No, you haven’t accidentally wandered into the self-help section of the bookstore, though the different perspective that those books so often peddle may be helpful. Whether your goal is to establish yourself as a thought leader or simply to attract an audience with content marketing that is useful to them in their business, you are going to need to understand the issues your audience faces in order to create content that is, in fact, useful to them.
In the process, you and your team are likely going to come to understand your own business better. This creates the opportunity for a two-way street between your content marketing team — and the marketing department in general — and other parts of the organization. This is a very good thing.
Rather than communication between, say, a product team and the marketing department being largely about the product team telling marketing what they need — as in, “We need banners for the trade show tomorrow. I’m sure we told you about this weeks ago …” — marketing can also help the product team by telling them what the marketing data has found.
There are certainly highly dysfunctional organizations out there where this never happens, but most firms are smart enough to realize the value of two-way communication and the marketing team, along with customer service and other customer-facing teams, are given a seat at the table when strategic decisions are being made.
Content Marketers Can Teach and Learn
Which makes it a little odd that so many marketers seem to be in “teach only” mode when they should be in learn mode. Yes, you need to be thinking in terms of what your audience can learn from your content marketing. But you also have to pay attention to what your audience is telling you about your content.
In large part, this is going to depend on your prowess with analytics. Quantitative analysis of your audience’s interaction with your content will tell you a great deal about what they value and, of course, what you should focus future marketing efforts on.
Qualitative Data Matters Too
But that leaves the qualitative aspect of things unexplored, and there’s a great deal to be learned from doing the unthinkable — reading the comments! It’s true that reading comments can be a fast road to indigestion and indignation (and there are still instances where you should never read the comments), but there’s a lot to be learned from getting unvarnished feedback straight from the audience.
The immediate but anonymous nature of the web means that comment and similar forms of feedback need to be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, they’re unvarnished, but they may also be coming from a source with an axe to grind.
Gathering other feedback via interviews and even regular, client-initiated interactions creates a nice balance and will help you develop a comprehensive and accurate picture of your audience’s needs.
What’s most important is viewing these touch points not only as learning opportunities that will inform your content marketing, but as opportunities to help the rest of the organization, from product teams who benefit knowing what features clients want to finance teams who don’t always know what kind of payment options might be well received.
This is one case where the egg definitely comes before the chicken – train yourself to gather the useful insights and begin presenting them to various teams and departments and over time you’ll earn respect for your department and a seat at that strategy table.