When it comes to content marketing, marketers’ most common concern is: How do we do it? They’ve recognized that content marketing is a smart strategy. The catch is that they’re now vexed in the execution phase by the how-to’s of sourcing content creation.
The mechanics of the content marketing process are fairly easy to grasp, but the creative challenges of content marketing, including what to write about and what to say, frequently stump marketers. Fortunately, the solution rests within the organization itself, in the form of its own expertise—accessing it is the key to creating great content. Setting the organization’s hidden content sources free will help jump-start your content marketing strategy.
Following are five tactics for working around the blind spots that keep valuable content trapped within the organization:
1. Have a goal: Your objective always guides the content creation process. Part of the challenge of getting a content marketing strategy started is the apparent vastness of the mission. Produce compelling content is a daunting demand for a novice content marketer. So, start with a more manageable objective, such as grow our perception as an industry thought leader or generate leads. With a thought leadership objective, you’ll probably use ungated content that showcases your expertise and how it can help the customer. With a lead-generation objective, your content is probably gated and designed to capture a lead with an offer. Either way your content message is usually not sales oriented. Rarely will you pitch products or services in your content—save this for your ads. Instead, be helpful by sharing your expertise with customers. Have a clear content objective so you can orient your creation process around it.
2. Understand your audience: Knowing your audience well enables the creation of compelling content. It’s a mistake to start churning out content without first studying the audiences for which it’s intended. What are their priorities and concerns? Where do they prefer to get information? The enemy of great content marketing is assuming that you know your target audience extremely well. Validate your assumptions about the audience for your content before you start producing it. Additionally, build in regular synchronization with the audience for your content.
3. Use a prompt: You can get great “starter” content by going to the people in the organization who deal with your target audience—most often the sales or customer service teams. Get their response to this question: What are the top three (or five, or 10) issues that you consistently hear from customers or prospects? It’s important to identify the business problems customers are seeking expertise to help them address. Whatever ends up on this list is usually a great starter for content. Every item on this list becomes a core piece of content. Expand each one into a blog post, and then promote it through your social media channels. Host a webinar, make a video, or deliver your expertise in response to these issues through the channels the audience prefers.
4. Keep your ears open: You’ll hear some great content ideas in the daily course of interacting with customers. Condition yourself to capture those ideas. For instance, I presented at a conference at which an attendee approached me to chat afterward. He shared that his CEO was on vacation, and that, consequently, the attendee was getting a great deal of work done. I asked him why and he replied that it’s because the CEO was a micromanager. The discussion inspired a blog post and two webinars for me, and the responses to all of them indicated that many marketers encounter the same problem. These types of content-rich, casual interactions occur regularly. Every time you have one, simply ask yourself how the exchange might be of value to other members of your target audience.
5. Remember shorter is better: Many content marketers misjudge the amount of content they need to provide customers in a given forum. When it comes to ideal content length, shorter is almost always better. The Gettysburg Address is 272 words long; so be Lincoln-esque and prepare just a few appropriate remarks. Blog posts between 400 and 600 words are ideal. Try to keep videos under 90 seconds. If you have more to communicate than you can fit into these boundaries, break the content into two or more parts. You’ll end up with more consumable, shareable content as a result.
Jerry Rackley is chief analyst of Demand Metric Research Corporation.