Content (e.g., blog posts and paid advertisements on LinkedIn) is the bridge between your organization’s products and your customers and prospective customers. Marketing content assets are about more than helping customers find and visit your organization’s website; they’re vehicles for building trust as an authoritative source of solutions to their challenges.
In today’s climate of digital business and information streams, marketing content enables sustainable and scalable lead generation.
Great content that differentiates your brand is well-written and resonates with customers by helping them see how they can solve a challenge or meet a need by building a relationship with your organization.
This is why every piece of content should be developed using an outline.
In a blog post about the benefits of content marketing, HubSpot states that “consistent, high-quality, and engaging content impacts audience decision-making more than any other technique.”
A content outline is just that: a blueprint or plan for what your marketing article or blog will cover. It includes the key sections (i.e., headings), main points you want the audience to recall, and evidence, like data and quotes, that support your point of view or argument.
Your outline is the launching pad for your article because it organizes your thoughts and prevents you from spending too much time on figuring out what to say.
By creating a content outline, you’ll be better equipped to create a compelling, relevant story for your audience – and stories are crucial for establishing trust with current and potential clients.
To develop an article outline that helps you create a compelling story for your audience each time, there are five steps to follow, whether you’re writing a blog, a paid advertising piece, or an article that’s part of a landing page offer.
Marketing pieces are developed for specific audiences or customer segments and, therefore, should start with a challenge that your customers need help answering or solving. Keyword research involves Googling words and phrases that your customers are searching for, and it’s an essential method for determining the focus of your piece.
By doing keyword research, you’ll zero in on the challenges that your product offerings are positioned to address. You can also augment your online research by asking sales and customer service colleagues what trends, needs, or challenges your customers are talking about that support customer acquisition.
Start creating the blueprint for your marketing content by identifying the critical information your audience needs to address the challenge related to the keyword topic you’ve selected. To do this, brainstorm and jot down the aspects that are most relevant to creating a compelling story, like key facts about the challenge’s importance, the issues customers often struggle to solve, and data and/or visuals that support how your organization helps customers.
To boost your thinking, research your organization’s most downloaded blogs and clicked landing pages and meet with your marketing and sales colleagues to pinpoint the main aspects of the challenge that customers are exhibiting in their demand for support.
With your list of must-have information, give edges to your outline with the broader themes that form your outline’s (and story’s) organization.
These themes become the main sections of your article or blog and the foundation of your outline. To translate the themes into sections, write initial punchy headers (i.e., your H2 tags) like “What is a Content Outline?” and determine whether certain sections may have sub-headers (i.e., H3 tags).
At the end of this step, the aim is to create a top-line structure articulating a story flow that disposes of the keyword (i.e., the audience’s challenge or need) by adopting one of the main types of business writing (e.g., educational or persuasive).
You’ve got your high-level story flow, so bring it to life by gathering the key information for each theme or section. Statistics, quotes from reputable experts, and other supporting details, like your organization’s thought leadership (e.g., related blogs or expert articles), will build credibility and resonate with your audience.
Then, make a list of the most important facts and information nuggets you’ll cover in each theme and go over the outline to identify gaps or potential reorganization that could help the story flow better. It’s helpful to review all the information listed for relevancy by asking how each item helps create a piece that disposes of the specific challenge or addresses the constituent need.
At this stage, the emphasis is on shaping the narrative that the outline supports. However, rather than starting with the introduction, it’s more effective to develop the section-specific takeaways first.
Jot down concise bullet points in sentence format or as action statements that convey the key points you’ll cover in each section. Aim for three bullets per section because you want to keep your marketing piece consumable and only highlight the most relevant aspects to dial up the key takeaway(s).
This approach will keep you from having to scrap your efforts or rework the outline after you start writing.
Your outline is perfect – but wait. Before you start cranking out your marketing piece, it’s a good idea to share the outline with your editor.
This step is important because it allows you to confirm that the outline reflects this piece’s objective and double-check that you’ve got essential writing tools handy, like the style guide.
Also, if there’s a section of the outline you’re uncertain about, checking with your editor before you dig into writing is a great way to avoid potential bottlenecks you could encounter when producing compelling content for your customers.
By following these five steps each time you create a content outline, you’ll create a blueprint that helps you to maintain a customer-centric mindset and write more quickly and effectively. Most importantly, you’ll build a process discipline that increases your aptitude for creating marketing content that pulls your organization’s customers and prospective customers to your organization as a trustworthy source.
Want to learn more about building a successful business blog? Check out our guide to building and maintaining a business blog.
When you’re ready to take the next step in fine-tuning your staff’s writing skills, we’re here to help. Our editors provide quality feedback on every document they work on. Besides improving flow, concision, and clarity, they’ll offer educational advice in each edit to ensure your employees receive effective advice to improve their writing. Schedule a call with us today and discover why we’re trusted by hundreds of organizations, from award-winning start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.
Want to bite down on your content crunch?
Let’s talk about the support you need.