Don’t Let Your Content Marketing Fail Because of This One Thing

Content MarketingOnline Marketers world-wide are looking towards content marketing as a way to educate, connect with and influence prospects to become customers. Content can also play a big part in lead nurturing and engagement with existing customers.

With 9 out of 10 B2B marketers using content in their mix and predictions from the likes of Geoff Ramsey of eMarketer, “Content Marketing is Critical in 2011” and Ashley Friedlein of Econsultancy, “Content strategy & content marketing: the King is back” there’s much cause for optimism.

But like many increasingly trendy marketing topics, marketers often rush in without experience, expertise or realistic expectations.  Marketing with content has been the core of our own strategy at TopRank Online Marketing for many years. I personally read and research the topic daily and our team implements content marketing strategies and tactics with just about all of our clients, many of which are formidable content marketers themselves.

Out of all that information consumption and work with companies comes unique insights that can have significant impact on the value achieved from an investment in marketing with content. Here is that one thing I mention in the title (but there are many) that can separate “OK” and stellar content marketing efforts:

Lack of Empathy for Customer Needs AKA Egocentric Content Marketing

I recently finished reading an ebook on content marketing that covered all the bases in content types, promotion, re-purposing and measurement. When it came to deciding on the type of content, the choices made were based on what a company had to offer vs. doing research on what customer information needs weren’t being met. The idea of meeting customer information needs was there, but nothing on how to uncover those needs or apply them to an editorial plan.

Imagine you’re selling widgets and content marketing rings a bell for you. You create a microsite on widgets with online tools customers can use to creatively pick widgets out, customize and share socially with friends. You create a widget mash-up podcast and invite your best customers to create how-to videos and blog posts. There’s a Facebook page, blog, YouTube channel, even an email newsletter and quarterly print magazine.

When it comes to widgets, you’ve really got it covered!

Or do you? How do you know widget buyers visit blogs or Facebook? How do you know they prefer video or podcast content over text? How do you know they spend time reading print vs. online newsletters? Is it better to provide how-to information early in the buying cycle or just after they’ve purchased? How much do you really know about the different types of customers that buy widgets and their unique behaviors leading up to and after the sale?

It’s one of the most common content marketing fails: To create an array of content without having some kind of tangible insight that the resources you’re creating are justified by a prospect’s need for information.  Using pure intuition or taking an egocentric corporate marketing perspective becomes the old, “We have a product/service, now let’s find a market for it” approach.

To start learning about creating profiles and how they influence content marketing editorial plans, read about social content personas development here, and find best practices at Content Marketing Institute or books like Content Rules. David Meerman Scott gives a very practical explanation and examples of buyer personas as well.

Fundamentally, marketers would do well to assess what their prospect needs are and formulate a content strategy around meeting those needs at important points during the life cycle of customer engagement.  Initially, information is collected via customer surveys, social media monitoring or email appending of social profiles and as a program is implemented, the effectiveness marketing to customer segments (or personas) is made part of ongoing CRM and analytics insight.

Have you implemented a content marketing project that simply didn’t resonate with those who interacted with it?  Have you found disconnects between content and intended customers? Or content promotion channels and intended customers? How did you adjust your strategy?

At SES London this week, I’ll be touching on persona development as well as the what, why and how of Content Marketing and Optimisation – plus steps you can take back to the office and implement now. The presentation is Wednesday 2/23 at 11am. For readers attending SES London, I hope to see you there.


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