How to Stand Out in a Sea of Content

I won’t dwell upon the vast amount of content out there today. You and I both know the competition is stiff. It’s been that way since the creation of the Internet and quadruples every day.

So how do you get noticed when there is so much content out there already? Why should someone care about what you have to say?

Remember who you’re writing for

It’s easy to forget why you’re writing, once you get started. There are goals to be met and an editorial calendar to keep up with. No time to think about the real reason you’re sending out email after email or writing daily blog posts. Maybe you want more sales. Yeah, that’s usually the end goal for most businesses.

But more importantly it’s the…


People love reading compelling, surprising and educational content. But it’s easy to forget what makes a person really connect with what their reading.

This month I’ve taken part in something called NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month in my spare time. You may think a novel is different than writing for marketing purposes, but it’s really not that different at all.

What makes content truly worth reading is remembering that you’re writing for people.

Is your content interesting enough that you yourself would read it?

What is it about an article or a novel that makes us compelled to read it, remember it and tell our friends about it?

A good story

A story worth reading is generally comprised of a few major ingredients:

  • Setting
  • Well developed characters
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Climax
  • Resolution

An email campaign should also take into account these key ingredients.


The setting for your email describes the where and when. Where is your sale or webinar taking place? When and for how long will it last? Can the person receiving the email picture themselves in the setting you are portraying easily?

The setting doesn’t need to be a time or place either. Maybe the setting for your campaign is simply addressed by the tone in which you deliver your content. Is the message serious or humorous? Setting the right tone for your message can start as early as the subject line, into your message’s preview text and continue with the first image or copy in the email.

Character development

Character development exists so the reader can connect with the people in the story. If there is no reason to feel anything for a character during the story, then the story has failed.

This is the most important ingredient.

When developing email concepts it’s important to give your subscriber something to connect with emotionally. A photograph of a grizzly looking man wearing a few flannel shirt with a crazy happy grin on his face might do the trick. If your viewer can see themselves in the character, or smile, even if for a split second, you’ve done your job.

You can create an emotional connection without people, as long as it connects with people.

Here are a few examples:

  • Urgency – The holidays are right around the corner. If you know your audience tends to procrastinate what better way to connect with them then to lend them a hand when it’s go time. 
    Example: “Feeling the holiday crunch (show photo of stressed out man)? We’ve got you covered. Overnight Shipping is Now Only $5.”
  • Education – People want to look good in front of others. It’s in our nature. Who doesn’t want to impress their family or friends? Sharing a fun fact that will make your customer’s lives better is a great way to connect with them emotionally. They might even tell their friends what they’ve learned giving you even more reach.
  • Humor – I receive a lot of emails every day and there are very few that have made me laugh. Try eliciting a smile or laugh from a customer with a joke, funny photo or ridiculous subject line. They will be more likely to remember you and have a positive feeling the next time you send them an email.


Your plot for the email starts with the subject line. Is it interesting enough to get the reader to open it? What can you do to keep them engaged throughout the course of the plot?

Again we have to circle back to people. When you hear a great story there is generally a beginning, the build-up, a climax and a resolution. This is easier said than done for retailers.

Here’s an example…

Let’s say you’re selling clothing and accessories. Winter is coming up for many of your customers. Tell a story of a family who’s going to spend a day doing all sorts of fun winter activities. In the morning they decide to go sledding but they need gloves, a hat and a scarf. In the afternoon they are going to visit grandma. Grandma loves seeing the kids dressed up as she takes photos each year. So you show your new dresses and shirts that would make Grandma proud. And finally, at the end of the night the family cozies up to some hot cocoa (you present your new mugs) and then they slip into their pajamas to watch Frosty on TV.

If you understand your audience you can tell the right story. Retail emails don’t have to be a boring grid of products every time. Get creative!

Nobody wants to read the same story over and over again.


Conflict can be presented numerous ways. What problems do your customers have?

Reminding them of their problems and giving them ways to solve them is a really great way to be remembered in a sea of content. If you can solve their dilemmas at the right time you’ll be sure to start building a long lasting relationship.


The element of surprise one of the most compelling ways to delight a reader and build tension. You don’t need to give deep discounts to surprise your customers. Have you ever received an email that promoted a new product or service that wasn’t out yet but was going to be available soon?

This type of content builds tension and excitement. You begin to wonder what the new service or product is, what it could do for you, if you’ll be able to get a special discount if you sign-up first.

When you plan your email campaigns in advance you can take full advantage of the power of a climactic build up. For those of you launching new products consider building up some suspense to keep your readers engaged.


Most stories don’t leave readers hanging on forever. Your ending could be the solution to the conflict you presented or the final unveiling of the sneak peeks you’ve been teasing your subscribers with.

Whatever your ending is, make sure it meets the needs of the people you are communicating with.

Behind each subscriber is a person. People love good stories. Start using the powerful ingredients I shared with you today to improve your email campaigns and stand out in a sea of endless content.

Sarah Shuda
Sarah Shuda
Designer. Mom. Wife. Loves Gilmore Girls, healthy living, and long walks in the country.