By: Christopher Yeich, Director of Strategic Content
Content marketing isn’t the same as journalism. But if you want to be effective in reaching a target audience with the right messaging at the right time, you need to think like an editor and a publisher.
That’s not such an easy thing to do. The truth is, these days most marketing organizations are taxed with a host of content stresses. You may feel that you don’t have enough people available or able to write compelling and effective content. Or that you don’t have enough content, or that it’s too old. Or that the content you do have is too product-centric, isn’t targeted to a specific audience, or that you tend to produce the same kinds of content over and over.
Even faced with these challenges, there’s plenty you can do. A good best practice is to remember the following foundational premise: an idea, message, or story resonates most effectively with a reader if it speaks directly to that person’s specific needs at a particular point in time.
Journalists and publishers know this well. For marketers, this means you should work to align your messaging with the various stages of the buyer’s journey. In other words, one size doesn’t fit all. For example, in a simple “early-, middle-, late-stage” buyer’s journey schema, a thought leadership whitepaper or a Webinar can work very effectively in the early stage (awareness), but probably less so at the late stage (execution). Similarly, the source from which a reader consumes information is important as it relates to the buyer’s journey. Here, for instance, peer-driven content has high credibility in the early and late stages, while vendor content tends to resonate more deeply in the middle and late stages.
Another best practice is to track current content trends taking place. A recent marketing content study, for example, showed that marketers are increasingly confident in the effectiveness of online video, social, and mobile content, while their confidence is waning in things like print/TV advertising. Each has its place, but the trick is to leverage a blend of tactics.
And always remember that your over-arching goal should be to position yourself as a trusted advisor versus a vendor. How do you do that? This requires developing three main tiers of content: thought leadership content to educate an audience, solutions content to orient the conversation around specific offerings, and validation content to differentiate and validate your solution.
Here are some tips to help you achieve this goal. First, conduct a content assessment of what you’ve presently got in your content arsenal. This will show you what existing assets can be used for your marketing initiatives in the short term. It will also uncover gaps and weak spots you may have so that you can prioritize new and compelling content that will resonate more deeply with specific purchasing decision-makers, drive engagements, and differentiate your organization.
When you’re creating new content, remember that effective storytelling is the key. Some best-practice tips to engage your audience include speaking in their language (not yours) to meet their needs. Seek to educate and help them solve problems, provide real-world examples wherever possible (e.g. customer testimonials), use as much visual information as you can (e.g. infographics, charts, graphs), and publish in as many places as possible, not just your own site/blog. You need to drive as much traffic as possible to your content. Some best-practice guidance here is to leverage analytics, social media for promotion, search, and lists.
Lastly, a sound strategy to remember when creating new content is to build assets with repurposing in mind. Publishers subscribe to the “write one, publish many” theory, and you should too. Not only will this enable you to reach hidden markets and deliver consistent messaging via different platforms, you’ll also get more bang for your content buck.