Lately I have been having some very passionate discussions about the best place to start in Content Marketing. Do you start with products, personas or topics?
You have heard me rant before about the biggest marketing mistake when we use our website and too much outbound promotion to just talk about ourselves. So you can eliminate product as the starting point.
This brings us to the question of whether to start with personas or topics?
Recently one of my colleagues discussed the concept of “Return On Interesting” with Content Strategy. And he talked about how to use “Audience Marketing” to get started. I think it’s brilliant, and so I thought I should explain the basic concepts he presented to all of you here…
Introducing Timo Elliott
My colleague’s name is Timo Elliott (@TimoElliott). He is one of SAP’s most prolific bloggers and a self-described “technology evangelist.” Which, he explains, involves lots of time interacting with customers via social media and at conferences. He has presented 30 conference keynotes this year, mostly on the topic of Analytics (so check out his website to learn more or to secure him for your next event.)
The Basic Argument
You’ve heard this all from me before: traditional marketing is broken! Marketers are working harder and harder to push out promotional messages that are increasingly being ignored by today’s savvy buyers.
The problem comes down to simple math: we’re getting fewer leads for the same money. And the only way to reverse the tide and save marketing is with a content strategy that produces valuable content people want, converts them at the appropriate time and generates more leads for less money. All while landing marketing at it’s rightful place at the leadership table as the advocate for customer value, insights and loyalty.
Which brings us back to the question of where to begin your content strategy? With targets or topics?
I have written before about the problem with trying to label your audience. But I think I struggled to get the point across clearly and succinctly. Once I heard Timo’s explanation, I just had to shine a light on the simplicity and effortlessness with which he explains it. So here it is verbatim:
Why Interesting is Important
The last few years has seen a huge change in the underlying economics of marketing. It now effectively costs nothing to get messages out to the market, via web pages, blog posts, Twitter, or Facebook – it’s easier than ever to “make noise”.
But because everybody else in the market is making noise, it’s harder than ever to get “listened to”. I believe the vast majority of marketing materials created in our industry are professionally-produced, are designed for a specific audience, and talk about customer concerns and problems. But they typically aren’t very engaging or interesting, and do little to differentiate the company from other vendors. These materials quickly fall into a vast sea of “marketing mush” without making any impact on the market, while interesting content gets shared via email, retweeted, or “liked” on Facebook, reaching a much larger audience.
Hence the notion that the “return on interesting” has soared because of the new marketing environment — it’s gone from being a linear relationship (the more interesting your marketing, the higher the impact) to something more like a black and white step function (it’s either uninteresting, and vanishes, or it’s interesting and takes off).
What is Audience Marketing?
According to Timo, Audience Marketing is the best way to create more interesting content. It’s centered around defining a group of people with common interests. And he warns against separating the “who is interested” from the “what they are interested in.” Since the categorization is much more subtle than simplistic definitions like industry, title and size of company (as I tried to explain here).
It is generally easier to start with identifying interesting topics which will typically cross common “targeting” labels. And by starting with topics, you will be able to define the types of content people find most interesting.
I would add, that by starting with topics you can begin the whole process with some solid keyword research, which aligns directly with content types and content placements (as opposed to titles and industries which would typically require large research studies to understand researching behaviors.)
How To Create Interesting Content
Timo suggests a number of steps to generating your own Return on Interesting with content marketing:
- Want Killer Content? Speak To A Customer
- Don’t just talk about yourself
- Offer content in the right context
- Focus on the details or a unique point of view
- Test, test, test!
- You don’t have to create all the content yourself (curation)
- Act fast to discuss breaking news
- Do less, but do it better
Where Do You Start?
Where do you start your marketing planning or content strategy process? With products, “targets” or topics?