Tips for Mastering Long-Form Content

The vast majority of web content is short: listicles of a few hundred words, Snapchats that disappear, tweets with character limits, web pages with more images than the copy.

And yet, long-form content—typically 1,000 words or more—is extremely important to both industrial marketers and their audience of engineers and technical professionals.

You might be able to grab attention with shorter content, but serious prospects want to dig deeper than a social media post or a list of bullet points. They want to know that you understand and can solve their problem. They want to make sure your company is legit and you know your industry and technology. While it’s true that a smaller percentage of engineers will take the time for a long read into a topic, those that do are more likely to be very qualified.

In addition, search engines love the long-form. It’s not enough to focus on keywords—you have to position yourself as a relevant authority. And most of the time, you can’t make an authoritative case in a short piece. Authoritative content can help marketers achieve higher search engine page rankings.

With long-form content, you can dominate a subject matter in a way that provides value to your audience. You become the expert and thought leader that readers depend on for important information on a key topic.

Choose a Subject Appropriate to Long Form

Not all subjects lend themselves to long form. Some that do include:

  • How-to articles: Go into detail about how to perform a task or solve a problem.
  • Research reports: Compile primary and secondary research into a report on market trends or user preferences.
  • White papers: Provide your audience with a comprehensive education on a topic relevant to them.
  • Solution guides: Compare or classify different approaches to solving a problem.
  • Technical documents: Explain the way a product or process works.
  • Case studies: In-depth case studies lend themselves to longer form.

Stick to a Pattern of Development

When writing long-form, choose a pattern of content development that is proven to work for making technical content easier to understand and retain. Here are several approaches. Choose one that is appropriate for your needs:

  • Step by step. A staple of industrial marketing content is the step-by-step tutorial that demonstrates how to use a product or explains a technical process. You might find that each step along the way has associated benefits. Why not mention the benefit of each step as a way to reinforce your value-propositions while providing educational information?
  • Classification. If you want to present an organized discussion of parallel items, you can classify the information that shares common characteristics. For example, if you are writing about industrial adhesives, you might group those that are made for bonding wood, for bonding metal and bonding plastic.
  • Comparisons. Engineers often must choose among competing products or alternative strategies. You can compare and contrast the key features of different products or approaches. Focus on the most important points. Avoid comparing minor details.
  • Cause and effect. This pattern of development can help persuade readers, for example, why using old products or technology can be detrimental, or to help readers understand the effect of increased water flow on pump performance. In this case, you are describing a situation that has a cause (increased water flow) and an effect (pump performance).
  • Problem-Solution. You can use problem-solution persuasively when you want your readers to agree that the actions you recommend will solve the problems they are trying to overcome.

Tell a Story

Even technical content lends itself to a good story with a beginning, middle, and end. A good story has a hero—such as your customer. The hero faces a problem that is costing money and time, and you step in with the solution to save the day. Corny? Not really. Customer testimonials and case studies are sought after by prospects and are highly effective in helping make technical concepts relatable.

Include an Executive Summary

Be kind to your readers and let them know in a brief executive summary the entire gist of your content. A one-paragraph summary of the piece can help readers quickly glean the main points and decide if investing additional time is appropriate for them.

Design with Your Reader in Mind

Long-form content requires commitment on the part of your reader. You can help them by using short paragraphs, subheadings, white space, bullet points, and imagery to make your long content easy to read and encourage readers to keep going.

Develop a Cornerstone Piece

A cornerstone long-form piece can be segmented into smaller, standalone chunks to use in your content marketing efforts. Repurposing long content into shorter pieces saves time, spreads a consistent message, and meets the needs of engineers who can’t or won’t invest the time required to digest long-form content.

Content Marketing Marketing, General

5 Ways to Upgrade Your Content Marketing in 2014

As 2014 gets into full swing, content marketing remains a hot and highly effective marketing strategy in the industrial sector. Your audience of technical professionals has an insatiable appetite for relevant, engaging and useful content, which means you have to keep the content marketing machine producing and distributing at a high level.

Resolve to upgrade your content marketing strategy so that it operates at peak efficiency. Here are five ways to get you started:

1. Re-purpose whenever possible

Re-purposing existing content into new formats helps you achieve three valuable benefits:

  • You don’t have to keep coming up with new content all the time.
  • You can reinforce your core messages across multiple mediums
  • You can give your customers flexible options to access content in their preferred formats.

Some people like to read reports, others want to watch videos, still others prefer to scan web pages or attend webinars. Re-purposing your content can serve all these needs as well as strengthen your brand and message.

2. Produce content for the entire buy cycle

The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages your customers pass through: from awareness and research, to consideration and comparison, to buying decision and procurement. You need content to support potential customers through all stages, especially the early stages, because studies show that many buyers do not contact suppliers until they are ready to make a purchasing decision. That means they’ve already done their research and narrowed down their choices of products and vendors to a short list.

Entice customers in the early stages of their buy cycle with educational content that establishes your company as a leader and an expert with a unique and advantageous way of solving the problems and challenges that your customers face. Use content that introduces new technologies, new ideas, analysis of trends, etc. Compare and contrast your approach to that of competitors’. Later stage buy cycle needs include specification sheets, case studies, ROI calculators, and warranties.

3. Expand the types of content you offer

White papers, blog articles, videos, webinars, research reports, case studies, data sheets—these are standard types of content that most marketers include in their portfolio and that your audience finds valuable.

There are other types of content you might consider as well. Infographics combining text and visuals have become increasingly popular as a way to explain complex ideas or processes. You can also create online polls and share results, or quick surveys. Stage a contest. Create a game. What about contracting with a partner to produce a mobile app? There are apps that calculate pressure drop, estimate pipe size, calculate volumetric flow, connect with other engineers, and many more. While not traditional content, an app is something that can go viral, showcase your brand, and help you promote other content.

4. Consider paid distribution of content

If you’re having trouble getting content into the hands of hard-to-reach prospects using typical channels such as your website, email or social media, you might want to consider paid distribution strategies. You can also use paid distribution to reach new markets.

For example, LinkedIn offers sponsorships that allow you to target a specific audience with your content, and the majority of technical professionals have LinkedIn accounts. You can also invest in promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook. Digital media platforms like IHS GlobalSpec offer a number of effective ways to distribute content to your target audience, including e-newsletter ads, online banners, co-branded webinars and more—all of which can significantly increase the number of prospects exposed to your content.

Focus on content performance

For all of your content, you should establish goals and metrics to measure performance. Downloads, views, shares, comments and more could all be metrics you decide to track. By tracking performance you will know what types of content are most popular with your audience and what channels work best for distribution. You will have better information to make decisions about enhancing your content offerings and distributing through those channels that are most effective in helping you achieve your goals.

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How will you improve your content marketing in 2014? What strategies for upgrading your content marketing efforts would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Content Marketing Industrial Marketing and Sales