Rethinking Relevance in Content Marketing

May 7th, 2013 • By:  • Content Marketing

Rethinking Relevance in Content Marketing

In content marketing we frequently hear the refrain of “relevant content.” Provide valuable, relevant content and drive your audience toward business goals. But relevant how? And to whom? What do we mean when we talk about content relevance, and how do we ensure we’re doing it well?

What Is Relevance?

If content marketing is utilizing content to engage an audience and compel them toward business objectives, then relevance is clearly determined by how effectively the content does so. Relevant content resonates with the intended audience – it speaks to their needs and interests.

But more than that, relevance speaks to where the audience is in the moment. While it is tempting to create content directed only to a preferred segment – the people ready to buy or inquire – that ignores the people who can connect a business to that segment, or who may become them in the future.

So Who Do You Create Content For?

So in seeking to produce relevant content, for whom do we define relevance?  In his “Content Marketing Manifesto,” Rand Fishkin touches on this idea. He warns against what he calls an “obsession with relevance” – getting hung up on targeting content just to current or even potential customers. As he puts it:

What “relevant” means might be a little different from how we typically interpret it. The experience that I’ve had on the web with content marketing is that great content that performs well doesn’t have to fit the “relevant to current customers” scale … you can be on the “relevant to anyone who potentially interacts with potential customers” – that is good enough.

The point here is that content need not speak only to that ideal customer who is on the verge of making a purchase: it can resonate with the person who knows that guy, and that’s valuable.

Why Produce Content for Someone Who Isn’t a Potential Customer?

Marketing is about timing. It’s about being in front of a potential customer when they’re open to being convinced, with a message that makes them choose you over the competition. But timing and reach is not an easy thing to manage. That’s why it’s important that some content speak to those who may only interact with potential customers, for two important reasons.

Expanding Content Reach

Someone may not be interested in becoming a customer, but they may Like, Tweet, email or otherwise share your content with one of their connections who is a potential customer, but not in your current content audience. This can be critical: the number of ideal prospects who view your content at any given time is limited. However, there may be someone who fits your target market who is one social media share away from finding it. That is the value of broader relevance: getting your content in front of more viable conversion opportunities than your inherent audience provides.

Google calls this the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) – the initial experiences and research a customer does before potentially buying a product or service. This online fact-finding can include individuals performing searches, watching online videos, reading reviews, or asking their network.  Non-customers sharing and endorsing content can create a Zero Moment of Truth for their connections who are actively looking for what your brand offers.

Creating Future Customers

The second reason is that they may themselves be a potential customer in the future. Providing content that is relevant to someone who is not ready to convert can serve to establish awareness and trust.

  • Awareness: ensure that when the person is finally at the point of considering a product or service, your brand is part of that decision.
  • Trust: it may be the difference in what makes a prospect choose your brand – after all, you provided value to them before you were asking anything of them.

A Balanced Approach

Clearly, a brand’s content should consider more than just one segment of their audience. Just as focusing exclusively on too narrow an audience can limit marketing reach and growth, being too consistently broad may dilute conversion efforts.

As I’ve written previously, content can be targeted to where an audience is in the conversion process. By producing a mix of content that aims for relevance at different stages in that process, it is possible to persuade those who are in a position to convert while compelling others to share your content and remain engaged with your brand.

 

David Gould

David is the Creative Services Director at Vertical Measures. He oversees written, visual and video content production, as well as social media and promotion. David works with clients to develop compelling content that pulls together business goals with customer needs. His 15 years experience in writing, design and web development have provided a perfect complement of skills for effective content marketing and strategy.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 at 8:40 am and is filed under Content Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Rethinking Relevance in Content Marketing”

  1. Spot a Leopard Says:

    And if I may add, a balanced approach acts like the reality checker for seemingly ambitious goals.

    Depending on the product or service, a little humor in the content never gets old or ineffective. I’ve noticed more and more big industry players are incorporating this light approach in their copy on their corporate websites.

    Everybody wants to work with cool people.

  2. Sandy Gerber Says:

    Very interesting post. I think it’s true that a balanced approach is necessary to appeal to more future potential customers that are not in the position to make a direct connection to the product or service right away. That future potential customer can be the person communicating the brand, and their positive attitude towards the brand to their own network can have a lasting impact not just on their friends, but on themselves. But I also think it’s important to be relevant to your industry and what you actually do as a company, since the risk with taking an approach that is too broad is that, in the end, it can result less customers, in which case there would not have been a benefit to the strategy in the first place.

  3. David Gould Says:

    I agree, Sandy. Even more broadly appealing content should still be relevant to your brand’s industry and message.

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