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How to Refocus on Your Audience for Better Content Marketing Results

Clearly focused eyeglasses on a blurry background image.

Clearly focused eyeglasses on a blurry background image.

Is your content audience-centric?

“Of course it is!” Says the hypothetical person I just made up. “We do intensive research for all our content. We look at questions our audience is asking, we hit up SEMrush and BuzzSumo...our content is all about our audience!”

Marvel's Thor sarcastically asks "But is it, though?"

Here’s the big question:

Beyond learning about your brand, which will enrich their lives in many exciting ways, what is your consumer getting out of your content? 

Creating or deepening a brand relationship can’t be the only reason your content exists. Raising brand awareness can’t be the only reason your content exists. That’s not audience-centric content. People will quickly realize that and move on.

Most marketers want to offer a genuine value exchange to our consumers. We’re not shriveled-hearted gargoyles trying to trick people into paying attention to us. 

But it’s easy to think you’re putting the audience first, when it’s really the brand in the spotlight.

What follows are four questions that marketers commonly ask when creating content. These questions are crucial to content strategy — I’m not saying to throw them out. But let’s follow each one up with a question designed to center the content on the consumer. 

Four New Questions to Ask for Audience-Centric Content

Make these new questions part of your content planning process, before you blog a single word or create a single promotional tweet. The answers will vary depending on your industry, your audience and their goals. It’s the asking that will help keep the balance between customer and brand-centered content.

1. Earning Attention

We Ask: “How can we get people’s attention?”

One of the fundamental challenges of modern content marketing is simply getting anyone to look at the content. People are distracted; every brand is creating content, and most of it is pretty good. Amplification is at least half of the battle for any content marketing.

We Should ALSO Ask: “How can we reward people’s attention?”

Note this is not the same as “what message about our brand should people take away from this content.” This is the promise your content makes to the consumer. What new skill, new idea, or more efficient way of polishing billiard balls are you giving them? 

And yes, I know, this is content marketing 101 stuff. But it’s something that’s easy to lose sight of — the fundamental value exchange at the heart of content marketing. Make it part of your content planning. Add it to your template: “What promise are we making, and how are we fulfilling it?”

2. The Next Step

We Ask: “What action do we want people to take?”

Content marketing should inspire action. If we don’t know what next step we want people to take, we’re not marketing — we’re just publishing content for funsies. So this is a central question to content marketing that meets KPIs.

We Should ALSO Ask: “What action can we help people take?”

So a customer comes to your website, reads your latest asset, fills out a form, and gets on your mailing list. That’s a win for the brand. What constitutes a win for the customer? What is the next step in their personal development, professional development, or career path? How can your brand and your content help them take that next step?

For example: Our client Prophix, a finance software company, wanted to get the word out about their new PowerPoint integration functionality (brand goal). Together we helped address a bigger issue: Finance leaders need to give better presentations to have more influence in the company. We created a page where people can learn how to be better presenters. Instead of devoting the page to promoting Prophix’s new feature, we devoted it to making finance folks better at their jobs. 

And here’s the kicker: All that audience-focused content led to stellar results for the brand goal, too.

3. The Purpose

We Ask: “How can we raise brand awareness?”

Familiarity with a brand is a big part of making a purchase decision. That’s especially true in B2B. Your family might take a chance on a new brand of soda, but your business likely wants a well-known, trusted name for a multi-million dollar purchase. For many of our clients, just getting their name in front of people, building awareness and credibility, is a big goal.

We Should ALSO Ask: “Why would people want to be aware of our brand?”

If you’re looking to establish a relationship with your customers, what are you bringing to that relationship? We can’t be the one who sits on the couch playing video games while the other person does all the cooking and cleaning. 

What higher purpose makes your brand inspiring, uplifting, worthy of being aware of? Here’s your challenge: Write a secondary mission statement for the brand that doesn’t mention your product or service area at all. Before you try to raise awareness and build relationships, discover the values that will make your brand attractive.

4. The Long-Term Goals

We Ask, “How do we define success for our marketing efforts?”

Measurement and optimization are the building blocks of exceptional marketing. We should always have a clear idea of what success looks like to measure against and optimize toward. That means establishing KPIs, the metrics to measure them, and benchmarks to compare progress. We use a combination of industry benchmark results from campaigns with similar clients for comparison purposes.

We Should ALSO ask: “How do we define success for our audience?”

This question ties in with the purpose question. It requires your brand to have values beyond your product offering, values that reach out to customers even outside of their brand interactions. If your company truly prizes your customers and is dedicated to helping them succeed, what does that success look like?

Think about what your marketing would look like if you had as strategic a plan for your audience as you do for your business. “This content will help them look great in front of their boss. This campaign will help build the confidence they need to get promoted. This content will put them on the executive track.” 

Imagine measuring your audience success along with your content’s KPIs. Of course, we may not go as far as to stalk people on LinkedIn to see if our content is helping them… but plan your content as though you were.

Audience-Centered Content Gets Results

You don’t have to choose whether your content will serve your marketing goals or the customer’s needs. Best-answer content that puts the customer first will do more for your marketing goals than the most aggressively promotional content you can imagine.

Most marketers start off with an audience-focused mindset. But it’s easy to get caught up in promotion, in moving people through the funnel, and lose sight of what value you’re offering consumers in return.

Before you start the next content planning session, take a step back, ask these new questions, and confirm that you’re focused on your audience, rather than asking your audience to focus on you.

Learn how audience-focused content helped the SAP App Center boost engagement by 116%.

The post How to Refocus on Your Audience for Better Content Marketing Results appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Standing Out From the Crowd: Insights From 12 Marketing Industry Leaders

Standing Out in the Crowd

Standing Out in the Crowd

It’s time for B2B content marketers to stand out. You know it. I know it. We all know it. 

But capturing attention in a crowded content room is hard to do, especially when content creation has seen the biggest uptick in spending among your fellow B2B content marketers. You can’t be subtle. You can’t be boring. But you also can’t be obnoxious; relevance and resonance are paramount. You have to accept and adapt to what your audience needs and wants at any given moment. It takes speed, flexibility, bold ideas, fearlessness, and more.

Where do you start? How about starting with a little inspiration and insight from industry leaders?

Below we have insights and advice from 12 marketing and customer experience leaders on how to stand out from the crowd and create content your audience can’t ignore. 

12 Attention-Grabbing Tips from B2B Marketing Experts

David Meerman Scott1. Eliminate Gobbledygook

“Always remember that you are communicating to people. Eliminate innovative, cutting-edge, mission-critical, best-of-breed gobbledygook from your writing. Using the same inane language as everybody else ensures you are lost in the crowd.”

- David Meerman Scott, Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author, Freshspot Marketing

Follow David on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Beverly Jackson2. Show How You’re Different

“Show don’t tell. In order to create an engaging user experience on social platforms, you need to be able to show users something from their perspective not yours. You need to be able to reach into their heart, put your fingers around it, and feel the pulse beat. And video, when done right, can do just that.”

- Beverly Jackson, Vice President Social Portfolio Strategy, MGM Resorts International

Follow Beverly on Twitter or LinkedIn. For more insight from Beverly, read our complete interview with her.

Peter Issacson3. Take a Stand

“Great content isn’t about platitudes. It’s about provocation. Incitement. Taking a stand and making your audience think in a new way. Giving the counter-argument to conventional wisdom. When we do that, we advance the dialogue, rather than diminish it.”

- Peter Isaacson, Chief Marketing Officer, Demandbase

Follow Peter on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Customer Experience Expert Shep Hyken4. Ignore Your Competitors

“Marketers need to stop placing so much emphasis on catching up or edging out their direct competitors. Customers don’t compare you to your competitors anymore—they compare you to other positive experiences they’ve had. If you keep chasing what your competitors are doing, you’re always a step behind. That’s a good way to go out of business because you’re just doing what someone else is already doing.”

- Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Follow Shep on Twitter or LinkedIn. To hear more advice from Shep on how to wow your audience, read our full conversation with him on convenience and the customer experience.

Kirsten Allegri Williams5. Empower Others

“Celebrating success and championing internal entrepreneurship is key: Great ideas can come from anywhere. We are limited only by the constraints we inflict on our vision. So I try to make sure everybody with an idea they think has potential feels they can bring it to my doorstep. That doesn’t mean every idea gets the green light, but it does mean that every idea is heard.”

- Kirsten Allegri Williams, Chief Marketing Officer, SAP SuccessFactors

Follow Kirsten on Twitter or LinkedIn. And don’t forget to read our full interview with her to learn about her background and tricks to success.

Tim Washer of Cisco6. Be Human

“Comedy is the most powerful way to humanize a brand because it demonstrates empathy. Let’s face it, a lot of true comedy comes from pain. So, when we can come out and touch on a customer pain point, we show them that we understand their point of view. When we do something that is self-deprecating, when we look vulnerable, and when we let our guard down a little bit that’s when we make a connection.”

- Tim Washer, Emcee and Keynote Speaker, Ridiculous Media

Hear the rest of Tim’s comedy plus marketing tips by reading our full conversation. And while you’re at it, follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Whitney Magnuson7. Partner with Influencers

“Year over year, we’ve seen consumer trust of brands decreasing, and people turning to seemingly more objective sources when making buying decisions: peers, 3rd party review sites, analysts, etc. Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way, so that you can reinforce the proof points you really want your customers to know.”

- Whitney Magnuson, Senior Director of Enterprise Social Media, Hilton

Follow Whitney on LinkedIn and don’t forget to read the rest of her B2B influencer marketing tips with our complete interview.

Heather Pemberton Levy8. Put the Story First

“Create a structure for creating content that always begins with a story your reader can identify with and uses this moment to bridge their point of view with your brand’s unique selling point. Many marketers still talk about their products and services in terms of what they can do for their audience rather than what the audience cares about, why that’s important and how their solution can help solve the problem. Stories have the power to engage prospects with an emotional hook that endears them to a brand more successfully than standard marketing copy.”

- Heather Pemberton Levy, Vice President of Content Marketing, Gartner

For more content marketing advice from Heather, follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn or read our conversation with her.

Ann Handley9. Slow It Down 

“It’s important to slow down our marketing to get the basics right. Like developing a documented content strategy. Like doing the required research. Like developing robust, non-one-dimensional Flat Stanley buyer personas. Like articulating your bigger story. Like investing in quality: excellent writing (and editing) and storytelling.”

- Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

Want more genius advice from Ann? Read our interview with her or give her a follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Peter Krmpotic10. Do Your Research

“We have the people, the data, and the tools to create engaging content at scale, yet we often jumpstart the process of creating content without the required thoughtfulness on the initial critical steps. It is essential to be clear which audiences we are targeting and subsequently to define clear goals for the message we are creating. To this day, most brands need to improve at this stage, otherwise the best content marketer in the world cannot create an effective piece of engaging content.”

- Peter Krmpotic, Director of Product for Einstein, Salesforce

Hear more from Peter by following him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or by reading (you guessed it) our interview with him on creating a steady content supply chain.

Tamsen Webster11. Don’t Be a People Pleaser

“We want customers to feel a part of the brand. We want them to feel like the brand belongs to them. But then too often we send out ‘one size fits most’ messages… and wonder why we don’t get that sense of belonging that’s a hallmark of great brands. Your brand is not for everyone. It isn’t. It’s for the people who want something you can help them get, who value the same things you do, and who see the world the same way you do. And that’s not everyone. Full stop.”

- Tamsen Webster, Founder and Chief Message Strategist, Find the Red Thread

Follow Tamsen on LinkedIn or Twitter for more poignant advice. Or, read our interview with her for tips on how to drive change in marketing. 

JP Medved12. Experiment More

“Most of our content fails. Like, over 90% of it. And that’s not at all uncommon in the content marketing world. If everyone knew the exact ingredients to a “viral” content piece, that’s all anyone would produce. But we don’t know. Pieces I think will do really well, more-often-than-not sink without a trace, and pieces that seem like throwaways can take off because they’ve tapped into some pent-up need in the marketplace of ideas.”

- J.P. Medved, Content Strategist and Novelist

Learn about the different experimenting J.P. has done by reading our interview with him. Give him a follow on LinkedIn for more insight and updates on his next novel.

Not the Norm, and Proud Of It

Rarely does anyone want the same old, same old. So, don’t give your audience more of the same. Use the advice above to your advantage and break the norm, separate yourself from the pack, try something new, or reiterate on a great idea. The more you can break the mold, the more you’ll stand out amongst the crowd.

For more advice on how to stand out, read our guide on how to Break Free of Boring B2B featuring more expert insight and best practices. 

The post Standing Out From the Crowd: Insights From 12 Marketing Industry Leaders appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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