How To Give Your Content Marketing Purpose & Punch
As content marketing becomes mainstream, how can your content stand out? Columnist Nate Dame discusses how to better understand your audience for content marketing success.
Is your content delivering results? Or does your strategy seem to fall short of making that crucial connection with decision makers in your industry (and you’re not sure why)?
Content marketing is quickly becoming the norm, and that’s a good thing. (Imagine a web full of engaging, resourceful content instead of spam, pop-up ads, and cat videos!) But if your content isn’t producing the results you expected, don’t be quick to blame saturation. Too much content falls short because it’s all about the writer — not the reader.
There are four nuances about your audience that need to be understood, documented and communicated to each member of your content team if you want to create content that really packs a punch.
Identify The Reader’s Pain
Too many marketers start at the end — what we want the buyer to decide or do — instead of at the beginning. This approach is backwards and does little more than wave a flag at the finish line that nobody else sees.
Your content needs to meet your buyer at every stage of his journey to provide information and assistance, and show him the next step toward a resolution. But no matter how clear the destination, you cannot tailor a path for someone if you don’t know where he is coming from.
For each content asset you create, start at the beginning and define one or a small handful of pain points and/or needs that your content will address. Write/design/create to resolve those pain points specifically, and don’t wander from them.
Not sure what those pain points are? There are countless ways to identify them:
- Create a short online survey and email it to your customers/prospects (incentives such as gift card drawings work great to increase response).
- Interview existing clients about what keeps them up at night.
- Browse LinkedIn Groups specific to your target industry, and see what people are talking about.
- Search Twitter for keywords that relate to the niche you are serving, and make a list of common topics or complaints.
The important part is to document specific pain points for each content asset. Before hitting publish, ask yourself/your team, “Does this content provide meaningful, specific help to address this specific pain point?”
Live Example — The Pain Point We Identified For This Article: Marketers and business executives struggle to produce high-quality content that appeals to their audience and delivers measurable business results.
Identify Takeaways For The Reader
Before content production begins, identify the specific takeaways you want to leave with readers (based on their needs, not yours).
Initially, the buyer may just need a name for her problem, some basic information on what is causing it, and a framework for an action plan. Then, she might need a checklist for a more detailed diagnosis, an inspiring case study, or some details specific to her industry or niche. Eventually she might need a price chart, an infographic, and/or a SlideShare presentation that she can share with her C-Suite.
Without a clear goal, content can become vague, causing readers to stop reading and move on. The takeaways for each of your content assets should of course be related to the pain points that asset is addressing. Identifying the takeaways you want readers to gain early in the production process empowers your entire team to focus on what’s most important: Delivering true value to your readers.
Live Example — The Takeaway We Identified For This Article: Readers will walk away with a framework to make each of their content assets highly valuable to their audience.
Determine The Reader’s Online Habits
Are you speaking to consumers seeking information at a leisurely pace, or business executives that hardly have a moment to spare? Will your readers appreciate colorful commentary and fun illustrations, or do they prefer to have the fat trimmed so they can just get to the meat?
An understanding of your readers’ habits should inform the style of your content. This is where personas are also helpful, because you may need to create content for different kinds of buyers. If your services are useful for organizations of any size, for example, it would make sense to create one set of content for the enterprise CEO and another for the socially saturated SMB owner.
Live Example — The Audience We Identified For This Article: Busy executives and marketing directors/managers, who are often inundated with resources/articles/webinars, yet still struggling to find a foothold in the still-evolving worlds of content marketing and SEO.
Target Keyword(s) + User Intent = Understanding
Search engines are still driving more traffic than any other source, and Google is still relentlessly pursuing a better understanding of the user intent behind each query.
That means that creating content from an inbound marketing mindset — one that seeks to understand the audience’s needs, goals, and habits at every stage — is also good SEO. Aligning your content marketing strategy with your audience’s journey is aligning your marketing strategy with Google’s (and that’s a good team to be on).
A basic understanding of user intent will change your keyword strategy, and it isn’t hard to come by. Start by conducting a depersonalized Google search of some of your top keywords, and, as you scroll through the SERP, play a round of keyword ‘Jeopardy.’ You’re looking at the answers: What questions are users asking? Are they looking for information? Products? Specific websites?
Keywords don’t stand alone anymore, just like generic content doesn’t stand out anymore. Studying the intersection of keywords and user intent will help you develop content that answers the nuances of your audience’s specific needs.
Live Example — The keywords + User Intent We Identified For This Article: The root keywords I had in mind for this article were “content marketing strategy” and “content marketing strategies.” The user intent related to those keywords that I had in mind when writing was, “Find actionable information to help me build/improve my content marketing strategy.”
Simply producing content does not count as “content marketing” anymore. You need a strategy, and the inbound mindset of content marketing starts with the buyer, walks beside the buyer, and ends with the buyer.
Your content needs to understand who they are and where they’re coming from, so you can guide them to where they need to be. The good news is that’s not just good content — that’s also good customer service, good sales and good SEO.