When Marketing with Content, Start with Your Story

Content Marketing
Starting with stories—not delivery channels—is the best way to begin your content marketing effort.

How many times have you heard, “We need to be on Twitter! We ought to be blogging! The competition’s killing us with e-mail—aren’t we going to respond?”

Here’s your response: “What’s our story? Who do we want to hear it? How can we best get it to them? And when they get it, what do we want them to do?”

Starting with stories—not delivery channels—is the best way to begin your content marketing effort. It’s also the easiest way.

Easy? Absolutely. Every company has a story. Someone had an idea and some motivation. Maybe they created a new product or service. Why? Because they were confident they had a better way. What was that way? Why was it better? What made them so sure? What are those core philosophical beliefs that your company will stand up for until they shut the doors? And based on our experiences since that first day, what have we learned that could be of use to our customers and prospects?

Prospects? Wait. Isn’t all this about us? Yes and no. While it’s true that content is used to market companies, it has to be focused not on the company and its offerings but its customers and their challenges. It also has to take into consideration what the competition is saying.

Gathering Intelligence

Gathering insights about your company, its customers, and its competitors has to be the first step in creating a content marketing program. Gathering these insights—collecting these stories—enables you to determine how to best create relevance. It’s also how you start to market with content.

Establishing a Strategy

Once you’ve gathered as much  information as you can, begin the strategy development process by thinking about your markets, offerings, and positioning. All have applications in your content marketing program. Who do we want to reach? What do we want to sell them? What do we have to offer that’s different from our competitors? How can we make our messages compelling?

Being compelling in your content means giving your prospects advice they can use to solve a problem or prevent one. It means making your customers smarter and better able to succeed, both in their organizations and as individuals. Remember, people read business-related content to get ahead in their jobs and their careers. The more you sell yourself, the less they’ll like you.

Executing the Tactics

Execution entails resources, tactics, and metrics. The resources question is usually the most challenging, but there are plenty of third parties out there willing to help. However, if you ask them what you should do, they’ll probably tell you to do the things they do best. So set your tactical priorities first, and make sure there is agreement as to what success looks like.

Finally, it’s time to decide whether you want to start a blog, write an e-book, or get serious about Twitter. The vehicle depends on the message and the audience. Not sure how exactly to proceed? Feel free to start slowly and evaluate in a few months. Just make sure the execution is driven by the strategy and the strategy is driven by intelligence. If all else fails, put yourself in your customer’s shoes by asking what help they need and then telling them how to get it.

That’s your story. Stick to it.

A final thought: “Content marketing is all about telling a compelling story.” ~Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute