Make Sure Your Content Passes the T.H.I.N.K. Test


What would you do with an unlimited content marketing budget?

Oh, the eBooks and infographics and blog posts you could make! Video and audio, whitepapers, research papers, guides galore… endless money means endless possibilities.

Okay. Deep breath. Snap back to reality.

James Franco Startled

We’re all working with limited resources to create a finite amount of content to fit into a crowded editorial calendar. 

So how can you make sure you’re making the most of what you have?

How can you know for sure that a proposed content project is worth your while — worth time spent researching, creating, amplifying and optimizing?

It’s simple: T.H.I.N.K.!

Let me explain. My wife is a middle school teacher (a moment of silence for her service). She has this poster on prominent display in her classroom:

Poster Reading Before You Speak: Think: Is It True? Is It Helpful? Is It Inspiring? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?

In the classroom, it’s an attempt to get middle-schoolers to stop cyberbullying each other. But these same five criteria can make sure your content is essential, valuable, and worthy of the time it takes to create it. Let’s break it down.

T.H.I.N.K. for More Effective B2B Content Strategy

#1: Is It True?

I don’t know many marketers who set out to lie to people. Not many who keep a job long, anyway. I don’t think we have to say, “Make sure your content is factually correct and not lies.” 

That said, there are a few ways marketers can mislead audiences, and even mislead themselves about their content’s truthfulness. 

Does your content intend to keep its promise? Sometimes a “guide to solutions in X industry” is really “list of reasons our brand is best.” Sometimes “how to do X” is more, “vague instructions about X that aren’t super actionable.” Or perhaps “X statistics for 2019” is more, “collection of statistics I found on other statistics posts that are 10 years old.” 

If the content you’re planning can’t or won’t fulfill the promise it makes to the audience, you’re better off without it. 

If the content you’re planning can’t or won’t fulfill the promise it makes to the audience, you’re better off without it. @NiteWrites #B2BContentMarketing Click To Tweet

#2: Is It Helpful?

As marketers, we’re trained to ask the question, “What is this content going to do for our brand?” And that’s a good question to ask! We’re not a publishing company; we have business objectives. But we should also be asking, “What is this content going to do for our audience?” 

After they consume your content, is your audience going to be:

  • Better at their job
  • Prepared for a coming change
  • Smarter about a crucial topic for their industry
  • Able to do something they couldn’t before

The list could go on, but you get the picture. Will this content be helpful in ways unrelated to your CTA at the bottom? If not… take another pass with the focus on your audience.

#3: Is It Inspirational?

The old “mad men” era of marketing frequently ran on “Do this… or else!” kinds of messaging. Pick the wrong brand of coffee, and your husband will be ashamed of you! Smoke our brand of cigarettes or you’ll get headaches (doctors recommend ours)! Drive this kind of car or your boss will think you’re a sissy!

It turns out, though, that people would rather be encouraged than scolded. The central message behind all great content is “You can do this.” It might be hard, and you might not know how to do it yet, but you can do this, and our brand is here to make sure of it. 

If your planned content isn’t reassuring and inspiring your audience, it’s time to switch to the light side of the force.

If your planned content isn’t reassuring and inspiring your audience, it’s time to switch to the light side of the force. @NiteWrites #B2BContentMarketing Click To Tweet

#4: Is It Necessary?

If you loaded up every “Definitive Guide” to any given subject, and copy-pasted them into one document… would you ever stop scrolling? You’d get a document so long it would make a CVS receipt look like a Post-It Note. 

There’s a lot of content out there, I’m saying. And most new content is adding to the noise, not the signal. 

To make sure your content is necessary, start with making sure it meets a search demand. But let’s go deeper: 

  • Does it meet an unmet demand?
  • What are you giving the audience that they can’t get anywhere else?
  • What makes your brand uniquely qualified to weigh in?
  • What negative consequences would there be if this content didn’t exist?

If your proposed content can’t answer at least three of the above questions to your satisfaction, you need more introspection about what your brand stands for, is knowledgeable about, and wants to be known for.

 #5: Is It Kind?

If your content is true, helpful, inspirational, and necessary, odds are it’s kind to your audience as well. So what’s left?

I translate “Is it kind?” to “How does this content contribute to society?” 

I get it. That’s a huge question and it’s a big ask. Does that mean your content has to cure diseases and adopt rescue dogs to earn a place in your editorial calendar?

Well, no, of course not. But content can meaningfully make the world a better place, while still being marketing content written for business purposes. Carlos Abler made a compelling case for it in his Content Marketing World presentation this year. He shared examples of how content marketing could, for example, lead smoking cessation initiatives, or lower infant mortality rates in the third world.

But you don’t have to start that big. Just think about your content outside of your intended audience, as part of the ebb and flow of discourse. Is it adding positivity, hope, promoting diversity? Or is it stoking negativity, fear, and division? Essentially, the last part of the process here is to give your content a ‘vibe check.’

If your content isn’t going to radiate a little positive energy into the universe at large, it’s worth retooling until you get there. Try again after a cup of coffee, if you need to.

T.H.I.N.K. Outside the Box

There are plenty of practical and technical considerations to make when you create a B2B content marketing strategy. But before you put your content plan in action, make sure you’re focusing resources on content that passes the T.H.I.N.K. test. 

Content that is true, helpful, inspirational, necessary and kind is going to be the most effective for your goals. T.H.I.N.K. makes content more worthy of your audience’s time, more likely to be shared, more likely to spark enthusiasm, and more likely to help build relationships with your brand.

We all know that the days of creating content for content’s sake are long gone. So, how can you create content that has a meaningful impact? Find out.


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