Congratulations. You’re the head of a broadcast network.
It’s a small network, to be sure. But as a marketer your job is identical to that of a seven-figure broadcast exec. You create programming (content) that targets a lucrative demographic. You keep it fresh. You promote it. People tune in, they talk, your audience grows and your network becomes invaluable to your advertising sponsors. And get this: the one and only sponsor is you.
That in a nutshell is content marketing. It’s the final evolution of online strategy, the inevitable next phase after all the websites are built, the SEO done (for now) and the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are all plugged in and looking for work. At this point the organizations with the best flow of information, the best programming and, by extension, the strongest networks will prevail.
Unlike NBC, however, you don’t have millions to throw into content development. Your strategy has to be right from the start. By definition, a content strategy is a commitment; your audience won’t stick around if you stop broadcasting, and they won’t come back to see if you’ve decided to start again. Their needs continue. You have to be in front of them when those needs finally arise, which is why getting the strategy right is so important.
Note the distinction between wants and needs. Content marketing is not about needs. That comes later, with conversions. For now, like any good network exec, you’re giving your audience what they want. Needs come and go. Wants are continuous. Content strategy comes down to figuring out what kinds of information and experiences your users want. What will they tune in to every day?
The process of answering that question varies from one organization to the next. A good strategy reflects not only your creative vision, but also the practical realities of producing it. Ultimately, content strategy is creative strategy, and like any good creative work it begins with solid analysis. To wit:
• What do you want to accomplish?—What results are you looking to achieve with this content project? Your objectives should be specific enough to guide your immediate efforts, but broad enough to encompass most, if not all of your content and markets.
• Who are you trying to reach?—You’ve probably got a good handle on your markets and segments by now. Revisit them to identify any new or emerging markets, and any that may be dying out. By defining your markets yet again, you’ll impose discipline on the process that ultimately assures your strategy is good for the long term.
• What kinds of information and experiences do they want?—Again, remember the distinction between needs and wants. Your audience wants relevant, useful information, but even the most dour B2B buyer values novelty and entertainment. Make sure your content strategy delivers on all fronts.
• What can you do with available time, talent and budget?—A pivotal question.
The answers will largely determine your final media mix (e.g. prose, video, podcasts, etc.). Who do you have in-house? What do they do well? What sorts of outside resources do you have at your disposal? Is there something unique about your products or services that holds interest to your target? Something your competitors can’t deliver? Content strategy is the art of the possible. This question helps you figure out what’s possible.
Once you’ve done your upfront analysis, you’re ready to answer the next big question: What do we already have? Between your website, your literature, your presentations, white papers, research, newsletters, videos, slide shows and assorted TV and radio spots, you’ve likely got a wealth of content at your disposal. It won’t all be appropriate for your current efforts, but with a little retooling it might be. The only way to find out is to take the next step in the strategy process: the Content Audit.
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