8 Steps to epic content - epic mountain view

Blogs aren’t dead.

Neither is social media.

Or email marketing.

But these things have transformed in recent years, right along with content marketing … and right along with our culture.

People aren’t willing to wade through crappy content anymore. If the content doesn’t offer something really valuable, if it doesn’t change the reader’s life in some (even tiny) way, it’ll get glossed over and dismissed.

Content marketing is no longer just about creating content. It’s about creating content that matters.

Content that solves a problem.

Inspires.

Moves.

Meets readers exactly where they are.

This is why you’ve seen a rise in epic content over the last 5 years. With probably the single exception of Seth Godin’s blog, short little ranty blog posts don’t get or keep your audience’s attention anymore. You simply can’t get traction with a series of random blog posts.

In-depth content over 2,000 words performs better than shorter piecesyet most people are still publishing shorter, less comprehensive content. What does this mean for you? It means that you still have a huge opportunity to stand out in the sea of content online today.

Epic content provides massive value in the form of in-depth, targeted content that solves a problem or moves the reader in some way.

Often epic content is standalone – meaning that it can be downloaded and saved for later in PDF format. (Even if the epic content is published as a blog post, it can be more effective when you offer a PDF version of it.) No matter what, though, epic content earns more shares and links today than a standard blog post does.

An entire content strategy can revolve around epic content assets, in fact. Jimmy Daly details a fantastic Hub and Spoke strategy here.

Not sure where to start? Read on for the 8 steps you need to take to get your epic content into the world and in front of your target audience.

1. Ideation

The first part of the ideation (or brainstorming) step is all about coming up with a volume of ideas. With the following three things in mind, grab a pen and paper and jot down every topic idea that comes to mind:

  1. Target audience
  2. Specific need of that target audience
  3. Business goal of the content (lead generation, sales, brand awareness, etc.)

Once you’ve got a nice, big list of ideas, pare it down. Prioritize topics that you feel excited about and that you have particular expertise in.

Keep paring it down until you’re left with a handful of possible topic ideas.

Now, take those final ideas and slice them thinner. And thinner. And thinnest.

For example, “How to promote your business on Facebook” can be sliced thinner into “How to promote your e-commerce business on Facebook.” Then it can be sliced even thinner into “How to promote your e-commerce business with Facebook advertising.”

2. Decide on Format

Once you’ve got a thinly sliced content topic in mind, determine what format will work best for it.

Consider first where your target audience is in the buying process. What type of content would they readily consume?

For example, if they have no idea they even have a problem yet, creating an e-book that you publish on your business website won’t get you very far. But, creating an epic guest post for a website that those people spend a lot of time on – that will get seen.

Or another example: If your target audience knows they have a problem, and they know you have a solution that can solve that problem, an epic blog post about the problem won’t go over very well. A white paper about how three specific industries are using your solution to solve their problem – that will garner more interest.

Now, with your target audience once again firmly in mind, decide what format (aka content type) will work best for your epic content:

  • Guide
  • E-book
  • White paper
  • Long-form blog post
  • Case study
  • Microsite
  • Report
  • Video
  • Webinar …

And keep in mind, the average B2B marketer uses 13 different content types. So think beyond the blog!

3. Research

No matter the topic, your content will be more believable if you back it up with facts, further expert sources, and numbers.

Get ready to google.

Find out what other (credible) people and websites are saying about the topic.

Are there any studies or reports you can pull stats from?

Important note: Get to the original source. Don’t just reference articles that reference articles that reference studies. Find the original source of the fact or number your citing and use that in your content. If you can’t find the original source, don’t use the info.

I could write an entire book on how laziness in finding original sources is the cause of so much misinformation (and fake news!) on the web today. But I’ll just say this: Your credibility and reputation are on the line. If you cite something untrue, you won’t be taken seriously. Your business won’t be taken seriously. Any content writer worth their salt won’t link to your content.

Find and cite the original source for any facts and figures you use in your content.

4. Outline

Before you start writing, create an outline of your content.

Every type of content out there will include these five parts, so you can start here:

  1. Headline or title
  2. Introduction
  3. Cross-heads
  4. Body
  5. Conclusion

I suggest you write a working headline as well as working cross-heads (also known as sub-heads or section headlines). Even if you change those down the road, they’ll help guide you as you write.

5. Write

Block out an hour to write. This might be enough time for you to complete a first draft, or you might just scratch the surface in an hour – either way, it’s enough time to make a dent, and not so much time that you start getting antsy.

Turn off all distractions – Facebook, email, your smartphone, etc.

Pull out your research and your outline.

Set a timer for an hour.

And write.

Just write. Do nothing else than write for that hour.

When the hour is up, take a break if you need to. Check your email. Return a call. When you’re ready, set the timer for another hour. Either review and revise what you wrote, or write for another hour. Keep doing this until you have a decent first draft.

Epic content, by the way, should be incredibly actionable. Cut the fluff. Don’t take ten words to say what can be said in three.

Remember, this content is meant to change the reader’s life in some way. It’s not a puff piece and it’s not a novel. Be confident, concise and action-oriented in writing your epic content.

6. Edit

Once you have a working first draft, it’s time to go through it with a fine-toothed comb.

After a good night’s sleep.

You’ll always have fresher eyes the day after you write a piece of epic content. And fresher eyes will help you spot issues much faster and more accurately.

Once your content has stewed for a night, go back through it and look for:

  1. Logical flow
  2. Grammar
  3. Spelling
  4. Punctuation
  5. All facts and figures cited and linked to original sources

Epic content is a resource for your audience. And a good resource is thoughtfully refined, impeccably written and extraordinarily credible. Go through your content a few times, and even consider getting someone else to review it, before moving on to step 7.

7. Publish

If you have access to a designer, take advantage! Have the designer package up your content in a beautiful PDF to boost the production value of your epic content even higher.

Then publish it with fanfare.

8. Promote

Hitting the Publish button is not your last step anymore. For your epic content to be found online, you have to promote it.

  • Send it out to your email list
  • Post about it on your social media accounts
  • Write blog posts that lead up to it
  • If it’s a late-stage funnel piece (meaning the target audience is already very close to making a purchase), consider running ads that point to your content
  • Reach out to peers, colleagues, partners and influencers and ask them to share it

You also need to decide if you’re going to gate the content or not.

“Gating” content means you ask people for their email address in exchange for the content.

If your goal for the content is to grow your email list, that’s a case for gating.

If, on the other hand, your goal for the content is to move someone off the fence and toward a purchase, that could be a case for NOT gating your content.

People are getting more and more wary about giving their personal information in exchange for content these days. Consider the gating question seriously.

Now You’ve Got Your Epic Content … What Next?

Most epic content can live on for a long time. Unless you’re covering a time-sensitive topic (like a hot news topic, a year-in-review piece, or a this-year’s-trends piece), you can continue to promote this content for years.

That’s one of the great things about epic content – you publish it once and get an epic amount of use from it.

That also means that you don’t have to produce epic content every day. Some sites, like BuzzSumo and Crazy Egg, produce epic content on the daily – but they are exceptions (and they have teams dedicated to this). For most of us, we can squeeze a lot of value out of a single piece of epic content. In fact, here are 10 ways to repurpose your epic content.

 

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