Five Questions To Ask Before You Get Into Content Marketing

Rear view of class raising hands --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

In this guest post, Storyation’s head of content, Lauren Quaintance (pictured below), talks to some of Australia’s top content marketers and gets their tips on improving your own content marketing strategy…

I got married almost a decade ago in a tiny 150-year old wooden church near Queenstown in New Zealand. My husband and I aren’t especially religious – and we lived a three-hour flight away in Sydney – so we didn’t meet the reverend until the days before the wedding.

Lauren Quaintance

He was a beatific older gentleman who didn’t seem to mind our unconventional wedding soundtrack which included blasting out La La Love You by alt-rock band The Pixies as we exited the church. But I know other couples who had a series of meetings with their priest in the months leading up to their nuptials where they were asked some blunt (and sometimes awkward) questions.

Things like: are you a spender or a saver? Who will be responsible for household chores? Where do you want to be in 5 years/10 years/25 years? It’s not terribly romantic but it has always struck me as sensible and I wonder, if you asked them now, what those couples would say was the single most useful question they were asked. The one question that really helped them to navigate the path ahead and ensure the success of their relationship.

You could say that like marriage, content marketing is a long-term play and the more I meet marketers struggling with content marketing for one reason or another I want to ask them: what is the one question you wished someone had asked before you began? So I asked some of the smartest people I know in the industry to answer this question. One of them, Bupa’s always assiduous head of global content strategy Matt Allison, offered three questions and I’m happy to share them all.

Matt Allison, Head of Global Content Strategy, Bupa

What specific business outcomes (i.e., NPS, sales, lead generation, brand awareness) do you want the content to achieve – and in what order?

I cannot overemphasise the importance of being crystal clear on the opportunity – and outcome – you’re chasing right from the start. In addition to helping drive organisational alignment, once you’re clear on ‘what’ your content marketing is going to deliver, it’s a lot easier to shape and prioritise ‘how’ you’re going to get there. 

What’s more important: discoverability of content (SEO) or quality storytelling?

And how do you balance both requirements? Search and quality storytelling aren’t mutually exclusive and you really want to nail both elements. However, I always come back to the customer so from my perspective, your content strategy should be primarily data and SEO-led, but underpinned by beautifully crafted content. Utopia for many marketers is to build a sustainable pool of free, qualified leads, which reaffirms the importance of search.

Another way to frame this discussion is: would you create the world’s greatest piece of content, if you knew no one was going to find or engage with it? I wouldn’t create that asset as a standalone, unless it delivered a specific business outcome, and it was integrated into the broader content and buyer journey.

How are you planning to scale your content operation? (Assuming you want to.)

You don’t need to have all the answers when you start producing content; and your approach will evolve over time. However, you do need to ensure your operating model has the fluidity to enable you to scale production and distribution, or pivot in other directions as required.

Georgia Rickard, former editor, Australian Traveller and Senior Editor, Storyation

Can you tell it visually?

CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella said it best: “We are moving to a new world where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.” The net result: written English is no longer the most effective way to communicate (don’t believe me? See the rise of internet speak, abbreviations, emojis, gifs, the proliferation of imagery technology, the explosion of video…). It’s not appropriate for every brand in every instance, but as society shifts towards more visual forms of storytelling, it’s increasingly important to ask: could I tell this visually? And if so, why aren’t I already?

Andres Lopez Varela, digital marketing consultant and former Global Content Editor, Tourism Australia 

Where along the path to purchase do your consumers need the most help?

By understanding at which point/s along the path to purchase your consumers or customers need help, you’re more likely to be able to design your marketing content in a way that specifically addresses their pain points and makes conversion easy.

For example, if customers have trouble distinguishing between brands and products in your particular space, give them content that breaks down the differences in a prescriptive, accessible kind of way. If signing up is easy for your customers but getting the most out of your product or service requires a bunch more work, then give them content that is instructive and focused on the benefits of learning how to use your product.

This question is a fundamental one that also sets you on the path to finding the right data (and lots of it) so you can begin to understand your audience. Don’t dive headlong into content marketing thinking you have the right stuff just because you have great creative or producers on your side; only dive in when you know the motivations, challenges and needs your audience has.

Give them content that addresses those three things, rather than your own product or brand’s messaging framework, and you’re going to find that you have more engaged customers who have an affinity with your brand and are more likely to act when you ask them to.

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