The focus for today is about being strategic about content marketing, so you’re creating customer centric content that drives engagement, lead generation and sales for your business, not just churning out content in the hope it gets attention.
In this article, we are tackling a very big area of our business development endeavours, and that is content marketing. There’s a lot I want to share with you, so I’m doing it in two parts.
(For some visuals, click here to download slide deck from one of my content marketing trainings.)
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Content’s such a big part of our lives, and I’m not sure we’re always strategic ourselves as consumers, but as business owners, the job of content can feel like a lot. So you want to be sure you’re spending your time and energy doing the things that really make a difference in your business, hence creating a customer centric content marketing strategy that drives business growth.
Strategic marketing for business growth is the focus for a lot of the work that I do in the iSuccess Business Academy, as well as my consulting work with corporates, non-profits, and small businesses.
There’s just so much to do when you start a new business or when you launch a new course or service. There’s tons of marketing to do, copy to write, landing pages to design, and of course all manner of different kinds of content that we could or feel we should be producing.
And sometimes people get a little bit lost in all of that and they hide, or they start to create their online presence and start pushing out a load of content without fully being mindful of what’s working and what’s not. Because when you come to create content to attract and build your audience, you don’t want to end up with tearing your hair out.
If coming up with content ideas feels challenging, then you are not alone. The problem is often one of overwhelm and you actually need help organising your content as well as coming up with ideas because both of those things are frustrating and infuriating.
But here’s the thing, even if you could come up with a ton of content or already have a ton of content, you don’t want to simply churn out content for content’s sake. You want to produce customer centric content that is totally purposeful in terms of why, what, who, when and where you’re doing it.
You want to be strategic and super intentional about the content you’re creating, sharing and promoting.
Elevate Your Content Marketing from Vision to Execution
While the terms content strategy, content marketing and content planning are often used interchangeably, they actually represent distinct but complimentary aspects of a broader approach.
I find it helpful to think about it as three stages:
#1 Content strategy is the high-level vision that guides the development of your content, be it for brand awareness, thought leadership, lead generation, or education.
I taught communications at Warwick University for eight years or so, and at the end of my course, the students started all of their work off with my standard rant, which was:
Purpose, Audience, and Occasion.
That is the medium or channel that determines the tone, style, and formality of the communiqué.
#2 Content marketing, on the other hand, pertains to more the process. It’s the practical application of the strategy in terms of content creation, distribution, and promotion.
#3 Content planning is the logistics where you map out what type of content to create, who the intended audience is, when and where it should be distributed, and how it will be tracked or measured, which is the fourth dimension, often overlooked.
And that’s #4 content management. How the content’s going to be monitored, maintained, and updated to ensure it’s performing optimally, stays relevant and effective and keeps working for you over time. It’s a lot easier to update all content than always be creating new content, and the search engines like this refreshing activity too, and they push you up the rankings so it’s worth spending time on Performance.
Measurement of content performance is a huge field in itself. It’s something that we’ve done some of in our consulting business. And for the purpose of content management, the first step is to identify your key metrics and which systems to pull them in from. And we’ll look at one of those areas later on.
Navigating the Pressure to Get Visible
There’s so much pressure on all of us to get visible, produce content, show up on social media. We tend to rush into content marketing. So this training’s all about how to be more strategic. The effort you put in all genuinely gets more of the right people engaging, and then every single thing you post is intentional to what you want it to achieve in the flywheel of your business.
And what can happen if you don’t quite simply put is that your RO, your return on investment will suck. All of that time, money, blood, sweat, tears, you’ll be doing a heck of a lot of work with very little gain, and that’s exhausting. It’s demotivating and it’s not sustainable. Okay, so what does strategic mean in practice?
Well, if you are intentional about what you are producing and where you are publishing content can mean big money for your business. In fact, in the content marketing institute’s digital content marketing statistics, it shows that 72% of marketers say that content has increased the number of leads that they generate.
Who’s heard the statistic that it takes seven touch points before someone will buy? Well, in today’s arena, with so much information and really good content out there, aided and abetted by the increasing use of chat G p t that can write content for us in a matter of minutes, it feels more like 20 or 50 touch points are needed because the level of noise, scepticism and overwhelm just skyrocketed.
Unless you’ve got endless time, money, and energy with content marketing, we have to be way more strategic and way more focused on our ideal customers and how we choose to show up.
Your content strategy is really about focusing on your business goals and objectives, engaging with your ideal customer, producing quality content, and monitoring what’s resonating and what’s not in terms of the engagement and conversion.
And that’s my vote for continuous improvement over continuous activity. Today’s session’s all about giving you some frameworks for thinking about your content strategy before you dive into planning out your actual content. And I’ll share some resources too.
So, let’s dive in.
7 Dimensions of a Successful Customer Centric Content Strategy
There are seven dimensions that I like to think about in terms of an effective customer centric content marketing strategy. I’m sure that it’s by no means a hundred percent complete, but it covers the basics.
First, in the category of align and define, you are looking at your ideal customer avatar for your target market, then your messaging, and the area of placement and plan. (Open up the slide deck for visuals.)
You want to consider which content platforms you want to show up on, where you are likely to shine, and then you move into the actual plan. And from the plan, you know exactly what you’re going to create and how you plan publish it and promote it. So, then the final area is around tracking and improving, and that’s the content management.
Be mindful that customer centric content encompasses thinking about how your ideal customer likes to consume content: written audio, video, animations, webinars, workshops, live talks on stage, even brochures and flyers, TV ads, PR stunts, and every mix thereof.
When we talk about being strategic, what we’re really asking is what’s the job of content in your business?
Take a short minute to think about what that is for you.
Write it down, and then we’ll tie this into the process and practicalities.
Now, this may go without saying, but I do want to emphasise that. The job of content’s way more than just getting people to your landing page and lead magnet, which might be loosely construed as audience building. The real job of content is to connect with your perfect people, to communicate in a way that resonates and creates trust with your audience.
And when you think about it from the customer perspective rather than the marketing perspective. It helps you see the importance of things that we say all the time about your audience’s level of awareness and meeting people where they’re at in the customer journey. You want them to go down an intuitive path where they can find you, resonate with your messaging and trust that you are the person that can help them.
It does no good if you are talking with people, aligned with an avatar, let’s say women over 65, but your offer and path are misaligned. For example, you are taking them through a funnel with content geared towards young consumers, say on social media. That would kind of align.
So first, your ideal customer needs to find you. So, make sure your content is showing up. Where they show up, where they hang out.
Producing Content Your Audience Wants to Devour
Your next goal is that they resonate with you and they feel that you get them. And that’s what then builds the trust that you can help them, which leads to them wanting to take the next first step with you.
They like, comment, follow you, opt in to get something. Maybe even email you directly. And some stage down the line, they’ll be ready to take action, which might be to book a call to hire you or to buy from you.
One of the reasons why this customer journey and relationship building is important is the fact that your potential customers have different levels of awareness relating to what you help them with in terms of content. You need to meet them where they’re at, which means your content will get found or land with people differently.
And if you’re going for the top of the pyramid of the pre or customer awareness, from unaware to symptom aware, to problem aware and solution aware, then the solution aware people at the very tip are really quite a small pool to fish in. And if you’re prepared to do some of the work, the job of your content marketing, then as you lead people on this journey is to take them up this awareness ladder and they grow in their belief and trust in you and your solution.
We call this either an epiphany bridge or a trust bridge, or a little bit of both. And what you’re doing essentially is enabling someone to have an epiphany and build trust in you as their saviour.
So, let’s move to the align and define stage. Getting clear on your target audience and your ideal customer are really great antidotes to getting this right from the start.
Avatar-driven content marketing
Avatar-driven content marketing is really about helping you to take three steps that you usually take and making them much, much easier. Number one is understanding your target market. Number two is finding your target audience, and number three is connecting with your ideal customers. All the information that you build around your ideal customer avatar is really going to help you understand fine and connect better with your perfect people.
Or if you are B2B, your perfect organization, the point of contact person and the decision maker. Now content marketing is really where the rubber hits the road, where you get to use your avatar to connect into what they want and need. The main things to understand with Avatar work is it’s not just about demographics.
Those are the basic facts, and they’re important for targeting and ads. But that’s actually really the easy bit and much more of it will be obvious to you. What we really want is for you to leverage the psychographic part of your ideal client to inform your content strategy in ways that will drive the results that you want in your business.
And from that vantage point, I’ll show you how to go about creating and managing your content plan. You start with the demographics and you figure out all the basic information and then dig deeper and think about the psychology behind these people. Consider their goals and values, their concerns and challenges and needs.
Then figure out where your target audience are likely to spend most of their time researching, learning and connecting with like-minded other people or looking for what you do and align this.
Be Consistent by Showing Up Where You Love to Be
When you’re thinking about your customer centric content channels and types of media, make sure these are aligned with where you personally are comfortable and capable, and so most likely to shine.
For instance, do you love spending time writing about your subject matter? Do you enjoy running life trainings or creating newsletters that you can email? Does your style and emotion come through best through videos or speaking, giving talks or being interviewed? Do you love engaging with your tribe on social media and enjoy spending time commenting and answering questions there, or do you find this a chore and we do outsource it immediately if you could.
All things to consider because for a content strategy to work, you’ll need to become consistent so that no matter what you show up on your core platform and your audience gets used to seeing you there and expects to see you there.
Your ideal customer avatar work will make customer centric content planning so much easier and more effective when you personify your ideal customer, you won’t waste time creating content that doesn’t meet their interests or needs, or posting stuff in places that isn’t where they hang out.
And that’s a lot more motivating than publishing stuff that doesn’t get any engagement. When you are leveraging your ideal client avatar, imagine the customer journey path from their perspective. Focus every piece of content and every conversation on your ICA to attract and engage that one perfect person.
Align Your Content with Your Audience’s Questions
Appreciate how someone feels if you truly know and understand them. Which brings us onto content messaging. The message pillars that your content need to hit should be aligned with the questions your people feel as they go on this journey and move across the different thresholds to knowing, understanding, and believing that what you’re solving for is possible.
The next step is to develop your messaging pillars. These are three to five core beliefs that form your brand values and brand positioning. These are the big ideas that strongly align with your values, the essence of who you are and what you are about. Why do you do what you do? And that’s going to attract the people who resonate and subscribe to these attributes too, so they connect really deeply with your point of view.
And these are your building blocks for being strategic about content marketing. Don’t overthink it. It should be naturally who you are, what you believe, and how you behave, think, and work. For example, I have five that tie back into what I do and it really drives all my content.
And positive energy, openness, consistent action, balance and leverage are my message pillars.
Let’s return to your avatar. What we’re talking about here is message to market match. You really need to be your authentic self, right? Your authority, your style, your personality, and you need to stay relevant. So a really simple way to think about your content sweet spot in this regard is at the intersection of your expertise and your client’s needs and your revenue potential.
That’s really your genius zone, where your ideal offer really aligns, but there’s an additional element, and that’s the environment.
Adapting to Shifting Market Environments and Consumer Behaviours
Challenging economic times means that businesses everywhere face a true test of their ability to market successfully. But there’s also huge potential in 2020. Digital content and content marketing exploded through the Covid 19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
While the world worked from home, we actually just went online and we went online for. A lot of things. We went online to shop, to socialize, to stay connected, and as a result, our consumption of digital content just escalated. And in fact, according to Forbes, since 2021, up to 25% of our waking lives were spent on our digital devices consuming content, either working or engaging with brands and businesses, and ultimately buying things.
And this wasn’t just in the B2B space. B2B content marketing saw an amazingly meteoric rise in 2020, 20 21. In fact, 69% of successful B2B marketers had a content strategy in place throughout the pandemic. So, if nothing else, this is a really good reason to update your old content ASAP because you want to do this when new information becomes available.
Topics can rapidly evolve over time, and you don’t want to be regular to update your articles with new studies, new resources, and up-to-date back links. And it’s really going to drive a lot more traffic to your website. And there’s a little cheat that you can use to get sight on what that might look like.
Look at where and how your key competitors are showing up in the marketplace, so you can look at, you know, how their channel types vary, what’s their presence in search engine results, where are they showing up in social media? And you can look at their types of content, style of content messaging, and even on Google keywords, uh, tools, you can look at their performance in terms of search volumes and cost per clicks.
So that’s a really good way to just get a handle on what’s possible and what might you lean into in terms of your strengths and still remain authentic and resonant.
The next area is around content platforms. So that’s about where you show up and you pick the place really where you’re do well, and you’ll enjoy creating content for that platform, and that’s why then you’ll do it consistently and you’ll feel great in that space.
Here’s a selection of popular platforms that house particular types of content, a blog, social media, video platforms, podcasts, visual types of platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. And more formal distribution platforms that you might use for books or white papers. There’s also speaking as a platform in itself, and sometimes that’s online and sometimes it’s offline.
And in terms of customer centric content marketing platforms, you want to consider your ideal customers content preferences and behaviour. Consumer habits are a real yardstick for what you choose. They will focus their attention on one particular platform for a number out of hours. They will binge watch; they’ll be multitasking; they’ll save stuff for later; or they’ll just graze and they’ll be snacking.
Now I realise we covered a lot here in one go, so I’ve kept this episode shorter than usual. That’s also because in part 2, we’ll be moving onto the heavy lifting job of a content strategy and that’s creating your content marketing plan, being mindful of what’s going to drive traffic to your content for engagement and lead generation purposes.
Because now we’ve got our avatar, our message pillars, and our content platform choices. It’s time to get the process and logistics planned out.
Customer centric content planning is where we take the goals and objectives of your strategy, the why and the who, your aims and the intended audience to inform what types of content to create, how, where and when it should be published or posted.
And then we’ll wrap up by looking at how it’s efficacy can be tracked or measured.
See you then.