In some places, content marketing is getting a bad rap. We’ve been hearing about “crap” content since Velocity Partners published their fantastic presentation of the same name. And you know what? There is a lot of ineffective and stinky content out there.
But don’t punish all of “content marketing” for the handful of bad assets created by organizations these days. If you’re blaming a term, which may or may not be around in the next five years, you’ve got bigger challenges ahead. When it comes down to it, the potential to succeed (or to fail miserably) lies in how well you understand your buyers.
Getting to Know Your Buyers
So how are you going to create content that resonates—content that spurs action—unless you understand your target audience and what they care about? Spoiler alert: you won’t. Think of assets that have nothing to do with the interests of your buyers as wasted time and money, because they certainly won’t help you meet the goals of your organization.
Content marketing is not creating a ton of useless content. That’s called “creating a ton of useless content.” Content marketing hinges on the production and distribution of valuable content assets that answer important buyer questions, builds trust and authority, and gauges the interest of buyers as they move toward purchase. When it’s helpful or entertaining, content has the power to drive the right traffic to your website, generate higher quality leads and opportunities, and, ultimately, close business.
So what’s the first step? Understand who you’re talking to and what they care about. Identify your target markets, and strive to understand who your buyers are.
Take It One Step Further: Build Personas
To understand your buyers, become practiced in the art of building “personas” – the heart of developing meaningful content. Start by talking with the teams that are in touch with your target audience every day, specifically sales, customer service or account management, and support. Gather data about your target audience and use it to inform your understanding of their behavior and interests. Then, consider the following questions about your buyers:
• What are their biggest pain points?
• What are their everyday concerns? What keeps them up at night?
• What are their hopes, dreams, and aspirations—personally and professionally?
Compare the answers to these questions to your company’s areas of expertise. Where your buyer’s interests and needs overlap with your organization’s expertise is known as the “sweet spot.” Within this intersection, you’ll find common ground on which to engage in meaningful conversations.
But be careful. Like a lot of not-so-great content, the persona exercise isn’t always as valuable as it should be. Marketers can sometimes get caught up in unnecessary details instead of focusing on the buyer’s goals and the roadblocks standing in the way. Don’t let this happen to you. In a great article, Ardath Albee explains how to overcome this common challenge and make personas truly useful.
Producing the kind of content that engages your buyers is consistently reported as one of the top challenges facing B2B content marketers. In fact, it’s been in the top three since 2010, when Content Marketing Institute started reporting on these challenges. The fact that content marketing has become more popular (reports show that 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing) yet engaging content is still a huge challenge highlights an important gap: Companies are busy producing content, but it’s not resonating with the target audience.
But for smart marketers who’ve invested time to understanding their target markets and buyer personas, this is an opportunity to rise above all the content chaos. According to Aberdeen Group, the top three content marketing actions that distinguish leaders (the top performing 35% surveyed) from followers (the bottom 65%) are as follows:
• Use content in nurture-based marketing campaigns that move buyers closer to purchase
• Focus on improving the targeting of content marketing efforts (i.e., content personalization, situational content, etc.)
• Increase the quantity of relevant content being published to the site
All three of these tactics require content assets that target specific needs, situations, and interests relevant to buyers.
By understanding the people you are talking to, and providing them with the specific information they’re seeking, your content will be on target to drive success—instead of adding to all that crappy content.