Building a content marketing strategy can be a lot like building a house of cards. You start with a goal and, hopefully, a plan. Then, each card must be carefully positioned and placed for a house to stand up for the long term.
If you don’t pay attention to every aspect of the process, your “house” will fall.
To avoid that unfortunate situation, most content marketers will agree that a great content marketing strategy contains these key elements:
1. Define your goals – Why are you creating content and what value(s) are you looking to gain from it?
2. Identify and understand your audience – Who are you creating this content for and how will they benefit from reading and applying the content?
3. Find relevant stories to tell – What specific and valuable topics will you build your content around?
4. Manage the process – How will you structure and manage your content marketing program? Who in your organization will concept and develop content, and how will it be delivered by channel?
5. Measure and adapt your approach – How will you gauge and optimize your effectiveness and value to the organization?
All of these elements are critical, but in my experience the most important one is #2 – Identify and understand your audience. And that may be harder to do than you think.
Oh sure, you can define your audience, but do you truly understand them?
Here are a few of the key questions to ask if you want to create the best possible content marketing program.
How does your audience perceive the current market environment? Do they know who you are and what your brand/company stand for?
What are your customer’s goals? If you don’t truly understand what your customer is trying to accomplish, you won’t know if your company can help them to accomplish them.
What are the key needs your audience has, and how do the prioritize them? While you may think you understand their goals and needs, you must look at each customer from their perspective, not from your own. As an example, for some companies speed of delivery may overshadow quality or price, while others are not willing to compromise on any of these elements.
How does your target audience feel about your company? Do they recognize any unique values that your company has that are important to them?
How does your target feel about your competitors? What strengths do they see for your chief competitors, and what do you need to do to win them over?
Most importantly, what does your audience need to know about your company to choose you over a competitor? This is the most difficult aspect of this entire process, but understanding this is key to providing content that is relevant to your audience.
Never forget that the best content is written for your audience,
not for your brand or company.
Much of understanding your audience can be derived from your sales force and other contact points, a well as secondary resources. But sometimes you may need some primary research to go directly to your audience to ask them some of those key questions.
Whichever path you choose, you must find that “big idea” that can mean the difference between a good content program and a great one.
It may be easy to identify who your audience is, but, in many ways, truly understanding them is much, much harder. And if you don’t understand each of your customers attitudes, needs and goals, you will never create or provide the optimal content strategy.
- Don Morgan
Don Morgan is past-president of Puget Sound chapter of American Marketing Association, and principal of Raindance Consulting, a brand and content consulting company in Seattle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.