I check out and consume a lot of marketing content. I click through to articles and blog posts, I download white papers and e-books, and sign up for a lot of webinars. And I find it remarkable how much of it isn’t worth my time or attention.
There are two core problems with content. The first one is, it’s created by people focused on what they want to say, and not on what their audience wants to hear. They’re pushing an agenda – and their content becomes a thinly veiled piece of sales collateral. This can do more damage than good, especially at the early stages of the purchase journey, when customers aren’t in a shopping or selection mindset yet.
But the bigger, more prevalent issue is that it’s not designed and developed with customers in mind, or around their needs and desires. It’s focused exclusively on product messaging, bereft of insights into what the customer values, and inattentive to the readers’ context or preferences. This leads to content marketing that fails in its core purpose: to engage the customer and drive awareness -- and, most of all, credibility -- for the brand.
So, how do you create content that’s more likely to engage consumers? Take these three steps BEFORE you begin a content marketing plan.
Develop personas for each target segment. Everyone knows the value personas can provide your marketing and sales teams. And everyone says they know who their customer is.
However, I can’t tell you how many times I find marketing teams skipping this key step when develop marketing programming. Personas are critical tools. Firstly, they force you to put on paper what you know about your customer -- and then distill it down to the most important needs and insights. This is helpful for much more than just your content plan. Secondly, personas help to identify the topic areas most valuable and engaging to your customer.
Systematically identify your content pillars. Once you have identified your customer’s needs and key insights, it’s time to develop your content pillars. Content pillars are the
topic areas you will focus all your content on moving forward.
Start by itemizing your key brand/product truths, priorities, and objectives. Then, identify a similar list of topic areas that are goals of your personas with regards to your category.
If you think of this as a Venn diagram, then your content pillars are in the overlap between brand goals and customer needs. All content within these pillars will do a good job of satisfying a customer need as well as telling your brand’s story. Anything outside of these will likely waste everyone’s time.
Develop a “journey” or path-to-purchase for each persona. This is another step that is often head-nodded to, but not completed by, content teams. This is perhaps the most
important step, because it provides the contexts and purpose for your content at each stage of the customer’s journey.
Start by identifying and describing each discrete phase of their journey, with triggers, goals or jobs-to-be-done, and actions and resources for each phase. Then go back to your content pillars. Each pillar likely will be more relevant to some journey phases than others. Array each pillar across your customer’s journey in the most relevant phase.
One last thing: Remember that content isn’t just for content’s sake, it’s a tool to demonstrate authority on topics that are critical to a customer, in order to drive awareness, credibility, and ultimately, consideration.