Content marketing requires upfront planning, discipline in describing your targets and consistency in execution. It also helps you focus on the right things.
That focus is a benefit of asking – and thoroughly answering – three questions directly relevant to what you do and why you do it:
Who am I trying to reach?
The answer isn’t at the level of an industry, a company or even a department. You want to write for the decision maker. To do that, you have to understand individuals, their priorities, even their backgrounds and education.
Answering this question gives you the ability to see your product or service the way your intended targets do. That understanding improves both your marketing and your offering.
What problem am I looking to solve?
Don’t start listing features and benefits. Think about the problem as your targets see it. How do they describe it? Do they even recognize it as a problem? If not, you’re going to have to build some bridges first.
Maybe you’re ready to announce a next-generation content management solution. But, you solution won’t resonate with an audience that is focused on distributing content in a limited range of formats.
First, you have to show them the shifting marketplace – multiple formats, simultaneous demand, the risks inherent in tracking customers across incompatible systems – the list goes on. After that, you can talk about the problems they’ll face with a legacy CMS. Describe the problem in ways your potential customers will recognize and embrace, and you’ll find ways to better describe your solution, as well.
Why do you need my solution?
Finally, explain why your product or service solves the problem your targets are looking to address. Stay close to the problem. Don’t describe everything your solution can do; write instead about the things it must do to address the problem you have already identified.
Unfortunately, we often try to answer this question first, without fully understanding the client or the problem. That makes it hard to talk precisely. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a bulleted list of really cool features, take a step back and ask which ones matter to the people you are trying to reach.
Marketers have used rubrics like this one for much of the past half-century. The 4 “Ps” – product, price, place and promotion – are an example of the way we have broken down the field to a set of actionable steps. The approach was particularly useful in an era characterized by mass marketing.
The growth of digital platforms has made it cost-effective to reach targeted audiences with valuable, persuasive content. Your content must show that you understand your target audience and its problems. Only then can you expect an opportunity to show your wares.