Content marketing is best when it is useful. Help someone solve a problem or complete an interesting project and you may have earned a customer. With this in mind, it is little wonder that how-to articles and videos make for some of the best content marketing.
How-to content is also some of the easiest to write. What follows are seven steps you can follow to create how-to content for your business.
Step 1: Find a Problem to Solve or a Project to Build
A good how-to article or video should help your audience solve a problem or accomplish a task. The aim is to share some expertise or to demonstrate in easy-to-follow fashion how to succeed.
Thus, the first step is to identify a problem, a project, or a task. Put another way, you need a topic. What’s more, it should be a topic relevant to your business.
You can find good examples of relevant how-to topics on the iFixit site. The site sells repair kits for popular gadgets like iPhones, but markets itself as a repair guide that also happens to sell stuff.
If you have a cracked screen on your iPhone 5c, for example, iFixit has a display assembly replacement tutorial that will guide you through the screen replacement process.
To identify your own how-to topics or projects, try to learn what problems your customers might have or what task would interest them.
Step 2: Write Your Headline or Title
Write your headline first. This simple phrase should accurately describe the content. It should also help you refine your topic, since you will need to explain the problem or task your content addresses in just a single sentence.
You might find inspiration from the Eastwood Company, which sells tools and equipment for auto body repair. The company’s YouTube channel has many good how-to videos, with simple, direct titles. Here are a few examples:
- “How to paint headers and exhaust”
- “How to use tin snips”
- “How to powder coat brake calipers”
- “How to fabricate threaded inserts”
- “How to spray basecoat on your car”
Step 3: Do It Yourself
How-to content requires hands-on work. If your content will explain how to make an herb garden in a tower container, like the folks at Home Depot did, you are going to have to actually build the tower.
You need the experience for a couple reasons. First, you’ll want to verify that you honestly have the expertise to teach someone else how to complete the task. Second, you are going to want photographs or video footage showing the project in various stages.
Step 4: Divide the Activity into Steps, Sections
Separate the task or project into discrete steps or sections. You want your audience to be able to focus on one specific action at a time. Functionally, this means that you are going to be writing something that looks like an outline.
You can see an example of a how-to video with distinct steps on Birchbox Man’s YouTube Channel. The post “How to Match Your Shirt and Tie” offers five steps.
- Start with the shirt.
- Your tie should be darker than your shirt.
- For solid shirts, pick your contrast.
- For patterned shirts, match the dominant color.
- Choose patterns with different proportions.
Step 5: Write Each Step
This may seem obvious, but once you have each step or section identified and outlined, write about it. Describe the particular action.
For example, check out the “Father’s Day: Daddy Clay Dish” project on the Michael’s website. This how-to describes its steps in matter-of-fact fashion.
“Step 1: Scoop out clay to make a ball about the size of a child’s fist. Work the clay with your hands until it is soft enough to begin sculpting. Start with the clay in a ball, then start pushing down into the middle of the ball using your thumbs.”
As you write each step, include appropriate pictures and video to show our progress.
Step 6: Write Your Introduction
Once the main section of the how-to content is drafted, beit an article or video script, compose the introduction. Think about the opening paragraph like a journalist’s lede.
“In literature, journalism, and content marketing, a lede is the first paragraph of a written work. Its purpose is to both inform and entice the reader — explaining or summarizing what the article is about and making that topic seem interesting.”
Ultimately, these introductions can take a few forms. Charles Platt, writing for Make Magazine, uses a somewhat quirky lede for his article, “How to Install Simple Floating Shelves.”
“My cats love to climb, so I decided to build some elevated shelves for them in our living room. Since a cat weighs much less than a stack of books, there was no need for a heavy-duty installation, so I devised a simple, elegant ‘floating shelf.’ It’s also appropriate for ornaments and framed photos, if for some reason you don’t have cats.”
Step 7: Edit and Revise
Once you have a completed draft, edit and revise it. Use tools like the Hemingway Editor or Grammarly to check your grammar. After that, read it out loud. Better yet, have someone else read it out loud.