David Meerman Scott, bestselling author and marketing strategist, once said “you are what you publish online.” Never has this been more true than for brands. We aren’t just competing with rivals in our industry; we are competing for consumer attention, and consumers are sick and tired of being interrupted with content that is annoying and irrelevant. The only way to achieve that goal is with a truly remarkable inbound strategy focused on useful, helpful content. But what does it actually take to succeed with content? Below I’ve outlined the core elements of a successful content strategy to create an inbound experience for your customers, along with some tips, tricks, and insights we’ve learned along the way from building our own brand of HubSpot content.
When a marketer asks me where to begin their approach to content, I always default to the same question: Who is your audience? Inevitably, I get a broad answer, like “moms” or “C-level executives,” and the reality is there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of businesses targeting those exact audiences on a daily basis. Before you start crafting content of any kind, you need clear buying personas so you can build your publishing and promotion strategy around your potential buyers.
If you’re not familiar with buying personas, think about them as a pseudo-Facebook profile for your core audiences. In other words, it’s not good enough to target “moms”. Your persona strategy should include demographics, sample content consumption, ages, buying habits, and other relevant information that will guide your strategy. For example, replace “moms” with a named potential consumer, such as Meghan. What does Meghan do all day? Who does she interact with? What social networks does she use regularly? What blogs or magazines does she enjoy? What motivates her? If you’re not sure how to create personas for your business, start by interviewing 3-5 customers or potential customers of your business and ask them open-ended questions about their day. By asking a bit about the tenor of their daily life, how they found your company, and what websites they visit daily, you’ll start to recognize some trends in demographics, motivation, and habits of your audience. It’s tempting to create 10-12 buyer personas, but doing so is a mistake.
Great content strategies identify 2-3 core personas and create tailored plans to succeed in reaching each of them. Persona development may sound like an exercise in make-believe, but building personas forces your team to be honest about who you are marketing to and who you are not. The “who you are not” portion of personas is imperative. Once you start creating and promoting content, you will inevitably be asked (by your sales team, your executive team, or by potential customers) to create more content, and being able to chart a clear path to content success with 2-3 personas is far more efficient and effective than trying to be all things to all people in the world of content.
Do Your Homework
The single biggest mistake you can make in developing a content strategy is doing exactly what everyone else does. In other words, copying the playbook of other brands in your space may work in other realms of marketing, but it falls flat in the content world. Think of your company’s content as a television channel: You don’t want to be the fifteenth channel competing with ESPN for around the clock sports coverage, do you? No, you want to create your own approach and give people a reason to tune in to your brand content on a regular basis.
To do that, you not only need to be different, you need to be remarkable. Being remarkable requires some investigative work: In addition to knowing what and when your target audience is reading on a regular basis, you should also have a basic understanding of the content landscape in your industry. We recommend that people do a qualitative and quantitative analysis of what’s already being written in their space. Seeing what other companies are publishing can help you win either by volume (if they rarely publish new material) or by quality (if their content is mediocre).