Content marketing will continue to be a hot topic in 2016. According to Content Marketing Institute's 2016 B2B Report, 76% of marketers have stated their organization will produce more content in 2016 than they had in 2015. In our earlier post we discussed the reasons why having a content strategy is so important for your business and how to build one. We described the key steps in building your content strategy: i) diagnosing your situation; ii) developing your guiding principles, and iii) agreeing on an action plan.
In this article, we will focus on how to start building engaging content for your customers that will ultimately get you business results.
First and foremost, remember that content enables you to create an emotional connection with customers.
But how do you ensure your ideal audience actually finds, consumes and reacts to your content?
It all starts with:
- defining your ideal audience
- understanding your customer’s journey
- building your content plan
1. Defining your ideal audience
Since you are trying to connect with your audience using your content, it is paramount that your team takes the time to define, in as much detail as possible, who exactly is your ideal customer? A popular approach, also described in David Meerman Scott’s “New Rules of Marketing & PR”, is to think of your audience in terms of a persona which includes:
- fictional name (e.g. Margaret or Patrick)
- motivations and challenges
- key influencers
- trusted websites or social networks
You should validate the persona using available data such as talking to your customers, mining your own customer database, or conducting a market research study. We have found it very effective (and free!) to have a brainstorming workshop with key stakeholders. This should include individuals representing various roles such as sales, marketing, product innovation, customer support, etc.
2) Understanding your customer’s journey
Now that you have defined your ideal customer, you need to take a very deep look at the problems they are trying to solve and the barriers they must overcome at every stage of their customer journey.
A Customer Journey is a series of stages (often not linear!) that the customer goes through before eventually purchasing your product. The stages are generally:
- Discover / Learn – customer is researching ways to become more proficient in some way
- Try / Buy – customer has short-listed providers and after assessing (and often trying) capabilities, decides to purchase
- Use / Advocate – buyer is using your product and, if experience is positive, advocates to their network
For every stage, it is helpful to understand the following about your buyer:
- What are their problems at this stage? (e.g. need to find ways to bring products to market faster)
- What kind of information are they looking for before they can move to the next stage (e.g. video, case study, paper, etc.)
- Where are they looking for this information? (e.g. website, word of mouth, user groups, magazines, etc.)
We wanted to point out that the last “Use / Advocate” stage is often neglected by marketers. Never under-estimate how important it is to work closely with your Sales & Support team to ensure a great customer experience well beyond the actual purchase. Happy customers will become repeat customers, and will recommend you to others. Marketers are stewards of the entire customer experience. And therefore, your content plan should include all stages – including post-Buy.
3) Building your content plan
Now that you know who your ideal customer is, and what they are looking for, you can now start to build your content plan to most effectively engage with them. This is where the rubber hits the road!
Your content plan should include:
- Why you are the best vendor to solve their problem – a brief but compelling value proposition, including proof points
- Your narrative – key messages to respond to your customer’s challenges at each stage of their journey
- Content plan – specific content to deliver you messages in the right format, frequency and place based on your customer’s needs.
Ultimately, a well-planned and executed content strategy will lead to better customer engagement, trust and more business!
By taking this customer-centric approach to building and placing your content, your customers will start finding and engaging with your content. They will look to your expertise as they solve their problems, which will in turn gain their trust.
Of course, you will need to measure how effective your content is (clicks, shares, conversion, etc.) and continually tweak your plan based on ongoing feedback.
Where to find more information
Helpful templates: www.buyerpersonainstitute.com
Our Expert Panel of CMA members weigh in with these comments:
Michelle Perez - Business Unit Director, Track DDB:
We have been in the content marketing business for a long time but there has been a significant increase in in our clients’ need for content marketing. The key is to first understand what your objectives are and then structure your content strategy accordingly. It can be a phased approach so it doesn’t have to be the ultimate solution out of the gate. Understanding our customers and prospects at every stage of their journey with a specific brand or product is our mission and content plays a key role in delivering value at every stage. Consumers have high expectations and we need to ensure that we understand their needs so we can deliver value to them at every stage. This enables us to build and extend trust and loyalty.
Evan Wood - Senior Vice President, Marketing and Custom Services, Environics Analytics:
Never before has so much information been available to businesses’ right at their fingertips. At the same time, virtually every sector of industry is facing the threat of disruption from both known and as-yet unknown competitors. In this dynamic environment, it is imperative for us as a vendor and partner to provide content to clients and prospects that is relevant, timely, engaging and ultimately, helps them make better decisions. Fundamentally, it’s about making sure you really understand your target audience and what they want/need to help them move their business forward. Without this insight your content marketing efforts could be a waste of time, effort and budget. Take the time to ask clients and prospects about their obstacles, opportunities and aspirations and figure out a role where your organization and expert opinion (in the form of content) might help. Stick with your core strengths and knowledge in developing content and then leverage it across all the relevant channels possible so you get maximum value from your efforts. Lastly, be sure to measure the success of your content marketing, recognizing that it is an evolving process and one that needs to be regularly tweaked and optimized.
Simren Deogun – Director of Digital Innovation, Stephen Thomas:
There has been a shift toward a more thoughtful and aggressive content strategy across channels both internally and in service to our clients. The driving force around content change has been centered on how we talk about what we do and how we do what we do -- from that we've been able to establish a renewed brand positioning that is feeding into web, verbal, social and other communications. You must start by understanding the foundation of your organization: what are the things that make you unique? In what ways can you add value? But always bring it back to your key audiences -- any and all content should service these audiences and by doing so the content will service your organization.