Most of us grew up immersing ourselves in the compelling stories told in newspapers and books. Those were a window of knowledge for us, teaching us the many nuances that make up the written word. As technology came to the forefront, content was dispensed through digital platforms in addition to print. Soon, brands began to recognise the potential of online advertising and discovered a way to sell their products on a wider scale. But one thing remained constant: content. Content continued its reign as content marketing gained prominence offering brands a unique way to share stories about their products. The scope of content creation was deemed infinite; it simply took different forms to suit specific needs.
But as brands became omnipresent on the web, casting their net across every available platform driven by technology, they forgot something very crucial to their success: their customers. While they scaled heights with the number of people they reached, true engagement and interaction got lost in transit.
The objective of content marketing is not just to go beyond meeting business goals of encouraging product purchase or generating ROI. The key to its success lies in building relationships based on trust. When it comes to content marketing, consumer is king.
So, expanding the scope of its understanding and concocting the right mix requires a combination of various factors—such as relevance of format, nature of content, psychographic profile of the user, interest preferences, and much more-to improve the consumer’s response.
Today, the need to understand the consumer is far more intense, given the amount of information he/she has access to. The consumer’s intent when consuming content is to gain knowledge or seek potential benefits.However, marketing’s need to convert a conversation to a sale has turned the consumer into a mere number. They seem to forget that audience is the backbone of a successful content marketing strategy.
Maybe it’s time we take a step back and build some discipline around content marketing to unleash the complete benefit a brand can derive from it, while continuing to add value to the consumer. Start with these few steps.
1. Understanding the point of impact: Today, content marketing often focuses on simply generating ROI. But the point of impact needs to be reached via constant conversations, eventually leading the consumer to take action. This can happen anytime during the user journey, which typically comprises: awareness, consideration, intent, decision and action. To illustrate with an example, consider a consumer who may read an article about insurance on a publisher’s website, and then move to comparing policies on another, eventually converting his intent into purchase. He may have purchased the policy on a different website, but his intent to purchase began on the publisher’s website. The 100th blow of the hammer may break an object, but you shouldn’t forget the role the first 99 blows played in leading to its breakage.
2. Understanding the psyche of the user: Every person responds differently to the same piece of content. While researching at the meta data level, one realises the role various content formats play. One sports enthusiast may respond very well to video content in a social environment, whereas another may enjoy reading an engaging article on a sports website instead. This kind of meta data highlights the kind of content that can be tailored according to the user’s psychographic profile.
3. Understanding the metric of evaluation: Content can spark a thought that may lead to a desired behaviour. But it isn’t possible to capture this journey unless you have a device that can map a user’s heart rate
and brain waves. Although, it may not be long before someone like Google launches such a device. However, what can be derived is the level of engagement, which suggests intent and interest. Interpreting what your audience seeks, where they look for it, and how your content can help them acquire that is crucial. Consider a metric that allows a brand to build their focus on delivering its key message at the right level of the reach-depth funnel. For instance, if you take yourself as a reference, there are some pieces of content that you shut out in the first few seconds of your experience (such as an irrelevant product), while there are some that you consume till the end (such as an adventure sport). So what must a brand selling that product do when creating content? How should their content capture the user’s attention within the first few seconds? Using this data can lead to higher consumer engagement with the content; leading to greater brand impact.
4. Understanding that content also has a negative impact: Content can generate positive or negative thoughts, so preventing a negative brand experience is a big challenge; one that every brand must pay heed to. Consumers can now provide direct feedback via platforms like Twitter.Hence, brands have become agile in that environment; quickly working on correcting perceptions. However, when irrelevant content reaches consumers in an incorrect format, it may have damaging impact that can’t be controlled.For content marketing to be successful, understanding the consumer and his/her psyche is the best way to reach them. While discipline may just be a starting point, certain tools can also help you craft your content effectively.