If you're going to create and share content with the world, you better be sharing something really important. As Forbes.com contributor Greg Satell convincingly argues, a content marketing strategy is successful when digital marketers act more like publishers and "are not merely seeking an audience, but to share something important with the world." Make this something more than just timely or relevant (although those are critical components). Stretch for publishing content that's truly altruistic and important on an earth-shattering level that shows you care about your customers and understand their needs. Doing so builds trust, and therefore strong relationships, with your audience.
So how do you do that? Forget about what you're selling and focus instead on what information your customer needs to make smart purchase decisions and how she finds and consumes content. Create that content and make it available to your target customers to develop and maintain satisfying relationships.
What does your customer need?
You know your product or service. You're the expert on your brand. And you probably have persona descriptions for your target customers that drill down to the gritty details-from how often they purchase online to whether they're cat or dog people. If not, repeat to yourself this one simple tenant from Susan Gunelius, President/CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc.: "Your product or service is far less important than its ability to fulfill your customers' needs."
To fulfill your customers' needs, you must know who your customer is and what she cares about. That information will be your guide to building content she'll find interesting and useful.
Consider this video from Always (embedded below). It doesn't focus on what Always sells but what Always customers care about: girls - because Always customers are exclusively female. However, the appeal of the video reaches beyond females. The health and self-esteem of girls, like that of boys, matter to parents of both genders as well as teachers, employers-most everyone. The fact that Always is interested in growing the self-esteem of girls shows the brand cares about its customer, not just about selling products.
Where and how does your customer consume content?
This point closely aligns with the first. Knowing your customer and what she cares about includes knowing where your customer tends to gather information, how and where she spends time online, and what motivates desired actions (such as subscriptions, downloads and purchases). Is she on YouTube watching videos posted by beauty experts, or is she at Forbes.com reading stock news? Does she share content via Facebook or Google+?
Without answering these questions, you don't know what format your content should take (white papers vs. videos vs. blog post series) and where that content should live so your customer can easily find it. Alas, the final point.
How do you ensure your customer sees your content?
Relying on your website's content exclusively and never posting content outside your website is a great combination-for minimizing your reach. This is the opposite of a strong content promotion strategy. Don't make your content strategy a scavenger hunt. Instead, create a strategy in partnerships with unbiased experts to enhance credibility and thus visibility of your content. After all, 2/3 of consumers agree that endorsements from unbiased experts influence their purchasing decisions. Work with media outlets that your customers already know and trust and engage industry experts to provide insight and tips that your customers can use. This content promotion and distribution cheat sheet is a great place for you to get started.
By truly focusing on your customers' needs, you can deliver content that facilitates and deepens your relationships with them, creating satisfying and profitable interactions.