If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance this isn’t your first experience with Maxwell’s content.
If you’re new here, hi! I’m Chelsea, the Content Manager here at Maxwell. I manage all of the research, writing, editing, and design for our marketing content (our primary bread and butter is eBooks, blogs, and our podcast Clear to Close, but look for more content types from us soon).
If you’re not familiar with content marketing, it’s simple. I create relevant content that will resonate with my intended target audience. By creating content that speaks to their needs and interests, I can increase brand awareness and drive leads via gated content (a.k.a. content that you have to fill out a form to access).
I’ve been at Maxwell for two years now and in my time here, content has become a bit of a cornerstone for us. It’s a proud moment in my career; I’ve deployed similar content marketing strategies before, but I’ve never been quite this successful or felt my work resonate with this much impact.
You see, there’s something about the mortgage industry that has been protected from the more annoying aspects of content marketing.
In my last position prior to Maxwell, I worked for a B2B software company that sold to marketers. I was no less committed to putting out high-value content, but our content pieces were just another drop in an already overflowing bucket.
In your typical mid-size software company, content marketing is just another thing that you have to do because it’s expected of you, but it’s rarely a game-changer.
At Maxwell, I feel comfortable saying that content has been a game-changer for us. And that’s the beauty of this industry is that the mortgage vertical is not like other industries.
Though sometimes we lament the slow pace of this industry, the great thing about it is that you don’t have to do much to stand out from the crowd when it comes to marketing (to put it gently, we often see some… underwhelming… websites and digital marketing from mortgage companies).
If Maxwell is any indication, content marketing can be a huge competitive advantage, and I want to share the wealth with you because there is ample room in the mortgage industry for a few more powerhouse content brands.
There is so little in-depth, well-researched content out there about mortgages, both from the industry perspective that I write from and consumer-side of things from the perspective of your borrowers. You can fill the gap. It can be daunting, but it’s possible.
All that to stay, I’d be willing to bet you, dear reader, have more than enough expertise to channel into your own content, and you don’t need a huge team or a big budget to make content marketing actionable.
1.) Don’t read listicles about content marketing (except for this one)
The problem with content marketing is that it can get fluffy and shallow very quickly. If you’ve every read a bad self-published LinkedIn article (legit probably 90% of them are just eight paragraphs of self-aggrandizing BS), you know how icky it feels to read a blog post that was written either with a) the intention of tricking the reader into buying something or b) the intention to bang out some words in a sloppy listicle to pad your website with more content.
Because it’s often all about clicks and downloads, many content marketers would tell you to ‘game’ the system and template your content for maximum content production, and harp on SEO .
Many content marketers believe it’s all about quantity. The more words on your website, the better. The more blogs on your site, the more eBooks in your resource center, the better. DON’T GO THIS ROUTE! The best way to learn about good content marketing isn’t to read listicles full of platitudes, it’s to read great content and to write valuable content yourself. That’s it. It’s really that easy.
With that said, here are some great content marketing resources to whet your whistle as you get started:
–Content Marketing Institute: Content Marketing Institute does great work about content marketing, and they have a large time of seasoned content marketers who cover just about every angle of content marketing imaginable. This is a great place to start.
–Velocity Partners: When I say I have a content marketing crush on Velocity Partners, what I really mean is that I am OBSESSED with the work that Velocity Partners puts out. They are an agency that specializes in content marketing for brands, and their ethos is grounded in the idea that content marketing should be conversational, easy to read, and innately honest and authentic.
–The Power of Insane Honesty in Content Marketing: A great piece by Velocity Partners about the value of honesty and authenticity in content marketing.
2.) Live and die by the words
Look alive people, ’cause this one is important. You have to live and die by the words.
I never took a marketing class in college. I was not trained to be a marketer. I am, first and foremost, a writer. I got my master’s degree in Film and Media Studies (it’s okay to laugh at my less-than-lucrative life choices… at least I got funding so it was a free degree!). I ultimately got recruited into a marketing career because someone read my writing and knew there was talent there that could be cultivated.
You would think that it’s a given that all content marketers would be great writers, but sadly, I just don’t think that’s the case.
I see far too many content creators out there who are so focused on quantity and SEO, who want to get eyeballs on their work, who feel like they need to churn out work constantly, that they lose sight of the words at the center of it all.
You don’t have to be a great writer to be good at content, but you need to care about the words. Writing isn’t easy, but it’s a muscle you have to practice if you want to get better. Writing is very much about learning by doing, and you don’t have to be an expert marketer or the next Ernest Hemingway to be great at content marketing.
All you have to do is pick a topic you’re knowledgeable about and confident talking about, and then just sit down and write. Don’t worry about it being perfect your first time around, just get the ideas written down first and then you can polish the words later.
Here are a few great tools and resources to help you cultivate your inner writer:
–Grammarly: You’ve probably heard of Grammarly. It’s a great tool that checks you writing for spelling and grammar errors and offers suggestions to make your writing better.
–Hemingway App: Ernest Hemingway is known for his concise, pithy prose, and the Hemingway App helps you emulate Hemingway’s minimalistic style. Simply copy/paste your text into the Hemingway App, and it will highlight areas in your writing that are unnecessarily long or wordy and offer suggestions to make your writing more concise and impactful.
3.) Quality over quantity
I hinted at this earlier, but this is perhaps my biggest content marketing commandment. You have to focus on the quality and forget about the quantity.
If you want to establish yourself as a strong content brand, you’re far better off writing one GREAT piece a month and being consistent with quality than you will be churning out six rushed or surface-level pieces per month.
Part of the reason my work resonates with people is because I care so deeply about putting out content that is valuable and authentic. Readers can smell artifice from a mile away, and every piece I do is a little labor of love because I’m so keenly focused on putting out valuable, well-researched work and it’s worth putting in the extra effort to ensure my writing is of the utmost quality. I hold myself to a high standard and you should, too.
People know great work when they see it. If you’re going to create content, have enough respect for your readers to put in the time and effort to make it authentic, valuable, and high-quality.
4.) Educate, don’t sell
Content marketing is still, at it’s core, marketing. It is supposed to drive leads for your business and spread awareness for your brand. But you don’t have to go out of your way to push what you’re selling as long as you choose your topics wisely.
I HATE reading content that feels pushy or manipulative.
There is nothing worse than thinking I’m reading a blog post about productivity tips, only to realize that half of the tips are not actually productivity tips at all but product pitches pushing me to subscribe to a productivity app.
Good content marketers sell by being relevant and offering value to their target audience. If you create content with the ulterior motive of tricking the reader into reading about your service or product, you’ve already lost their trust.
If you’re trying to bring in borrowers with content marketing, the best way to do that is by creating content that is actually valuable to them.
Mortgages are confusing and if you can teach the borrower something without strings attached, if you can use your expertise to teach them something that helps alleviate their anxiety about the mortgage process, they will be far more inclined to trust you with their business because you’ve already proven that you care more about helping them through the process than you do about making money off of them.
5.) Do your research. Be the expert.
This is a big one. Maxwell gets incredible feedback on our content, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it is about our content that helps us stand out. Ultimately, I believe it is the level of research and depth with which we approach topics that makes all the difference.
My boss constantly reminds me that every eBook we do doesn’t need to be researched like a PhD dissertation, but the former grad student in me just refuses to quit. I would say a solid 75-80% of the time I spend on an eBook is spent in the research phase; in many ways, the writing is the easy part.
If you want to make great content that resonates with your borrowers, put on their shoes as you research. Think about what they want to know, what phrases they might type into Google, and how they might be feeling as they research about mortgages.
Remember that this is not about you. When you write content, you should constantly be thinking about what your borrowers want to know and how you can help educate them.
Dive deep. Don’t be afraid to be thorough. I think that internet culture has scared us away from longer content. People are so afraid of losing the attention of their audience that they don’t even try to engage with them past the surface level. That is a big mistake.
Before I started at Maxwell, our eBooks usually clocked in at around 1,500-2,000 words. Most of my eBooks in the past year have been around 6,000 words. We’ve also done two blog series (A Crack in the Foundation and The 30 Year Fix) which both clocked in at around 12,000 words per series.
I’m not saying you need to write a “Lord of the Rings”-length tomb about mortgage. But don’t underestimate the thirst for knowledge many borrowers have. The mortgage industry has long benefited from information asymmetry, and it’s time we started to right that wrong. Dig into the complex topics. Trust that your readers can handle complicated topics and longer blog posts.
Do your research. Build trust with your audience. Cite your sources. Go overboard. Treat your content like a research paper.
6.) Own your voice
One of the most difficult aspects of my job is not losing my ‘voice’. One of my favorite compliments I get about my writing is that, for those who know me personally, when they read my work, they hear the words in my voice in their head as they read. Part of being a good writer, especially when you’re writing for a brand, is learning to embody the brand’s voice while still preserving the intrinsic qualities of your own voice.
If you’re a loan officer looking to expand your marketing prowess, you don’t need to worry about your brand’s voice as much. So write like you. Your writing should sound like your voice, so don’t be afraid to write like you talk.
Be authentic, talk about things you care about, and own your voice.
7.) Keep it simple
You already have a lot of balls to juggle. Making content a part of your marketing repertoire might seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be.
Don’t feel intimidated by content marketing or put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t necessarily need your own website; you can use sites like Medium to host your content marketing and then share via your social channels and email contacts. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you just have to write.
8.) Write when you feel inspired
There is undoubtedly a certain amount of discipline required to write. But writing is unique in that it’s not always about mind over matter and forcing yourself to buckle down and grind out the work. When quality is the name of your game, forcing yourself to write is the quickest way to lose your audience.
There are days where I sit down to write something and my magic just… isn’t there. I write professionally but one of the best things I’ve done for myself in my career is to work with the ebbs and flows of my creativity. If I’m not feeling inspired, if I’m not feeling good about my writing, I don’t force it.
When I am feeling inspired though, the words flow out of me like an unstoppable force.
If you’re not feeling inspired, read and research until you feel like you have to write. Figure out what you want to say and write when it feels right.
Sometimes when I have a good idea for something but I don’t know how to articulate it, I will sit down and do what I refer to as “word vomit”. I will just sit down with an empty Word doc and I will write in a stream of consciousness style, with no mind for making sense or even writing full sentences. It’s less about writing something readable and more about clearing my head of all of the thoughts and ideas buzzing around in my head.
Some of my best work comes out of these brain dumps. Get in the habit of just spilling your thoughts onto paper and eventually you’ll have something worth developing.