According to Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute the number one principle of epic content marketing is that the content must fill a need. You must answer a question or address an unmet need your ideal customer has. It’s like the old adage of building a better mousetrap; people will beat a path to your door if you can solve their problems.
Defining Customer Needs
The first order of business is research; what are your customers’ needs? Presumably you discovered that before opening your business, but maybe that’s been awhile ago. Here is where listening on social media can come in handy. You can listen on Twitter and Facebook, sure. But if you’re looking into a particular industry, other media can be as much or more helpful:
Industry oriented forums and communities
Blogs by industry associations or even your competitors
Industry websites and newsletters
You can also analyze the conversations you’re already having with people contacting you to ask about your company. Who is commenting on your blog? Who is registering for your existing content?
You should glean some ideas for hot topics as well as some great keyword choices from these interactions.
Customers have made it known that they are sick of being sold to and won’t take it anymore. Why should they when they can click away in a nanosecond? Even Joe Pulizzi, whose website has considerable cache in the content marketing community, has found that promotional materials only receive about 25% of the average page views and social share that his other content gets.
This does not mean you never pitch. It means you save the pitch for when it is wanted. High pressure sales tactics have never been welcome but now there is such a heavy competition it is easier for a customer to look elsewhere than tolerate the hard sell.
Alignment Breeds Engagement
A customer’s time is a valuable commodity. They will only spend it on worthwhile occupations. Your content must be engaging enough to be worth their while. The only way they will engage with your content is if it serves his needs. Why should they care about your need to talk about your product or your need to sell your service? That’s not their problem.
Their problem is they need to do X, Y, and Z. They need content that will tell them about X, Y, and Z: what they are, how they work, the best way to use them, how to find the best ones. If they don’t find the answer from you, they’ll definitely find it someplace else.
If you have great content about X, Y, and Z they won’t be able to wait to read it. As their questions are answered they may think up new ones. You have the answers to those, too. You must be some kind of expert at X, Y, and Z. Maybe they can trust you with a couple of pieces of personal information in exchange for an in-depth study of X, Y, and Z.
They’ll definitely be returning to you for their next problem. In the meantime, they follow you on Twitter, interact with your blog, and decide to use your company’s biggest product in the next phase of their projects.
When You Get Right Down To It
Isn’t this the way it has always worked? Really people don’t search for products or brands; they search for solutions to problems. Unless you’re Coca-Cola, your product/brand is not the query they’ll enter into the search engine. Terms related to their problems are. Those are your keywords and those are the topics your content should be geared toward.