“Content” is one of the most talked-about industry buzzwords, but it tends to lack clear definition. To my mind, content is information and communication directed toward an end-user. Broad, yes, it speaks to the very point that content is simply about the transfer of information. Most people associate content with social media although it also includes a larger list of tactics across owned and earned media channels – white papers, video, quizzes, surveys, etc. Conceptually, content should attract, not interrupt.
The focus of content should be to tell compelling stories that help inspire and empower prospects and customers to take additional action with a service or organization. It is (or should be) the approach of creating and distributing valuable and consistent content to a targeted audience, with the objective of driving some action.
And not all content is of equal value, nor should it be viewed as such. A powerful new case study may seem like a silver bullet, but without the supporting storyline and tools, it’s just another proud moment to celebrate. Furthermore, content must be developed across the entire brand engagement customer journey—and starts from a solid understanding of your task-based personas who give you insight into the audience and is the driving force behind a successful lead nurturing program. So, how do you develop “good” content?
In an increasingly speed-obsessed world, people want to consume as much information as they can in as little amount of time as possible (Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey). The survey went on to note that while white papers provide the most detailed information of any content type available, they involve a much greater investment than most videos, infographics, etc. But context and need obviously shape how and why people engage with content. Complexity and social capital can and do influence the way we consume.
The best content strategies start by asking a series of questions, both from an internal and external perspective. By asking questions, you can begin to frame up the way customers typically start their search for a solution. Build a checklist for evaluating a new content opportunity that includes the following questions:
- What is the story we want to tell?
- What pain point does it solve for a prospect or customer? How does it encourage positive action?
- What marketing channels are best for the type of content?
- What moment in the customer journey will the content support? What investment is required to produce the content?
- What format should the content take?
When determining the appropriate areas to invest in content production, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the revenue potential?
- Is this a budgeted opportunity?
- Are we willing to invest and if so, how much?
- What does the end user need?
In addition to questions as a means to test the viability of content development efforts, content teams should meet regularly to compile and update a comprehensive list of all submitted questions to your company. If applicable, customer support emails and customer support calls can also be fertile ground for collecting insights. Comb message boards, forums, communities and other places where your key audiences seek out advice and information.
Once you have your questions mapped out and agreed upon, start to group them by frequency. From there, have an open discussion about your company’s ability to answer the large pools of questions and how those relate to the stages of the buying cycle: Is there content that exists that can quickly and easily resolve a customer question? Is your customer able to access the information across all channels?
Once the questions are answered, it’s time to build a model. Content experts are great at making content, while subject matter experts within the organization are critically important to ensuring content accuracy (concerning facts, but also the application to the marketplace). There needs to be a partnership between the groups to ensure the content being developed satisfies all parties, with particular attention focused on solving customer issues.
Combining current sales profiles, personas, and other customer models the company has become the tools you can use to profile customer segments to improve the relevance and effectiveness of your content marketing efforts. The key to building the right segments is to identify customer needs and pain points, group the needs and pains points by roles or audiences (task-based is our preferred model), and then use that data to profile top customer segments. It is important to evaluate task flows on a frequent basis to ensure accuracy, response to industry change, and data feedback loops.
Once the buying journey is fully defined and key customer profiles are highlighted, the editorial team can create content that will successfully resonate.