It seems everyone is getting pressured to produce content in today's digital world. Tune in, and you’ll see it’s everywhere—eBooks, whitepapers, downloadable PDFs, free courses. But start to read much of that content, and it won’t take long to realize that simply making content available isn’t enough. Indeed, for content to really serve its purpose, it must be meaningful and relevant for the consumer.
And here’s where it gets tricky. As thought leaders, content marketers and industry experts, how can we really dig into the minds and hearts of our consumers and create content that speaks to their needs?
Step one: Be willing to ask yourself some hard questions.
Those questions will lead to some insightful answers—both about the mission of your organization and about the needs of your consumer. Then, you’ll be ready to start building a content library in a way that will nurture engaged and loyal consumers.
Here are three of my favorite questions to get you started:
Question #1: Do I Even Have Anything Worthwhile to Say?
As business owners, this can be a hard question to answer honestly. We’re passionate about what we do, and our success hinges upon our ability to champion our product or service. A few years ago, I sat in my child's classroom as his teacher detailed how the textbook and workbook aligned with state standards and how, God willing, the class would make it all the way to the end of the book by the end of the year. What an accomplishment that would be, she indicated. Meanwhile, I kept waiting to hear about exciting new projects or her approach to learning. It never happened.
By the time Mrs. Z stopped talking, I was ready to run out of her classroom and hit my head against the bricks. When we got to the safety of the hallway, I looked at my son and said, “I’m sorry that you have to spend 180 days with this teacher.”
I wanted to discover how Mrs. Z was going to inspire my son to love language. I wanted to learn about her approach towards writing and to hear how she was going to expose my son to all sorts of diverse literature. I wanted to see and feel this teacher’s passion for learning and for language. But she missed the need of her target audience, and instead, she talked about what was important to her—and had nothing worthwhile to say to me or my child.
Likewise, in the business world, we must remember that the target audience gets to decide what is worthwhile. When we deliver content that matters to them, we create consumers who want to interact with our brand.
Question #2: Do I Really Know My Customer?
That’s a brazen question, isn’t it?
We deal with our customers every single day, so of course we know them. They’re coming to us because we’ve convinced them that our product is worthy of their investment or that our service is superior to any other option on the market. But today’s consumer wants more than just a great product. She wants to feel connected to the businesses she supports.
How does your customer see the world? What motivates him to get involved in his community? What does he see as inspiring or frustrating? When you begin to understand your customer on a personal level, you can start speaking language that resonates with him, nurturing a brand loyalty that delivers engaged consumers who become vocal supporters of your business.
Still not convinced? Take a look at Gallup’s 2014 report: State of the American Consumer: Insights for Business Leaders.
Question #3: What Do the Numbers Say?
Sure, you’re sending out a weekly e-newsletter and faithfully posting updates to your Facebook page, but if your subscriber list isn’t opening your emails or if your Facebook account hasn’t grown beyond your friends and family, it’s probably time to reconsider your marketing efforts.
Here’s the important point: You’re busy, and you don’t have enough time in the day to manage everything you should be doing, so if you’re going to start communicating to your customers through email or social media, you want to make sure that they’re actually going to want to listen to what you have to say. Take a day to dig into the data and learn what topics seem to generate the most interest. You might discover that last month’s email on the 200 must-know tax codes didn’t generate as much engagement as the email that outlined five ways to pay less money in taxes. It’s not a stretch to assume that your readers prefer digestible and actionable content over a long list of 200 complicated bullets on tax code.
Similarly, while social media is a great way to build an audience and foster engagement, using tools like Hootesuite or sproutsocial provide treasure troves of information: popular times of fan engagement, trending content and social media listening. Armed with the right data, you can create a communication strategy that delivers meaningful and useful content at the right time and right place.
If you’ve not taken the time to ask yourself questions like these, consider setting aside some time in the next few weeks. You might be surprised what you learn—both about yourself and your audience.