By Chris Marshall

As a freelance creative consultant and content creator, I often work with clients in developing approaches to assist in reaching their audiences through storytelling (copy, photo and video). This requires the right information to engage the right audience. Whether it’s reaching consumers in either consumer packaged goods (CPG), or in entertainment marketing verticals or working with businesses wanting to have impact with other businesses, the need for devising a focused narrative is paramount.

Effectively targeting your audience

In order to be an effective content marketer, you need to ask yourself a few questions about targeting your audience:
–What kind of conversations do I have with my business or consumer demand space?
–What are advocates worth to my business growth?
–What is it that sets me apart from my competitors?

If you are to successfully move the needle on customer response and activation, you need to know where your customers reside, what they are interested in and why you can provide a solution to their problems better than any other business.

Becoming a niche expert

A good approach is in developing a niche service to a specific problem, becoming the key expert on how to get things done, in an otherwise generalist market.

This is where the investment in content marketing can produce your biggest customer return on investment (ROI). Devising the best plan to help develop a business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C) relationship with your intended audience will help provoke conversations and establish your expertise in specific areas. It will provide an arena for discourse on issues surrounding a customer issue or the potential solution that your service offers.

Having the ability to provide solutions further strengthens your position, whether by saying “we can help” or “we’re listening to the issues and we’re developing a solution for them”. You’ve become both the sounding board and the solution provider. But most importantly, you’ve become your customers’ trusted partner: a trust that will help turn those customers into advocates who will spread the word on the great experiences they have had with your business.

What to consider

So, what are some key things to consider when devising a content marketing plan?

1. Who is your audience? Gathering insights and analytics around your primary audience or consumer is key. Knowing their behaviours and potential issues where your product or service can offer a benefit should be the intended target. In taking a deeper dive into this data, you’ll be able to find your targeted audience segment, and in the process, this understanding of the audience segment behaviour will help set the tone of your content narrative

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2. What’s your core offering and how is it different from your competitors? There is a lot of noise in the social space and when you are a generalist you are in the ether with other businesses vying for the same clients. You’re a small fish in a very big and active pond. So set yourself apart. If you have a specialty that may reside in the same circles, explore what that may look like and put it out into the conversation. Analyze where there may be a demand space for an offer that others just can’t offer. The pond may be smaller, but you’ll be its biggest fish.

3. Developing a consistent voice. Developing a persona for your business in the social space is imperative to developing the trust of your intended audience. Your persona must exhibit knowledge and have an authenticity to command the space. This persona should be an approachable non-intimidating entity that welcomes and revels in discourse.

4. Dedicating individual(s) and teams. Your business should have a dedicated individual or team that maintains the voice and distribution across all your content streams, laying the roots down on those streams that make the most sense in reaching your targeted audience. On top of your own content, curating other poignant pieces of content will further legitimize your expertise in the space, and demonstrate that you welcome all voices into the conversation.

5. Continuously measure impact and reassess engagement. It is an imperative measure to see how your content engages with the demand space. How is your content reaching your audiences? And has it garnered any impact? Through search engine optimization (SEO) you’ll be able to see if your content reached specific key words in online searches (all the more reason to have a more specialized solution). Where are the eyes going? Is your voice participating in that conversation? Also, monitor which of the content pieces had a greater response in the analytics. What are the underlying takes from those conversations? Is there a takeaway here: a significant pain point or observance that needs to provide a solution for your customer?

6. Ensure the content is on the first pages of searches. Over 70% of B2B purchases begin with an online search1. Again, being more specialized narrows the competitive content, giving your business the advantage of a higher placement in the online search and bigger opportunity of clickthrough to your business’ feeds.

7. Assessing your media. If you have a content marketing budget that allows for advertising opportunities, determine where paid media (advertising, displayed, native, influencer, promotions) reach could live on top of your earned (shares, mentions, reposts) and owned (business web site, social channels and blog) media. These types of assessments may expand audience reach, and if the content aligns with the feed, audience engagement. How your content is consumed should be continuously assessed and tracked. A best practices approach would involve (at very least) a quarterly review to determine how your business is speaking with its demand space.

The bottom line is in order to have a successful content marketing plan you have to develop a strategy that’s driven by data to reach your targeted audience. This is the only way your business will ensure advocacy from your consumer or business demand space. Remember to think about the audience’s journey to find you; don’t expect a sprint towards the discovery of your business. It will be a marathon.

Taking the time to leverage the benefits of your core offering, the authentic persona your business represents and offering information through engaging content, will put your company on the map and on the road to content marketing success. This is a long-term relationship that is built on trust; an ongoing conversation that is not only beneficial to their business or personal goals, but to the growth and longevity of yours.

Chris Marshall is founder/creative of Content Citizen (www.contentcitizen.com).

1 Ashley Wilson-Rew, “33 B2B Marketing Statistics Show Why Your Current Strategy Blows”, Inbound Marketing for Manufacturers Blog, Protocol 80, October 26, 2017.

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