The year was 2010. The first iPad was unveiled, the finale of Lost disappointed the nation (c’mon, it was terrible) and a new trend got our industry talking. It was the year that content marketing exploded onto the scene, becoming a key component of marketing plans for B2B and B2C brands alike.
In the years since, marketing teams have devoted significant portions of their budgets to the creation of white papers, case studies and videos in their quest to win the hearts and minds of consumers.
A lot has changed since the dawn of content marketing. And while attendees of the 2016 Content Marketing World (CMW) conference in Cleveland were ready to learn advanced techniques for creating scroll-stopping content, one thing was certain: We need to get back to basics.
The central theme among most of the CMW presentations was surprising in its simplicity: To create content that actually drives customers and potential customers to action (that’s the point, right?) you must gain a deeper understanding of your viewers and readers.
And we’re not talking uninspiring demographics like age, income and DMA. A true understanding of your target starts with uncovering THE insight.
So how do you turn the insight into content that actually moves the needle? Try these tips from the leaders in content marketing.
1. Understand Your “Why”
How well do you really know your target? The brands that are doing it right examine every corner of their customers’ lives, from how they consume media and information to what they worry about when they wake up in the morning. Lars Silberbauer, global director of social media and search marketing at LEGO, shared some inspired social media promotions that drove incredible results for those little plastic bricks. His secret? Uncovering how the LEGO brand satisfies basic human needs.
Take LEGO’s Kronkiwongi Project, a social promotion that invited kids to create and share a picture of their (completely made-up) Kronkiwongi. The campaign video introduced the promotion with adorable kids spinning elaborate backstories for their unique creations. What parent doesn’t want to their kids to put down the tablet and flex their creative genius? Not many, as evidenced by the incredible participation and reach that the promotion drove for Lego.
This approach keeps the focus on creating content that resonates with your target instead of chasing the flashiest way to attract attention to your brand. By digging into your target’s motivations and not worrying about how to be the “best” at a specific social platform, you’ll create content with purpose.
2. Map Content to Your Target’s Journey
You’ve created a white paper or case study and your job is done, right? Not even close. The top content marketers are taking a step back to be extra thoughtful about tailoring their content to their target’s point in the funnel.
Are you looking to grow awareness of your brand? Craft a blog post that answers a frequently asked Google search question. Struggling to close the deal with a prospect you’ve been courting for a while? Design an e-book that examines top trends in your customer’s specific industry and weave in how your services can help them drive growth. It may take a bit more time to achieve that customization, but that extra fine tuning will make your content stand out in a sea of marketing noise.
And while you’re thinking about your target’s journey, don’t forget to examine how they’re consuming content. Just because you’re a fan of blogs doesn’t mean that your potential customer is also reading them. Likewise, don’t abandon a social platform just because you don’t use or understand it. Putting the target and their behaviors first will ensure that your content meets them where they are.
3. Don’t Forget Your Current Customers
Customers need content, too. That was content guru Jay Baer’s reminder for all marketers focused on capturing the attention of new prospects. Forty percent of revenue comes from existing customers, so it literally pays to create content that keeps them engaged with and loyal to your brand.
Some of your most important customers? The haters. Impactful content can come from digging deep into customer complaints and pain points. Baer urges brands to use social media comments, customer service inquiries and online reviews as inspiration for content that addresses common questions and frustrations. Your haters can also serve as your canaries in the coal mine. By paying close attention to their feedback, you can identify product issues and service hiccups well before they have a negative impact on a larger segment of your customer base.
4. Track Your Target with Metrics
Most of us didn’t get into this business because we love numbers and data. But metrics are a content marketer’s best friend if you want to see how your target is engaging with your brand.
Metrics offer a fascinating look at customer mindset and behavior—IF you carve out time on a consistent basis to dig in and study the stats. Are visitors leaving your site after reading one blog post? You may want to consider linking to related content to keep them engaged. Does one of your video tutorials have significantly more views than the others? It’s likely a topic that you should address more often. When you start thinking of metrics as a source of topic inspiration, another source of great content is at your fingertips.
Don’t forget to establish specific goals for every piece of content. Whether you want to drive awareness, court a lead or close a sale, content must have an end game. If it isn’t working, you can shift your focus in real time and ensure that your dollars are working as hard as possible. And if content is delivering solid ROI, you have definitive proof that your content program is a worthy component of your marketing plan.
As you look ahead to creating great content in 2017, embrace all of the new and exciting ways to reach your target—just don’t forget the basics. By starting with deep insights about your customer, you’ll cut through the clutter and join the content leaders who are doing it right.