Is your content marketing strategy designed to bring the greatest possible value to your customers?
I find that the majority of businesses either aren’t able to answer this question succinctly, or are forced to respond in the negative. Content marketing has been built up so much as a means of generating new traffic that most modern strategies could be considered “traffic centric” or “revenue centric” rather than “customer centric.” In this article, I’d like to explain the merits and characteristics of a true customer centric strategy, and how to build one or shape one out of your current approach.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
First, I think it’s important to visit an important fundamental in the concept of content marketing — the difference between outbound and inbound marketing. Outbound marketing is what most people think of as “traditional” marketing, but the strict definition is any outreach attempt to capture a prospective lead’s attention, and increase their interest in buying your product. These are things like billboard and magazine ads, or direct mail pieces. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is the process of making your brand a go-to resource for customers. You’ll be giving them something they want, or otherwise get yourself in front of them, and naturally, they’ll be more inclined to purchase from you when they’re ready.
Inbound marketing is necessarily customer centric. Otherwise, your “inbound” strategy will become something more akin to outbound.
Traits of a Customer Centric Content Strategy
Now, let’s take a look at exactly what a customer centric strategy entails. The way I see it, there are four critical factors here:
· A focus on quality. This should go without saying, but a customer centric strategy is primarily concerned with the quality of the content produced. That means exhaustively researched, concisely detailed, and presented in an aesthetically pleasing way. It’s tempting to mass-produce mediocre content to beef up your reach or influence, but quality must come first if you care about your customers.
· Written specifically for one demographic. Again, there’s a temptation here to broaden your focus. Writing for a larger audience segments means you’ll have potential access to a higher number of people — but that tends to decrease the relevance and conversion rate of your content. Instead, it’s better to zero in on one highly specific demographic, sacrificing volume for relevance.
· Not only a sales opportunity. It’s a good idea to include short, subtle pitches for your products or calls-to-action in the body of your content, but your content shouldn’t be treated as a sales opportunity. Those pitches should appear to your readers to be an afterthought, tacked on to a piece that stands by itself as a useful addition to your content strategy. Even though this is a marketing strategy, and your ultimate goal is to increase revenue, direct conversions here should be a secondary consideration.
· Responsive to customer feedback. Not every piece of content you publish is going to be a home run, but you can gradually improve the work you produce by monitoring and following customer feedback. Which articles perform well? Which ones don’t? Adapt your content strategy according to what your audience wants or needs — give them value.
Pitfalls to Watch Out For
Most marketers and entrepreneurs do strive for a customer centric operation, knowing the philosophical roots of content marketing in general. Unfortunately, they often fall into traps of thinking and strategic pitfalls that compromise the customer focus of their tactics. Here are just a few of them to watch out for:
· Keyword optimization. Content marketing is the perfect fuel for an SEO campaign, giving you the opportunity to rank for keywords related to your brand. Here’s the problem; many marketers get overzealous about including keywords in their content, to the point that the content becomes awkwardly-worded. Keyword density is an outdated concept; instead of focusing on keywords, focus on delivering quality to your customers.
· Volume. Every piece of content you create is like dropping another hook in the water, to use a fishing metaphor, and more potential for traffic and conversions. However, you shouldn’t ever publish content merely for the sake of publishing something. Everything you publish should provide significant value to your audience.
· Promotions. It’s tempting to use your content as a means of promoting some product, service, or company announcement, but be careful here. If your audience becomes skeptical of the integrity of your content, you’ll lose the sense of authority and trust you’re trying to build.
· Expectations vs. reality. No matter how much experience you have in the industry, there’s probably a gap between what you think your customers want and what they actually want. Rely on objective data, including market research, to inform your campaign.
Making your content marketing strategy more customer centric won’t happen overnight, and there’s a fine line between customer centric and revenue centric, so don’t expect a “light switch” operation here. It will take you some time to figure out exactly what your customers want, what you’re currently giving them, and how to improve your strategy so that both you and your customers benefit. But if you can do this, while avoiding the pitfalls, I can almost guarantee you’ll see a higher level of return on every piece you produce — especially since you’ll differentiate yourself from the competition.