Content creation is a four-step process: strategy, creation, distribution and conversion. Of these four steps, creation is often the most neglected. This is where the process goes wrong.

We see it every day. A company invests in and implements expensive marketing automation software and then, almost as an afterthought, realises, ‘Oh yeah, we need to create some content now.’ So, the product managers and IT developers, who have lots of knowledge about the product, sit down to start writing. But they’ve already got enough work to do as it is. Writing is not high on their list of priorities, because they actually don’t have time to do it. Fair enough, writing isn’t their area of expertise anyway. As a result, they produce illegible white papers, poorly worded blog posts and newsletters full of articles about their product that nobody wants to read. This content is then pumped into the marketing automation software. It’s like pouring a bottle of salad oil into the tank of your brand-new BMW.

What you need is some real fuel! Here are four tips to get your engines running:

1. Your tone of voice: always clear

Lots of companies focus on formulating the right ‘tone of voice’, the way they want to speak to their target groups. The most important thing is to make clarity your number-one priority. Even if you have a complex message, make sure to communicate as clearly as possible. Clarity means simple writing. Avoid needlessly long sentences and complicated sentence structures. Stick to ‘subject’ + ‘verb’ + ‘the rest of the sentence’. Avoid vague verb constructions that contain words like ‘might’ and ‘should’, and write as specifically as possible. If you’re not sure where to start, take a lesson from Stephen King.

2. Your product or service is not the focus

Content-marketing is not a channel for your commercial messaging. Most people don’t care about your specific product or service. They’re interested in the underlying problem your product or service solves. Suppose you’re an HR consultant and you’re specialised in assessments. Don’t write a blog about why your approach is so spot-on. Instead, write about the problem that your assessment solves: hiring qualified people.

3. Be creative

People are constantly bombarded with content these days. They usually devote just a few seconds to deciding whether to read a blog post. That means it’s essential to catch their eye and get straight to the point. Don’t water down your message with vague language. Be creative. Surprise your reader with a good laugh, a striking quote or a perfect metaphor. Enhance your text with appealing photos, videos or info-graphics. Also get creative about the form in which you offer your content. Instead of sending yet another white paper, for example, try writing a guidebook or creating a magazine. Instant Magazine is one tool that easily enables you to do this.

4. Choose a broad target group.

Most B2B companies have a limited target group: their direct (potential) customers. This greatly limits the possible reach of your content. To broaden your reach, target influencers who are already getting through to your potential customers. The company Buffer uses this strategy with its platform for sharing and monitoring content through social media. The result: thousands of shares and likes. This approach also means you don’t have to limit yourself to topics related to your product or service. You can write about topics that will attract an even larger audience. Read here about how Buffer rolled out this strategy.