Marketers, bloggers, and small business owners have been struggling with the same problem for years: how to create compelling content. Why is it such a struggle? Because they're using the wrong process—or, worse, they don't use a process at all.

Some of them create content simply based on assumptions. I like to compare that approach to a poker game: Players are throwing money on the table hoping to win, but the truth is they're depending completely on luck.

For content creation, it's much more effective to develop a process that works time after time. Here's a four-step process you can use to create more compelling content for your audience.

Step 1: Create buyer personas

Knowing your audience is the first step toward creating great content. You need to learn your audience's language, aspirations, desires, and the things they don't like. The best way to do that is to create buyer personas.

Buyer personas are semi-fictional characters that represent your prospective customer (or reader) as a whole. By creating them, you can better understand your audience's worldview and develop better products, services, and, of course, content.

Buyer personas also allow you to find the places where your prospective customers spend their time, helping you determine which marketing channels to use to promote your content (but that's a topic for another day).

(Ready to create your buyer personas? Start by reading this guide from HubSpot.)

Step 2: Find your audience's pain points

Once you've developed buyer personas, it's time to find your audience's pain points (problems they face) so you can create content to solve those pain points.

Remember: The best content is content that people can read, understand, and use to solve a specific problem.

There are several ways to find your customers' pain points, but the following are among most effective (and least expensive):

  • Quora: This is an advanced forum where professionals constantly post questions about a variety of topics. It's very useful for finding the questions your audience has about your topic area.
  • Social networks: Whether you're on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, you can ask your followers what they're struggling with most. Not everyone will respond, but even a few answers can give you valuable insights and fresh ideas.
  • Qeryz: This is a Web-based service that allows you to create "mini interviews" and put them on your blog. By using strategic questions for the interviews, you can learn a lot about what your readers think and what they're struggling with.

Step 3: Create a list of proven topic ideas

Compelling content always starts with the right topic. If you choose the wrong topic, your content isn't going to perform well.

Once you've gathered insights from your audience (Step 2), it's time to create a list of topics around that information. An "idea generator" spreadsheet is a great place to brainstorm and save topic ideas. Every time you have a new idea, no matter how small or how random, head over to your spreadsheet and save the idea.

Here's a process you can use to validate your topic ideas. Let's say you run a gardening blog and you find your audience is struggling with plant care and greenhouse construction. You can use that knowledge to create content:

  • First, head over to BuzzSumo and type in your keyword. For your gardening blog, this might be "plant care" or "greenhouse." BuzzSumo gives you the most popular content for that keyword, sorted by number of social shares, showing you the types of topics that are performing well in your niche.
  • Then, open your idea generator spreadsheet and save all the topic ideas you found in BuzzSumo.
  • Second, go to Topsy and repeat the process. Topsy shows you the most popular content for your specific keywords, but unlike BuzzSumo it also shows you the most popular social media posts. This gives you a deep understanding of what your audience likes to read and share.
  • Again, go to your idea generator and save the insights you found in Topsy.
Now you have a list of proven content ideas. Why? Because you've focused on content you know people like to read and share. And if you create fresh content around those topics, it's very likely people will read and share yours, too.

I recommend scheduling a meeting with your team to start brainstorming content ideas based on the list you've created. Once you have some topics in place, it's time to jump to the next step.

Step 4: Use the CURVE method to craft compelling content

At this point you should have a deep understanding of your audience and a list of proven topic ideas. Now, it's time to start creating your content. Don't worry! If you followed the previous steps, this won't be the hardest part.

Whether you're creating a video, article, podcast, or image, the CURVE method will make your content stand out.

CURVE stands for...

  • Curiosity
  • Urgency
  • Relevance
  • Value
  • Emotion

Although this method was originally created for writing compelling email subject lines, I've found it also works extremely well for content creation.

You don't need all five CURVE elements in every piece of content, but do try to include the last three: relevancy, value, and emotion. They are the most important elements of compelling content.

* * *

I hope you recognize the potential of creating content using a proven process. If you follow the principles, concepts, and steps in this article, content creation will be easier and much more effective.

Compelling content starts with your audience. When you understand the way your target readers view the world, you'll be able to create content they want to read.

What other ways do you know to create awesome content.

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