Why is content so important? "I've got a Contact Us button on every page of my website, and that's all I need, right?" Nope. "I've got a blog with a Subscribe button on it. That's enough, right?" Nope, again. What's in that blog? What content is on your website? How are you engaging the people you want as your customers - before they are ready to buy?
Many marketers create content when a new offering or new product is released, or when more sales are needed in a certain area of the business. Blog posts are frequently sales pitches, telling the reader about something new and closing with a "get a quote now" or "call for more info" sort of call to action. They then send an email to the list directing people to the blog post, or, if there's no blog post, the email functions as the blog post with all of the info and a "call for more" call to action right in the email.
Sometimes I call this â€œhope marketing,â€ a term that describes how many people approach marketing â€“ write something, send out an email, and hope that someone will respond - and maybe there's a sale to be made.
Recently I spoke with an organization whose entire marketing approach is to send out sales promotion emails, multiple times a month. Thatâ€™s a real case of hope marketing â€“ hoping that the sales promo will land in an inbox (their first hope) at the exact time someone is thinking about buying what they sell (their second hope). That's also a great way to slowly kill off a list, but that's a story for another day.
Delivering content without a content strategy is taking shots in the dark, hoping to hit a target you can't even see. That is just about zero fun, and has just about a zero percent chance of success. But not just any content strategy will work.
Tip #1: It's Not About Content
Hereâ€™s one key thing about content strategy engagements that few, if any, will tell you â€“ perhaps because they donâ€™t realize it themselves (?).
A content strategy engagement isnâ€™t really about content.
Thatâ€™s right. The RESULT of a content strategy engagement has content in it, of course. We call it a â€œcontent pathwayâ€ in our content strategy presentations. The content strategy process itself, and all that goes into creating the content pathways, has NOTHING to do with content.
A content strategy is all about your perfect potential customer.
It's about THEIR buying process, their journey, what they need to hear and see and read before buying. It's about breaking through noise, providing guidance and valuable information that will help your perfect potential customers make their buying decisions. It's about building trust with your audience.
If the content you create isn't centered on your perfect potential customer, it's going to miss the mark.
Tip #2: Your Perfect Potential Customer
You may have noticed that I've said "your perfect potential customer." Iâ€™m not calling it a â€œbuyer personaâ€ at this stage, nor am I calling it an â€œavatar,â€ as others do. Iâ€™m calling it â€œyour perfect potential customerâ€ very much on purpose.
Hereâ€™s why â€“ the next thing that few, if any, will tell you â€“ most buyer personas don't work - mainly because the exercise to create them was focused on the wrong things. We see a lot of...
- Multiple buyer personas â€“ creating competition for your focus
- Buyer personas that focus on generic information that may or may not be relevant to what you do
- A buyer persona that is so general you end up trying to talk to everyone
When youâ€™re talking (marketing) to everyone, you end up talking to no one. That's NOT what is going to help you get better results from your marketing.
What weâ€™ve learned is this: a rock-solid, results-generating content strategy cannot exist without a laser focus on your perfect potential customer. One profile. Only one. That one profile of your highest-potential target. That one profile of a person who has the highest likelihood of becoming one of your best customers.
Your content needs to talk to THAT person. Everything you do needs to talk to THAT person.
Will you sell your products or services to people who donâ€™t fit that profile? Of course you will. This isnâ€™t about who you SELL to; itâ€™s about the people you target, the people you market to, the people you deliberately try to attract.
But how do you know what will make people respond to you? Thatâ€™s the third (and final) tip Iâ€™m going to share with you here â€“ another thing that no one else will tell you.
Tip #3: Get In Their Heads
A content strategy that performs for your business starts with getting into the heads of your perfect potential customers. You want to understand their opportunities, challenges, pains, and problems, so you can position your business as the solver, the fixer, or the enabler.
A quick story: one of our clients had done a content strategy with another firm before they found us. They spent thousands of consulting dollars and got a strategy that created absolutely zero results for them. Want to know why?
That content strategy was all about what they wanted to say to their audience. It had nothing to do with that that audience was able to hear. In other words, they were told to talk to the market in THEIR language, not in the language that their perfect potential customers were speaking.
Thatâ€™s really the long and the short of it. A content strategy that speaks Portuguese to a group of people who speak French isnâ€™t going to work. In that particular case, a content pathway about "business continuity" fell on deaf ears with an audience that needed to know what safeguards to put in place in the case of a natural disaster. Make sense?
What language is your content strategy â€“ if you have one â€“ speaking? Is it speaking your language, or the language of your perfect potential customer? If your content strategy is working for you, then youâ€™ve likely figured out the right way to talk to your audience. If itâ€™s not, or if you donâ€™t have a content strategy at all, then youâ€™re missing what could be the most critical piece of your marketing plan.
Three Tips: One Plan
Iâ€™ve given you three big tips about content strategies at this point.
The critical point is this: a content strategy is a must-have, and a content strategy done properly focuses on engaging your perfect potential customers, providing valuable information, and guiding them down the path to becoming your customer.
It's a bit of a science, and I'll tell you a secret - it can't be done in a three-day workshop or a weekend or in an exec team meeting. It takes research time, conclusion-reaching time, conclusion-validating time, and likely a few revisions before you get to a content strategy that drives engagement appropriately with your perfect potential customers.
Having spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours decoding the process of content marketing, we've learned how to make content strategies work (and how to make them affordable) for small and mid-sized businesses, particularly those with modest marketing budgets who need and want to focus on results. If thatâ€™s you, and youâ€™re ready for a content strategy that will work for you, we should talk.
Regardless of how you get there, a rock-solid, results-generating content strategy is a MUST-HAVE, not a nice-to-have. Itâ€™s not a luxury; itâ€™s a requirement. Not having one, or not fixing the one you may have already done, comes with one guarantee: if you keep doing the same thing youâ€™ve always done, youâ€™ll keep getting the same results. And if those arenâ€™t good enough, itâ€™s time to do something different.