Customer-Focused Content Marketing StrategyBy Sue Duris

By now it should be clear to most that content marketing strategy is embroiled in a saturation problem.

This has been evolving over time, and was really brought to the forefront for many marketers in Mark Schaefer’s post on Content Shock.

And while, in many ways, that post launched an on-going debate about the reality of “content shock,” one fact can’t be denied—any content marketing strategy must take into account the content saturation problem.

Content Marketing Strategy: The Devil is in the Details

During the last several years, three things have become clear when it comes to developing an effective content marketing strategy:

  1. There is, indeed, way too much content out there; 
  2. Much of the content is regurgitating the same old information with few new insights or value-adds; and 
  3. The quality of content at many sites is faltering.

The Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs co-produced 2015 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends generated some very insightful data to support these three facts:

  • In 2015, 86 percent surveyed said they were using content marketing compared to 93 percent in 2014.  The difference, noted by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs was in how “content marketing” was being defined.
  • In 2015, 38 percent of respondents said they are effective at content marketing compared with 42 percent in 2014. The number is dropping.
  • Seventy percent of those surveyed say they are creating more content. But for what value?
  • Twenty-one percent of the respondents said they were successful at return-on-investment.

Overall, this tells us while more content is being created, it is becoming increasingly difficult to create effective content that generates good results. 

Education is Key in Effective Content Marketing Strategy

Often I think that if content marketing could get out of its own way, we’d all be better off.

This means that the term content marketing has become negative in many people’s eyes.

Content should not be used to market, rather it should be used to educate the receiver.

Any content marketing strategy should work to reposition the relationship between organization and consumer, so the consumer:

  1. Builds trust in the organization distributing the content; 
  2. Believes that organization understands him/her, is credible and has their best interests at heart; and 
  3. Realize the organization will help them solve their problem and help them be successful.

Achieving these three objectives is the key to a successful content marketing strategy and is what drives engagement and ultimately conversions.

Success is in Sight

While someone reading the above might conclude the content picture looks gloomy, on the contrary. The right content marketing strategy can—and will—drive growth. 

So what can you do to make sure you create the right strategy?

Understand that customer-centricity is the path to growth, not product-centricity.

We don’t have to go any further than to listen to the words of Russell S. Winer, NYU Stern professor, who says,

Customers do not inherently want to buy products.

People buy products for the benefits they provide. And being able to identify these benefits requires that we understand what buyers and customers value.

Going one step further, it is not marketing’s job to be customer-centric, it is the entire organization’s job to be customer-centric.

An organization does not become customer-centric overnight.

A culture change is necessary.

Each component of the organization must row in the same direction. Otherwise, the organization will be misaligned and will create silos between marketing, content, sales, customer relations, and operations.

Likewise even the best content marketing strategy will fail if being executed in a silo.

Content Marketing Strategy Requires Listening

Listening to buyers and customers is more important now than ever: For your operations, innovation, and content marketing strategy.

Social listening is really vital in understanding the voice of the buyer and the voice of the customer. Social media, online communities, and other shared media platforms make that easier to do.

To do this effectively, marketers must listen to buyers, engage with them, offer help and promote (via any push/pull content efforts) last.

One big failure many organization’s face with building their content marketing strategy is a clear understanding of the buyer’s journey and aligning appropriate content and presenting that content timely in the journey.

Collect and Translate Marketing Insights

Another big disconnect is that marketers gather insights but don’t implement them in their content marketing strategy.

Take insights learned and adjust your content marketing strategy accordingly.

Share insights and strategize with every team in the organization that is involved in buyer and customer touch points.

Determine your growth objectives, key touch points and align key strategies, tactics, and key performance indicators (KPIs) that support these objectives and touch points. 

This includes creating buyer and customer personas. You can further align these personas through inviting people to your online community and engaging them there, as well as interviewing them…maybe even think about creating buyer and customer councils.

Make sure the journeys align with the touch points in your content marketing strategy.

The point is you need to laser-focus your personas so you can laser-focus your content.

Measure the Right Things

In my January post here on Spin Sucks, I really honed in on the fact that your business is unique in how it operates, so you must focus on the metrics that support your objectives.

Testing is vital for content marketing strategy. Yes, you’re going to create a lot of content to find out what resonates with your buyers and customers. Most will be misses. But those hits will drive movement further down the buyer journey chain.

Continue to test, continue to adjust.  

Don’t go at it alone. Invite other customer-facing teams in your organization to help to produce the right content.

A successful content marketing strategy is a constantly evolving process.

It’s an investment.

Do yourself a favor and use all the tools available to you to generate an experience that people will treasure.

Because that’s the only way to overcome content saturation and achieve the ultimate goal: To build advocates and lifetime customers with an integrated content marketing strategy.

photo credit: IMG_4687 via photopin 

Sue Duris

Sue Duris is the Co-Founder and President of M4 Communications, Inc., a Palo Alto, CA-based marketing strategy and communications firm that helps startups build strong marketing and customer experience infrastructures that enable them to grow. When not at M4, she’s cheering on her favorite Pittsburgh sports teams.

View all posts by Sue Duris