Sandra Stewart | April 6, 2016
What’s the secret to great content marketing?
Think like a publisher, not like a marketer.
This lesson is hard to glean from the scores of “best content marketing” articles out there. Those are worth reading for inspiration, but their focus on excellent output tends to obscure the strategy that produces the content. This Contently article on the traits of a great content marketing mindset comes closer than most—though it may leave the impression that the surest route to mastery is to hire a top-level magazine editor.
Even if you have the resources for that, you won’t get the most out of it without a publisher’s mindset.
Obsess on your audience
The publisher’s mindset starts with getting into the heads of the people you want to reach—not with what you want to say (that’s a marketer’s mindset, as the Contently article points out). What does your target audience care about, hope for, fear, value? What might tempt them away from spending their spare moments watching Samantha Bee clips? Where do they look for such delights and how do they consume them?
Once you have that down—and while assumptions are easy, research is better—what do you have to say that speaks to those interests? If the answer is, “Our awesome product/service/opportunity will solve all their problems and make them feel amazing,” go back to square one, this time for real. The right answer is probably about the larger context for whatever it is you’re selling. For example: Our audience is trying to achieve X, so they’re looking at larger trend Y. We have ABC thoughts about those issues, which stem from our work on [amazing thing we do].
Round up the right talent
Now, who can produce this content? This is where you might consider poaching an editor from your audience’s favorite publication. Or hiring a skilled writing and production team. Or giving a content agency a whirl. I know I don’t need to say (but can’t resist) that Pete from accounting (who has time on his hands), those two execs who are really good writers (and have no time on their hands), and a newbie freelancer who will give you 400 words for $40 are not promising options.
By all means, mine your in-house subject matter expertise—in fact, that’s essential. Just be real about your in-house content production expertise.
Which leads to: the business plan. (Publishers are all about the business.) What will it take to get all this off the ground, how long a runway does it need to start delivering a return, and what kind of return will make the venture worthwhile?
If adopting a publisher’s approach sounds like a lot of work, it is. And if “good enough” rather than “great” is your mark, there are routes to that too. They’re just not as fun for me to write about.