We’ve all been there before. An empty Word or Google document that dominates your computer screen. A keyboard that beckons activity. Outstanding inbound marketing content just waiting to be written—content that will inform readers, establish your company’s thought leadership, and, ultimately, move leads down the sales funnel and create customers.
Only one thing stands in your way of turning this scenario into something incredible: You have absolutely no idea what you are going to write.
If this dilemma is familiar, you aren’t alone. Writers across all disciplines—even professional journalists—occasionally encounter instances of writer’s block, vanished creativity, or a lack of motivation. Career writers realize these bumps in the road are normal, don’t become too discouraged, and work through whatever issue they are experiencing. However, marketers—used to immediate action and measurable results—can be thoroughly demoralized when the words don’t freely flow.
Even marketers who aren’t experiencing writer’s block or another issue might suffer from inefficiency, thus requiring more time than necessary to complete content. Unfortunately, most marketers don’t have that much time to spare. What subsequently suffers is the content itself—it becomes less of a priority, particularly if it’s requiring a seemingly Herculean effort to produce.
Blogs, e-books, and other content are obviously important to an overall inbound strategy, and they absolutely shouldn’t be causing you stress or monopolizing your time. Here are five tips for producing inbound marketing content more efficiently:
1. Outline first
Before I started writing inbound marketing content, my background was in sports journalism—with more than two decades of newspaper experience. In that realm, writing efficiently was necessary because one might only have an hour (or less) to crank out a game story. Fortunately, marketers aren’t often pressed against short turnarounds and tight deadlines—you can usually take some time to craft good content without dragging out the process.
Perhaps the best preliminary step you can take with this extra time is to outline your content before you start writing. The outline doesn’t need to be elaborate; just a basic blueprint on what you are going to focus on, and in what order, will chart a path to be followed later. For example, on this post, all these headers you see were my outline. I plotted the post out, then came back to write the content. For marketers, trying to wing an 800-word article sometimes works … and sometimes leaves you with a meandering mess. Ten minutes to formulate an outline can save you a couple hours trying to fix all-over-the place content later.
2. Don’t stress out on the lead
An entertaining and inviting lead helps grab and hold the reader’s attention and make it more likely he or she will read the rest of the content. Non-boring leads are essential to sportswriting, too, but as a novice journalist who once couldn’t come up with anything on an article and settled for a lead that was a stretch, I was given this advice by one of my more experienced co-workers: “Sometimes, you are better off just being direct.” That’s good advice for inbound marketing content as well.
The clever introduction might not readily come to you, but ultimately, the most important elements of a blog post or e-book is what comes after the lead. Be direct and concise if you need to be with leads, or better yet, write the rest of the content and come back to the introduction. There is no reason to spend an hour on your lead and then possibly be faced with less time to work on the rest of the content.
3. Don’t sweat the conclusion
Another part of content, particularly with blogs, that marketers struggle with is the conclusion—a tidy little wrap-up to summarize the entire post. They try to write some kind of closing, but it often comes off as contrived, or redundant, or even a little cheesy. If this is a challenge for you, because you aren’t good at it or because the content simply doesn’t lend itself to additional, ultimately non-essential words, here’s my suggestion: Don’t use a conclusion at all. Compelling content speaks for itself and doesn’t need a happily-ever-after moment. A reader who comes away from a post feeling enlightened and informed won’t think less of you because you omitted a “traditional” conclusion.
4. Stave off writer’s block
Sleep experts suggest that if you can’t doze off in 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something else for a while before attempting again to fall asleep. Follow the same principle with writer’s block—don’t keep staring at your screen hoping something will happen. Unless you are on a tight deadline, likely, you have plenty of other things to temporarily work on instead.
Writer’s block happens to the best of us; it doesn’t mean that you have nothing worthwhile to say, but rather, that your brain is just not ready to cooperate. Also, if you have prepared for your writing session by doing the necessary research, creating an outline, and not procrastinating, you will more ready prepared to overcome writer’s block or avoid it altogether.
5. Simple now, polished later
National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, challenges everyday people to pound out a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. For people with day jobs, finding the time to write that much in 30 days can be tough, but NaNoWriMo offers this tip that also can apply to marketers trying to be more efficient: Get the words down now, then go back and improve them later (in NaNoWriMo’s case, much later).
For inbound marketing content, if the thoughts are bursting out of your head but you can’t seem to make your sentences flow, write everything down and then step away. You should be editing whatever you write anyway, so improving the copy will already be part of the process. If you can take two hours now to write a rough draft and an hour later to fix it up, you should end up with a better end result than taking five hours in one session to produce content that still might be shaky because you were struggling. Don’t wait too long for the editing pass—you want the content to still be fresh in your mind—but even a few hours’ break can give you a new perspective on what you wrote and the energy to turn it into something great.
How do you deal with writer’s block when creating inbound marketing content?