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The Focus for Content Marketing is Not Format

I'm getting a lot of questions these days about content marketing. Thank you one and all! I love that B2B marketers are working on embracing the idea of content marketing, but I'd like to point out that there's a better way to go about it than focusing first on format.

The focus for developing a content strategy should first be applied to:

  1. Buyers, Prospects, Customers and Influencers - in other words The People whose attention you want to catch...and to keep.

  2. Priorities, Problems, Issues, Objectives, Needs and Situations - in other words whatever it is they may need your help to overcome, solve or achieve to meet their business objectives.

  3. Buying stages - in other words the right information at the right time for wherever your prospects are in their buying process.

Format (white papers, articles, blog posts, video, case studies, etc.) comes after we've determined what story we're going to tell our audience to help them learn all they need to know to make a purchase decision in our favor.

Format is selected based on purpose, distribution options, depth and more. If you start with format, it's likely you'll end up with one-off content that doesn't attract the kind of extended attention you need to get a people to stick with you all the way through their buying process.

Here's what I mean:

Marketer 1: "We need a white paper to update our website homepage offers."

Marketer 2: "Okay, what should we write about?"

Marketer 1: "Topic X is hot right now. Let's write about that and how our Whiz Bang 7 solution applies."

Marketer 2: "Sounds good. I'll have Sam do the research and write a draft."

You may scoff, but I see this happen all the time. There's not one mention of audience in that discussion. There's not any plan for how to leverage the "hot topic" for additional reach. There's no parallel consideration for tie-ins to any other content the company has. There's no thought about market positioning.

Next month, what do you think the discussion will be?

Instead, consider this type of scenario:

Marketer 1: "We got a tremendous response to the article we used for a nurturing touch last month about why companies need to do Z. How can we expand that story?"

Marketer 2: "I was listening out on the LinkedIn group and heard that people are concerned about how this issue will affect productivity."

Marketer 1: "Great. Let's get our ideas out there and help them learn what they need to know. Let's brainstorm what other questions may come up for them after we address productivity and write a series we can use in a variety of places.

"I want 2 blog posts, 3 successive articles for our nurturing program and have Sam go see Doug in R&D and gather some stats to back up our assertions. We'll incorporate those into a white paper that links back to the articles to see just how interested our audience is in the topic.

"Oh, and make sure that we include a reference back to that first article for those who haven't seen it."

Marketer 2: "What about using some snips from the webinar our VP did last month? We could create a 2 minute slidecast on this great point she made that fits with the subject and put it on the web site when we launch the white paper."

Marketer 1: "Love it! Next let's talk about the takeaways we want them to have and the calls to action. We've got to make sure we build in some metrics for the guys upstairs."

This is the kind of thinking marketers need to shift toward if they're going to get the best results from their content marketing. It's not a full-blown strategy, but it is a heck of a lot better than "we need a white paper."

Just a few thoughts for those who may be wondering how to get started. What do you think?

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More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.

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