Earlier this month I was reading ‘Stop Thinking Content, Start Thinking Resources‘ by Carlton Hoyt on Content Marketing Institute, and I found myself nodding along vigorously.
Here’s the key quote that sums up his post:
“We need to stop thinking about creating more stuff and start thinking about how to build things of utility that meaningfully help solve our audiences’ problems.”
– Carlton Hoyt, Principal Consultant at BioBM Consulting
Of course that’s what we should be doing! Who wants content that doesn’t actually help to solve a problem?
So, it inspired me to action.
I wanted to lay out 6 ways you can start to deliver real, tangible value to your audience by creating resources and not just content.
Probably seen by many people as the most lightweight and easy to produce resource, genuinely useful checklists are actually part art, part science and can be difficult to get right. Having read ‘The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right’ by Atul Gawande, it’s an eye opener as to the complexities behind top notch checklists.
However the general rule of thumb to creating a good checklist is to boil down long-winded narrative text, in-depth videos or otherwise difficult to digest content into something that proves quick, practical guidance for the reader.
For example you could read a 100,000 words on the best practices of posting to social media, but Buffer whittled it down to this much more accessible checklist.
The key is to offer enough information that it is a standalone document, while stripping out unnecessary detail and fluff. In an ideal world, aim to keep your checklist to a single page where possible.
Here’s another example, this one from the Eventbrite blog, where we condensed a long-form guide of a few thousand words into a one-page checklist.
Templates help the user by providing a pre-defined set of rules or parameters that users can follow. For example, Hubspot offer a lot of templates, including their ever popular Buyer Persona template.
There tend to be three types to template you can create.
The first is a ‘checklist as a template’, which essentially takes what could be a checklist, but asks users to fill in missing information, therefore taking them through a process step by step so they don’t miss anything. Check out these examples here and here from the Eventbrite blog.
The second is a budget or excel template, where formulas or key columns have been thought through, and so the reader just has to input their own figures to get a customised document for their situation. This might be a marketing budget, a P&L sheet, an invoice etc. There’s another example of this on the Eventbrite blog.
The third is a visual content template, such as pre-designed powerpoint presentations or infographics which can be downloaded and edited by the user on their computer. This is another common resource available on the Hubspot blog, with one example being their powerpoint templates.
Speaking of visual templates, another variant on this is to provide a whole set of visual content that can be downloaded and used by the reader.
The most obvious and common is photos.
For example, Ryan McGuire has used free, high quality and license free photography via http://www.gratisography.com/ to build up an audience for his design agency Bell’s Design; as have Crew with their Unsplash collection (one of which I’m using as the feature image for this blog).
You could also easily create boilerplate headers for Twitter or Facebook, posters, html emails, gifs or short videos clips – imagination (and design talent) are your only barriers here!
How-to guides, tutorials and case studies
These types of resource can be invaluable for helping to onboard users and help them feel confident with your product or service.
They can take the form of written guides, instruction manuals, or videos.
However, they can also be used as a way to drive initial attention and interest at the top of the funnel too.
Wista has a great selection of video resources on their blog that help viewers with a host of potential problems and questions, from how to conduct a great interview to choosing the right backdrop for your video.
Canva also does an amazing job of providing a host of in-depth tutorials on design, and even lesson plans for those who want to teach design to others.
The best thing about tutorial resources is that they don’t just educate the reader about your product, they’re also teaching them interesting and transferable skills, so it feels less of a sales pitch and more of a quid-pro-quo.
The next step up from standalone ‘how to’ guides or videos is to start collating them into courses, so there’s a defined user path from beginning to end.
You can see this kind of resource in action on Neil Patel’s QuickSprout blog, where he has a section called the ‘University’ which offers complete lessons in digital marketing, from beginner through to advanced.
Copyblogger is another great example of turning lots of useful content into a resource where the whole is greater than the sum of its part. Their ‘An Internet Marketing Education in 16 Ebooks and 20 Emails’ has been shared over 10,000 times!
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m particularly a sucker for anything labelled a course. To me they hold the promise of real educational value and having achieved something at the end of it.
Again, courses can vary significantly, from short and simple such as Eventbrite’s ‘How to Grow Your Email List in 5 Simple Steps’ which delivers a daily email to your inbox for 5 days, through to really comprehensive and on-demand content like that provided by Copyblogger.
Last but certainly not least on this list of resources is the tool.
And boy, can these be effective at growing a loyal audience.
Probably the best example I can think of at the moment is SumoMe, who’ve created a suite of excellent free wordpress tools, helping them to grow their audience of over 1,000,000 subscribers.
Their first tool – List Builder – has been installed by over 60,000 users, including by a lot of leading brands (including ours) to help drive engagement and social shares on their respective blogs.
Other tools you might think of creating include online pricing calculators (here’s an example from building and DIY materials supplier Jewson), Chrome extensions (such as this useful SEO toolbar from Moz) and even fully interactive design studios like this one from Magnet, a kitchen retailer.
Once again, imagination and budget and the only limitations here.
It’s not always as easy to create a custom tool or a well thought out course as it is to bash out another 1000 word article to meet your 3 posts a week quota, but the results should be worth it.
By switching to a mindset of creating more resources and less content for the sake of content, you will not only help your customers, but it will help your content marketing efforts by reducing the volume of stuff you need to create, letting you focus on fewer, higher value and higher impact ideas.
What are you favourite examples of resources developed by brands?