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Guide for Creating Standout Content
A few years ago, it was impossible to visit a
marketing blog without coming across a
piece singing the praises of a trendy new
strategy: “content marketing.”
Many thought it as a fad, but numbers have proven that
content marketing is here to stay -- and it’s transforming
the way we do business.
Don’t be fooled.
Just because “everyone is doing it”
does not mean its easy!
Creating mediocre content is simple.
But if you want to consistently create
standout content, the kind that converts
and inspires, and the kind that makes a
dramatic impact on your business’
bottom line, you need to invest in a solid
content creation process.
Let’s dive in.
“Content marketing is the marketing
and business process for creating and
distributing relevant and valuable
content to attract, acquire, and engage
a clearly deﬁned and understood
target audience – with the objective of
driving proﬁtable customer action.”
–Content Marketing Institute
Profitable Customer Action
The term ‘proﬁtable customer action’ that CMI uses can
refer to a wide variety of business goals, including:
Acquiring new customers,
Generating leads and referrals,
Selling speciﬁc products,
Building your list, &
Increasing brand visibility and awareness.
Establishing thought leadership,
Once you have business objectives (with measurable
outcomes) in place for your content marketing eﬀorts,
you begin the process of creating, publishing, and
promoting content, in nearly endless forms:
• white papers
• Slideshare decks
• ebooks and guides
• social media graphics
• email newsletters
• blog posts (including guest posts)
Next: Which platforms are best to reach your objectives?
Stay laser focus on the customer!
What do they want to see? How can you
deliver content that inspires your customers
Before we get into what makes for truly
standout content, let’s look at some common
mistakes -- and how to course-correct.
5 Common Content Blunders
(the Not-To-Do List)
There are a number of reasons that well-intentioned content
strategies fail. Once you know them, avoid them!
There is no clear ‘why’
Your WHY has to go beyond business
objectives and needs to speak to
something deeper, like building
community, inspiring people, or being of
These intentions will be the framework for
all the decisions you make as you develop
and execute on your strategy.
The ‘why’ and the goals are not
communicated or understood
Every single person who will be touching
your content, from web developers to your
CMO, has a clear grasp of the ‘why’ the
speciﬁc corporate goals driving your
content marketing eﬀorts.
This can help prevent your strategy from
being diluted, or being taken in an
unplanned (often irrelevant) direction.
A lack of preparation
Before you start brainstorming topics and
assigning pieces to your team, ensure that
all the technical and human resources are
in place to get the job done right,
workﬂow has been established, and plans
are in place for scaling your processes
when demand for your content increases.
A failure to understand the target
We’ll say it again: if the customer isn’t the
focus of your marketing, you won’t get
the results you want.
Don’t make bold assumptions about who
your target audience is -- research and take
the time to craft customer personas that will
inform your content creation process.
In a crowded online world where users are
spoilt for choice and almost everything’s
already been said or done, you have to push
past vanilla and get bold with your ideas if
you want to stand out.
Let’s Review the Content Blunders
Now, let’s talk about the pillars of standout content!
1. There is no clear why
2. The “why” and the goals are not communicated
3. A lack of preparation
4. A failure to understand the target audience
5. Being boring
3 Pillars of Standout
Educate, Engage, Inspire
Your content should either teach something new or provide a
Oﬀer insider knowledge! This establishes you as a credible
source of valuable information.
Always go back to your audience. What do they want to learn?
“Educating prospects about the products you sell and underscoring your
own expertise actually increases your credibility and fosters trust.
Ultimately, it allows you to unapologetically charge what you charge.
You show that you know what you’re talking about. Those who dig
your stuﬀ become more educated and sales-ready leads.”
– Anne Handley, Content Expert
Keep people coming back.
Whether it’s readers leaving a comment on your blog post, subscribing to
your list, or starting a conversation around your content via their personal
social networks, your content needs to encourage engagement.
Reward your audience by putting them in the spotlight.
“Put their responses to your content front and centre, by either grabbing
them from your social properties to showcase them using tools like Storify
or by writing a post about a hot topic that asks them to submit their own
relevant content for you to publish.”
–Megan Brown, Social Media Strategist
Inspire readers to the action necessary to reach your strategic goals.
Weave compelling calls to action (CTA) into your content.
What ‘next step’ would you like the reader to take? Subscribe to your list?
download that whitepaper? Register for your new eCourse?
Keep this goal in mind the entire time and focus your content around that
central purpose, making the CTA at the end all the more compelling.
With three ﬁrm pillars in mind, you’re ready to embark upon
the laborious, but rewarding process that is content creation.
Some of the most important work in content marketing happens
long before any actual writing takes place.
There are 5 important components of setting the foundation for
a solid content strategy. Flip on.
Laying the Groundwork1
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”–Ben Franklin
Start big, end small. Identify the larger outcomes you hope to
Example, “We want to establish ourselves as a thought leader
in our industry.”
Next, ask yourself the question “how will I know when I have
achieved this goal?” Answering this question will help you to
identify key markers of success.
Transform these milestones you’d like to reach into SMART
goals that will drive your campaigns.
Involve people from diﬀerent areas of your business in
goal setting. This will help you identify business objectives
that your content eﬀorts can support. It also promotes
collective buy-in, which is key to long-term success.
Once you have identiﬁed your goals, share them.
A word to the wise:
Now that you know what you want, the next step is to
identify what customers want, and what they aren’t already
There are three facets of research for content creation:
1. Audience research
2. Competitive research
3. Keyword research.
Do you already have an audience? Engage them with a survey or personal ask
for a brief 10-minute phone conversation. As this great post from Marketing
Land suggests, ask open-ended questions and non-leading questions, like:
• How do you like to receive content?
• Where do you like to hang out online?
• What inspires your trust?
• What makes you choose to share (or not share) a piece of content?
• If you could change anything about our website, what would it be?
If you don’t have an audience, you can still ﬁgure out what your
future customers want!
1. Using a tool like Hootsuite, listen to what others are already saying about you or
your industry on social channels.
2. Comb through your old pieces of content and note which ones are most frequently
being shared. Take note of common characteristics.
3. Note who is sharing the content and what other types of content those people are
4. Look at what similar brands are doing.
Using this information, create target audience personas (ﬁctitious proﬁles) for
whom you will create individual pieces of content.
There are 4 key things that you can learn by doing some
basic competitor research:
1. What strategies and tactics are popular in your industry,
2. What is already being said,
3. Which mistakes you should avoid, and
4. Where the gaps are in your industry.
For a run down of the tools you can use to complete this
analysis, check out this post on the Onboardly blog.
Next, head on over to the Google Keyword Planner and start
identifying the keywords that you should be planning your
content around, from titles to tags.
Just getting started? Here’s a handy guide to this fantastic tool.
With research complete, it’s time to move on to the third component in setting the
ground work for creating standout content.
Choose your channels (ex: blogs, podcast, vlog etc.) based on how your audience
likes to consume content.
The channels you choose should be directly related to the business objectives that
your content strategy is tied to. For example, if you’re selling seats to a workshop, a
webinar is a great tool, but if you’re trying to increase sales for your eCommerce
store, a visual platform like YouTube or Pinterest might be the way to go.
Remember: don’t bite oﬀ more than you can chew. It’s better to do an amazing job on
two channels than a mediocre job on ﬁve.
Selecting Channels & Tools3
You need to get a ﬁrm handle on your resources.
This means making sure that the backend of your website is
ready to handle increased traﬃc, ensuring that your team
(both staﬀ and freelance) is in place and everyone knows
what their role is, and lining up all the additional tools you
need, like social media dashboards and analytics platforms.
At Onboardly, we use a very speciﬁc content process for
ourselves and for our clients that has been honed and
perfected through years of experience.
This simple yet speciﬁc 7-step process is designed to minimize
miscommunication and errors and maximize speed and
Step 1: Develop the content brief
This one-page document, usually in a shareable Google Doc,
The mission of the piece
A few bullets on the points to be covered
Notes on the format of the post (length, headings, etc.)
Any other requests of the writer.
Work with talented freelance content
creators to complement your existing team.
Taking an extra few moments to determine
which writer or designer is best suited to
each job can help prevent time being wasted
in back-and-forth edits on the back end.
Step 2: Choose the right writer or designer
Often we will ask for an outline of the piece
(even if our own team is writing it) before it gets
drafted, in order to catch any
misunderstandings or errors. Another time
saving measure in the long run!
Step 3: Research and outlining
Once the outline has been approved, we
typically allot anywhere from 3-7
business days for drafting.
Step 4: Drafting
Our writers -- both internal and freelance
-- know who to submit their pieces to (our
content editor), and know to wait to
receive the ﬁnal word that the ﬁrst round
of editing is complete before jumping back
in to make changes. Using Google Docs
makes an otherwise complex editing
process virtually seamless.
Step 5: Review and revision
Once the ﬁnal edits have been
made by the writer, they alert
the content editor, who will
give ﬁnal approval.
Step 6: Approval
The ﬁnal step is an important one, as it can
help increase the reach and visibility of your
piece. When a post is uploaded to WordPress,
our team carefully selects the right URL,
chooses the most eﬀective tags, and writes a
meta description using Yoast.
Step 7: Uploading
Follow the rule of 3: Promote every piece of content in at least
This could include syndicating or reposting content to sites like
PR Daily or Medium, turning it into a Slideshare deck, or sharing
it on an industry message board.
Lastly, after you send your educational, engaging, and inspiring
content out into the world: observe and learn. The process of
creating standout content is ever-evolving.
Here’s the thing: the internet is still a bit of a wild west,
and it truly belongs to those who innovate and aren’t afraid to
When you feel yourself settling into a content marketing
groove, that is the exact moment that you should push
yourself to do something just beyond your comfort zone.
After all, the worst content sin of them all is to be boring.
Now go forth, and create great content!
Check out the 50 Best One-Sentence Content
Marketing Tips from the pros.