each one of us [would] speak most deeply to others.")

Memorable content gets results.

“The weight of your seriousness must [be balanced]
by your ability to lighten up.
Too down and you become all seriousness.
Too up and you become light as air, insubstantial.”

—Caroline Goyder, Gravitas


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