The Most Important Characteristic Of Great Marketing Content Is…

By June 5, 2013June 28th, 2015Writing & Content Marketing
The Most Important Characteristic Of Great Marketing Content Is…

I can probably guess the top three responses. You need to have your own point of view! You need to be creative and clever! You need to be original!

Yes, having a unique point of view is critical if you want to stand out from the heaping pile of “content” that fills our computer and mobile screens. You need to have a voice that other people don’t have but try to imitate.

Yes, creativity helps, especially in your headline, if you want to lasso someone’s attention for more than five seconds while emails, texts, tweets and Facebook updates light up their mobile phone like a Christmas tree.

Yes, originality helps because people won’t read something they’ve already read a hundred times. If you’re not bringing something new to the conversation, what’s the point?

But none of these take the top spot as the single most important characteristic of great marketing content.

That’s because a unique point of view, creativity and originality cannot succeed without clarity. Clarity must come first.

Without clarity, your marketing content is doomed to be overlooked, misunderstood or just lost in the noise. This applies to everything from a 500-word blog post to a 30-second elevator pitch to the six-word headline on the home page of your website.

The Definition Of Clarity

According to Dictionary.com, clarity is defined as “clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.” Synonyms include intelligibility, exactness, lucidity and transparency.

When you break that definition down a bit, it’s easy to see why clarity makes the content world go round.

Clarity creates accurate perceptions. “Perception is reality” may be one of those clichés that makes me cringe, but it’s 100% true.

Clarity enables a true understanding of your company and illustrates why someone should do business with you by minimizing ambiguity.

Clarity provides an exactness that can highlight points of differentiation and answer basic questions your business, which helps to remove obstacles to a sale.

Clarity promotes transparency, which conveys honesty and builds trust. If people don’t believe you, your content is useless.

The Key To Achieving Clarity

Simplify everything. Cut the fat and strip down your content to the nuts and bolts. Then, cut a little more. If you can take 200 words of content and make your point just as effectively in 100 words, do it.

The quickest way to simplify your content is to lose the fluffy adjectives and adverbs you found in the thesaurus, and focus on the nouns and verbs. Ask yourself:

What makes this this content useful, relevant and valuable to readers? How will they benefit by reading it?

Who are you? What do you do? Who is your target audience?

What results do you do deliver? How do you deliver those results?

This will help you create one core message for each piece of marketing content. If you can’t explain that core message in one simple sentence, you’re trying to say too much. Be clearer.

When you achieve clarity through simplicity, you make it easier for readers to comprehend and absorb your content. Creativity is great, but not if the point of your message is lost. Originality is great, but if you can’t clearly communicate your original thoughts, they won’t sink in.

The days of selling the sizzle are long gone. We don’t have time or patience for sizzle. In fact, we don’t trust sizzle and can see right through it.

Don’t try to prove what an eloquent writer you are, or how smart you are. Just tell us about the steak.

Agree or disagree? If you disagree, what characteristic of great marketing content trumps clarity?

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Hi Scott,

    Interesting post. I think clarity is very important, but I think if we lose all creativity then the content can become a boring read. I do agree with you, however, that “sizzle” is dead. The one thing people want above all else is honesty.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi George – Like I said, creativity is important, but content can succeed without creativity. It can’t succeed without clarity. Of course, different people have different definitions of creativity. Regardless of how you define it, creativity without clarity creates confusion and frustration. I’m with you on the importance of honesty, but if you want people to believe you, you have to clearly convey your thoughts. Thanks – Scott

      • SandyMcD says:

        Spot on Scott. Clarity also defines purpose and purpose is the best filter for everything we do in business. Rather than inhibiting creativity, once you are clear about your purpose it seems to unleash creativity. Great post.

        • Scott_McKelvey says:

          Great point, Sandy. Clarity and purpose enable us to to take our content to the next level. Thanks! Scott

  • geofflivingston says:

    Interesting. I would say that’s true of all content. I’d say the greatest characteristic of good content marketing is resonance or context.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Geoff – Two great characteristics, but again, I don’t think content can resonate without clarity. As for context, clarity makes the proper context, well, clearer. Thanks – Scott

      • geofflivingston says:

        I disagree. Without context a stakeholder won’t even give the content a chance to have clarity. Marketing has to serve stakeholders from the headline forward, sorry. Workmanship doesn’t mean a damn thing if it’s off base.

        • Scott_McKelvey says:

          Maybe I’m misunderstanding your point, or we may be talking about two different things. The post is about the actual content, not content marketing strategy. I think you’re referring to a problem with strategy, not the content.

          • geofflivingston says:

            You can’t build content without strategy and expect it to be succesful.

          • Scott_McKelvey says:

            I couldn’t agree more, but that’s really not the point of the post. I actually agree with you comments, but they’re not in the right context 🙂

  • kellicreative says:

    Hmmm… I’m new to the digital marketing sphere, but shouldn’t you start with defining “good” and how you know if you’ve accomplished “good”? A little late to the party on this thread and with this book reference (2007), but I found “Made to Stick” by the Brothers Heath clear and resonate on this topic… perhaps even “good”. 😉

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Kelli – Fair point. To me, good content is content that people want, like, share and remember. It establishes your expertise and credibility while building trust and cultivating relationships. It’s easy to find, and it ultimately drives revenue. How’s that? 🙂 Thanks – Scott