As an owner, marketing leader, or digital strategist at your company, your ultimate goal is probably to make your customers’ lives better. That’s a big goal, so where do we start?
The first step is to get in the right mindset. If enriching or improving your customers’ lives doesn’t interest you, you should reconsider your profession or industry. But, let’s assume that you’re in a niche where thinking with a consumer-first mindset does excite you.
You’ve started to document scenarios that your prospects could go through before making a decision, and you’re beginning to anticipate your audience’s questions and pain points. You’re laying the groundwork for developing positive relationships with your customers, and you’re also starting to think like an effective content marketer.
With 60% of retail sales by 2017 involving the web, chances are high that your company’s relationships will be forged and fostered through digital content. The content you publish is a potential customer’s gateway to your expertise, products, or services. And to do content well, there are three approaches that, if followed, will focus your efforts and simultaneously keep your customers happy:
- Commit to listening
- Commit to measuring
- Commit to publishing
1. Commit to Listening
Everyone knows that you can learn more by listening than by talking. The same mantra applies to your content marketing efforts. You have to listen first — and often — rather than bark at your audience with lackluster or irrelevant content. If you commit to listening to your customers up front, your subsequent content will more helpful, authentic, and valuable because it’s based on what they’ve already “told” you they need.
“Actively creating meaningful opportunities to speak with rather than at your people, and then actually listening attentively to their responses, achieves some incredibly positive outcomes,” says Richard Branson in his book The Virgin Way.
Listening — both to your customers and your internal colleagues — is a critical skill that every successful content marketer must continually practice. Remember that L-I-S-T-E-N is an anagram for S-I-L-E-N-T.
Listening to your customers means paying serious attention to their feedback and tweaking or creating content to alleviate their frustrations or obstacles.
As an example, we recently had an education client who was struggling to communicate the true value of their academic programs, which had led to a decrease in leads. In response, we repurposed existing content into a series of brief videos that addressed specific financial challenges faced by their audience. This contributed to a 22% increase in leads compared to the same three-month period a year prior.
You should also look internally for content ideas. Listening to your co-workers can significantly expand your resources for content creation and ideation. While your online or editorial teams may be responsible for publishing the bulk of your content, make time to listen to everyone in the company, because every employee and department can represent an opportunity to create content, whether it’s through a “behind-the-scenes” look at a process, or an “employee spotlight.”
Here are some ways you can commit to listening to both your customers and your internal teams:
- Invite your top 5-10 clients to have a conversation with your sales or product teams. Listen to them! Write down their challenges, their wish list items, and what delights them about your products or services.
- Set up a recurring meeting with your sales team and/or your account managers — whoever is on the “front lines” of communication with your prospects. Challenge this external-facing group to come to every meeting with content ideas.
- Continually share your content calendars with all departments in the company. Ask them for feedback on content ideas, timelines, and ways to add further flavor to your topics.
2. Commit to measuring
One of my favorite sayings is, “If you have more than three priorities, you have none.” Taking on content marketing is a daunting task, because it can transform an organization, and it often requires active participation from multiple departments (C-suite, sales, marketing, product development, and IT, among others). With everything that content could touch in your company, your best move is to pick three feasible content priorities and do them well, rather than tackle 20 items and do them all poorly.
Start by identifying the three business goals you really want your content to accomplish. They might include some of these:
- Boost brand awareness
- Establish thought leadership
- Generate more leads
- Improve SEO and search engine rankings
- Increase sales
- Increase web traffic or average session duration
- Reduce customer questions by phone
Pick only three to begin with. Determine how you will measure those benchmarks on an ongoing basis. Most importantly, ask yourself what you will do differently once you measure those three KPIs. Will you publish more or less content, or different kinds of content based on the intelligence you have gathered? Will you divert resources or budget?
3. Commit to publishing
Now that you’re listening intently to others for content ideas, and you’ve committed to measuring a few critical data points, it’s time to start publishing your content. This final commitment — establishing a cadence for how often you will push content live — may be the most important of all.
Without repetition and consistency in your content marketing publishing efforts, your efforts will fall short because your audience — and Google — won’t see you as relevant or timely. You continually need that “fresh factor.”
We’ve seen it happen many times, where a company publishes five blogs posts in a single month, but then falls off the map due to other competing priorities. You must make a long-term content commitment from the beginning, and it’s best to have that buy-in from other departments who will help you with ongoing content creation.
To pick a cadence (Will you publish once a day? Once a week?), examine the internal and external resources available to you, and take note of how often your competitors are publishing content to their digital channels. You should plan to publish content regularly enough to keep your varying audience segments engaged without overwhelming them. At the same time, ensure that you can have enough content in the pipeline to fuel a sustained effort over many months.
To ensure success:
- Set timelines and deadlines for your content creation resources.
- Establish a company-wide content calendar.
- Don’t always demand perfection in your content — this can threaten the consistency that would otherwise give you an advantage.
Regarding that last point, remember that most customers won’t remember exactly what you say or write, but they will remember how you make them feel. Did you make them feel welcome, valued, respected? Did you answer their most pressing questions or needs? Are you saving them time or money? Are you sharing knowledge or educating them on a specific topic? If you’re doing a combination of these things in a predictable, consistent manner — you’re being a good content marketer. And that will help you win loyal customers.
Want to learn more?
Download our Content Marketing Quick Start, with multiple DIY worksheets dedicated to helping you get a start on living up to these content commitments. Great for team brainstorming sessions or personal use.