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Fully 75% of B2B marketers who have used content marketing successfully say they have been able to use it to build credibility and trust. —MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute

A core objective of content marketing is to create a business reputation that influences audience decisions.

Content marketing allows a business to build an audience that enjoys its content, engages with it, and shares it with peers. The result: a strong content-led brand that attracts new and repeat customers.

So, what does it take to build an ardent fanbase with content marketing?

Let's look at seven key approaches.

1. Define your target audience

Companies that exceed the lead and revenue goals were 2.2 times more likely to have documented personas than companies that missed their targets. —Cintell

Branded content needs to have a conversation with a specific audience. Accordingly, you need to delve deep into the challenges, aspirations, and interests of your targeted audience. Here are two examples of such persona types:

  1. College students looking for street food options in their city. Challenge: limited budget to eat out. Aspiration: to be a foodie. Interests: good food, eating out.
  2. Mid-career professionals looking for financial advice. Challenge: lack of savings. Aspiration: looking to buy a home. Interests: passive income options, investment avenues.

A well-defined and narrow persona lays the foundation for creating audience-centric content. In the case of financial services company FastCapital360, to target small business owners it created a blog that caters to their needs:

From help on how to set-up an email account to advertising tips, the blog is a go-to resource for its audience.

2. Develop an authentic voice

"Honest and open dialogue, which customers considered most important, was one of the three themes not emphasized at all by the 90 [B2B] companies in our sample." —McKinsey

Follow the herd mentality and stay mediocre, or develop a unique content style and cut through the digital noise. A unique voice lends a distinct character to your content marketing, drawing an audience that is attracted to your voice and knows what to expect from each content piece.

For instance, energy drink brand Red Bull has created a voice that personifies adventure, thrill, and extreme sports. And it has gathered around itself passionate extreme adventure-sports enthusiasts.

Red Bull organizes sporting events, covers them, and relays them through video content on its online properties. It has built a fanbase of 48 million followers on Facebook and 8.94 million subscribers on YouTube.

3. Benchmark content quality

"Instead of measuring how long someone stays on a page, we have short surveys about our content which we send to our newsletter subscribers," —Carsten Schaefer, founder and CEO, Crowdy.ai

In today's competitive content marketing environment, quality takes center stage. The definition of quality is not limited to content length, formatting, and visual appeal alone. Here are some important steps to help you improve your content quality and make it stand out:

  • Create an inspiration deck of great content pieces from within your niche and outside it.
  • Work on your quality documentation based on audience behavior and responses.
  • Score your content based on predefined parameters related to your brand's quality guidelines.
  • Ask your audience about their content preferences.

Working on improving content quality is essential for achieving resonance with an audience and building affinity between you and that audience.

4. Work on achieving thought leadership

58% of all [B2B] decision makers spend 1-3 hours reading thought-leadership content on a weekly basis (with 21% reading over 4 hours per week) —Edelman Insights

Thought-leadership does not happen overnight. But companies, whether B2B or B2C, that go deep into a niche and go out of their way to help their audience end up becoming leaders.

For instance, Michelle Phan became a thought-leader in the beauty and make-up niche by publishing unique and expert video content.

She then launched two beauty brands: Ipsy and EM Cosmetics. Her YouTube channel has over 8.9 million subscribers. Ipsy's Facebook page has over 5 million subscribers.

Thought-leadership creates the right aura around your brand and naturally attracts more people to it and its products.

5. Embrace storytelling

"Stories have the power to engage prospects with an emotional hook that endears them to a brand." —Heather Pemberton Levy, vice-president of content marketing, Gartner

Relatable anecdotes entertain and create memorable experiences. You can tell various types of stories:

  • The idea behind starting your business—its larger purpose, goals, vision and mission
  • The struggles and challenges in your journey
  • Achievements, awards, and milestones
  • Behind the scenes of the company
  • Stories featuring your customers or employees

"In essence, our biggest content successes were pieces that told stories of how Chanty succeeded as a startup," says Olga Mykhoparkina, CMO at Chanty, an AI-powered team chat app. "We used content marketing to grow our company from 0 to 40,000 monthly website visits, which took us about two years."

True stories create long-lasting impressions and build strong bonds.

6. Find your focus

Each marketing channel demands its own content type. Building a blogging community is different from creating a YouTube channel, for instance.

Focusing on a single channel and content type is a more result-driven approach to content marketing: The strategy caters to specific audience needs and interests.

American Express, for example, zeroed-in on user-generated blog content to build a community of small business owners.

Marketoonist has made a mark by focusing on humorous cartoons:

GoPro, the professional camera maker, has built a subscriber base of 7.89 million on YouTube. The channel features videos created by professional athletes using GoPro products.

Prioritizing the right content channel and format is vital for creating an impact with your messages.

7. Bring about a mindset shift

71% of buyers/readers say they've been turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch. —Economist Group's "Missing the Mark"

The ideal content marketing mindset is about putting the audience first; it's about running a parallel media company alongside your business.

For example, Penny Hoarder is one of the biggest media companies in the personal finance space. The publishing company has over 16 million monthly blog readers and over 6 million Facebook fans.

Penny Hoarder was able to get a massive following with two key strategies:

  1. Mission-driven content
  2. A process to scale content

Take a look at its mission statement:

Thinking like a journalist, not a salesperson or pushy marketer, helps you to not only enjoy the process of creating and sharing useful content—which is when you know you're on the right track—but also create content that your audience finds useful.

It's your turn

Most successful content marketing brands have managed to build a large yet focused audience for their content. These businesses have made an honest effort to understand whom they're targeting and how to make them happy.

Content marketing isn't about going after vanity metrics; it's about building lasting relationships with those who matter by being persistent about creating content experiences that are cherished.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Abhishek Talreja

Abhishek Talreja is an experienced content marketing consultant and the founder of Prolific Content Marketing.

Twitter: @Abhishekt5

LinkedIn: Abhishek Talreja