In many business sectors, marketing to people who are important to your business is all about teaching them and helping them to keep up with rapid change.
You're often dealing with a community of eager learners. Business content, to be useful, must be informative, not promotional. You receive the marketing benefit by just putting out great content that people consume.
The specific topics of that content of course vary by company and market sector. So, when planning content development, get inside your audience's head. Ask question such as...
- What do people not know that they should know because knowing would help them?
- What can your company teach people that will be of use to them but will also help enhance your brand's reputation?
- What's interesting about your brand, product, service, people, or technology that sets it apart from those of competitors?
- What is your company's expertise that you can share to help those with whom you must connect in order to create interest, preference, and demand?
Those are key criteria for determining worthy content topics. From there, available resources, imagination, and creativity should be applied to specific business challenges your company faces.
What actions are appropriate is a function of a company's particular competitive situation: Are you top dog in your category or a feisty newcomer attempting to grow awareness and credibility? Is your category fun or super serious? Can you make it fun? What are your competitors doing? What information is missing? Can you survey your community and learn what they want to know? Do you already know what they want to know?
Unfortunately, there's no easy, one-regimen-fits-all solution.
Content development has many facets. Two that are often ignored are content strategy and the reuse of content.
Strategy First, Then Tactics!
Strategy comes into play because just any content isn't necessarily good content. If there's not a clear communications strategy incorporating competitive differentiation, get that fixed and then come back to content development planning.
Does your brand own a place in the mind of the market? Al Reis and Jack Trout termed the concept years ago as "positioning": How does the market define you? Is it what you'd like it to be? How do you go about changing that perception? What would the desired position be?
Remember, you can only stand for one thing, not many. Creating strategy isn't rocket science. Following competitors isn't a great idea either. Read Trout's Differentiate or Die for excellent guidance on strategy development.
When developing content ideas, ask whether the subject suits how the brand is or wants to be known and what the target community needs or wants to learn about. If you don't know the answers, or the content idea doesn't pass both those tests, you're likely in danger of wasting serious time and money.
As a marketer, you're not necessarily in the pure education business. But taking an educational rather than promotional tack can certainly help your brand stand out, especially if your competitors aren't delivering valuable info. People aren't looking for more ads. They're hungry for knowledge they can use in their work or personal lives.
What can you provide? How, when, and where can it be delivered? Know the answers to those questions, as well, before you start.
Express Ideas Across Multiple Media
The reuse of content is essential to gaining maximum value from ideas and content production. Simply put, one piece of content—an article, video, podcast, speech, blog post, or webinar—can become another: a speech, blog post, article, webinar, podcast, video, etc.
If the idea behind the content is valuable (see strategy subhead, above), then it should be expressed across the range of appropriate, affordable media available to your business for use.
Supply chain marketers have a tendency to think that topics are getting old because they've used them previously, but it's more likely that their audience or community is only just beginning to take notice. Don't overestimate the speed at which people consume your content. Just because you're tired of the topic doesn't mean others are.
Reuse can mean combining previously used content ideas as well as breaking them apart into smaller, separate items for a deeper look into the subject.
Rather than constantly chasing new ideas, reuse helps save time and money. It's like making another great dinner out of leftovers and saving yourself a trip to the market.
Certainly, fresh ideas are also essential, but not at the cost of forgoing the thorough reuse of key topics... unless you've got an enormous budget and a huge production team.
Teaching With a Marketing Perspective
Think about content development the way a media outlet's editor would think about what interests and attracts readers and viewers, at the same time keeping in mind what can help your brand achieve its goals. It's certainly not pure journalism, but many journalism skills apply.
Definitely lean more toward being informative than hyping your brand. Also, be inclusive. Acknowledge other businesses and what they're doing. Be part of the community.
* * *
Create and maintain a clear content strategy tied to the communications direction of the business, and don't jump to new topics before you've applied existing ones as completely as possible.