Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing gives this advice to content marketers: "Be the best answer." It's great advice. You'll never be the only answer—there's far too much content competition out there—but you can be the best answer for the prospects and customers you're marketing to.

After a few decades of doing content marketing (we called it by different names in the past, but the principle is the same), I can think of four foolproof ways for you to be your audience's best answer. But they come with a caveat, the same one that marketers and performers, writers and musicians have always known: The first step in connecting to others is always to know your audience. Listen to what they want, listen to what they need, and know what it is.

With that as a given, then, here are four steps to creating content that will be the best answer for your audience.

Step 1

You are probably reading this because of the "four steps to developing winning content" part of the title. That's because how-to articles and content offering tips and practical advice are perennial favorites. That's always been the case.

Decades of magazine covers and millions of worldwide publications can't be wrong: People want to learn how to do whatever they do better, faster, more often, more easily... the list is endless. And so are your options for content creation.

Finding what your audience wants to do—and wants to do better—is key to getting your content read, thought about, and shared. Becoming the one whose advice gets followed is key to becoming a thought leader, a guru, a star in whatever firmament your audience inhabits.

Face it: We're all pretty self-centered, and any content that's addressing us directly and giving us tips for self-improvement is automatically a winner.

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image of Jeannette de Beauvoir

Jeannette de Beauvoir is a principal at Harbor Marketing Associates, a marketing company engaging clients with digital strategies and tools for brand success.

LinkedIn: Jeanette de Beauvoir