Cover story

Content strategy 101: give your customers what they want

A new approach to marketing that listens to your audience and delivers an experience they will come back for

By Chris L. Ramsden

The dream of anyone in B2B marketing is to build so much credibility that all those strangers who make up your target audience will end up sharing your content. They will end up talking about you and your products as if they knew you personally. That’s the moment your content marketing turns you in to a bona fide industry thought leader – and, from then on, your fan base will do the lion’s share of your marketing for you.

As you’ll no doubt have discovered, this is a tall order. But it doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. All it takes to convert strangers into brand advocates is a detailed, long-term content strategy – and a lot of focused effort. If you haven’t already, you can start by embracing a couple of key principles:

1. Don’t be the Hyacinth Bucket of your market

Ever get stuck sitting next to someone at a dinner party who talks non-stop about his own greatness? You might remember the unhappy experience, but you likely won’t remember a word of what was said. This is a no-brainer: when you’re marketing, don’t be that person.

2. Don’t be the Frasier of your market either

Frasier was the intellectual psychiatrist from hit TV series Cheers. And, although he was an expert on people, he had the communication skills of a teenager. Norm, Sam and Cliff never understood what he was on about and, though they respected his mind, they never really liked him. The lesson? Don’t forget to win the heart of your audience, as well as their minds.

So, we want to talk to our target audience about their own urgent concerns and interests in a voice they’ll respond to positively. Now we need to create content that’s relevant. And this is where work on the content strategy really begins. To strike a chord with your readers, three factors need to be in perfect harmony:

1. Business interest

It goes without saying that your audience must have a need for your products or services. You need to be able to turn that into an urgent need.

2. Reader interest

You need to understand the aspirations, pains and values of your readers so you can show you’re the right person or company to help them out.

3. Time significance

Your content will have a much greater impact if you release it to coincide with industry events, product launches or seasonal changes – use these cycles to your advantage.

Most companies are good at targeting an audience with the right business interests: that’s the same as understanding the market in which they operate. However, reader interest is often treated superficially, or overlooked altogether. And this is where a good content strategy can give your communications a competitive edge.

After all, the content consumed by a company CEO probably has little in common with the things a project consultant reads. Different aspirations, pains and values = different interests. But if both are key players in your buying cycle, your content will need to engage both of them.

Get this right and you’ll have a killer content strategy. I’ll explain exactly how to achieve this in part two of Content Strategy 101.

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