Developing a successful content marketing strategy means collecting and implementing important feedback. But with all the noise coming from every angle and platform, it can be challenging to know what exactly you need to pay attention to. Here, we identify five sources that can prove invaluable to you in crafting your content.
1. Your Prospects
Who better to listen to in order to develop more targeted content than the people that you are developing content for? Your prospects are engaging in dialogue, especially on social media, that is a gold mine for your content marketing strategy.
They’re asking for advice on what products to buy, engaging in conversations about how to do things, and even pinging your brand with inquiries. If you start tracking these conversations, you’ll be rich with topics you can cover through your content.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you sell human resources software solutions, and you want to hit the mark with your blog’s content. You might attend the HR-related Tweetchat #MillennialTalk to understand the issues employers have in hiring and retaining Millennials. Content fodder! You get, in real time, concerns, questions and dialogue that you can then turn into tons of great content. The benefit is that you know the employers who attend these Tweetchats are your target audience, so you know that the content is spot-on for what they’re interested in.
Where to listen: Social media is your top listening post for your prospects, though the conversation will vary depending on the channel. Twitter is the best for digging into multiple relevant conversations. Also, comments on industry-related blogs can also provide ideas for your content.
2. Your Customers
While your prospects can provide insight into general topics of interest, it’s your customers that will help you improve your business — and your content. Even customer complaints are valid sources to pay attention to. And we’re at an all-time high with those complaints: in the UK, complaints about businesses on social media went up 800% between January 2014 and May 2015. It’s only getting worse. But that doesn’t mean bad things for your business.
On the contrary, if you’re listening to what customers are telling you is wrong about your brand, not only can you work to fix the issue, but you can also turn that learning opportunity into content. 37 Signals’ blog has long been airing its dirty laundry and mistakes to its blog readership, to great success. When you admit that you’ve made an error and then share how you’re rectifying it, you show that you’re proactive about your customers’ happiness. When that’s obvious, you start to build trust with your readership. And trust leads to … okay, you get the point.
It’s not just the naysaying customers who can help you improve your content marketing. Your customers can be your biggest fans. And because they use your product or service (as opposed to marketing and selling it, which is your role), they may have better ideas about how to use it.
Sugru, a useful putty-like material that hardens, has gone viral as fans of the product share their own tips for how to use it on sites like Pinterest. By paying attention, you might learn something and get ideas beyond what your team is capable of generating. Leverage this user-generated content, and those whose ideas you share will be thrilled for a moment in the spotlight (and they’ll gladly share your content).
Where to listen: One-on-one dialogue is a great place to start in listening to your customers, but also pay attention to review sites like Yelp, company surveys, and other feedback channels.
3. Your Competitors
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it applies here. While you never want to steal an idea from a competitor, paying attention to what they’re doing in their content provides ample opportunity for you to find your own unique spin on similar subjects.
First, see what your competitors are doing. You might never have considered creating an ebook as part of your content marketing strategy, but then you like the idea when you see another company in your industry offering one. Make a list of what you like that the competition is doing. Maybe you haven’t broken up your weekly blog content into different subject areas, but you get that idea from another site. Or, you want to borrow the concept of sharing each blog post with an engaging image on Instagram. No idea is original, so feel no shame in using one idea to launch your own.
Another strategy is to pay attention to the gaps your competitors are leaving. What is nobody covering in their content? Maybe you’re a lawyer and no one else in your specialty is addressing specific questions head-on. That could be your go-to content strategy.
Where to listen: Simply Google your competitors, and spend some time on their sites, blogs, and social channels to see what they’re up to.
4. Industry Influencers
You can’t deny the power of influencers: working with them can net 11x the ROI of traditional digital marketing strategies. They’re talking about your niche, and people are listening.
While you may not have the influential power that these folks do, you can listen to learn a thing or two that you can apply to your content. Influencers may be more on top of the latest trends, news, and research that you haven’t had time to unearth, so take note on what they’re covering because being cutting-edge in your content is important.
Listen when they talk about flaws or perks of your competitors. Because they have likely tried all competing products, they can speak honestly about what works and what doesn’t. Pay attention, too, when they review you!
Beyond listening, consider working with influencers to maximize your content’s reach. When you share and engage with their content, they likely will reciprocate, especially if your brand is on their radar. Find ways to work together, maybe by inviting them to guest blog on your site, or by reviewing your products.
Where to listen: Influencers are everywhere: YouTube, social media, and their own blogs or Tumblr. Follow the threads back from your audience when they share influencer content and keep a database of influencer contacts.
5. Your Employees
When you silo your content from the rest of your company, you miss out on the opportunity to expand the voices that represent your brand. But, your company is made up of multiple individuals, isn’t it? Shouldn’t more than one person have a say in your content marketing where applicable?
Listening to your employees could come in the form of a monthly brainstorming session for your content. What’s exciting in product development that you can tell readers about? Do you have any customer success stories that you could turn into case studies? Maybe a “day in the field” video with your sales team?
Your company is chock full of interesting stories and news that contributes to the value of your content. Be open to letting employees in different departments write content for your blog, as long as it keeps in line with your overall content objective. Open your door for constructive feedback and content ideas (hey, less work for you!), and invite that breath of fresh air into your content marketing strategy.
Where to listen: At the water cooler. In your internal communications system. Over beers after work. In meetings. Anywhere your employees are talking, you need to be listening
If you’re willing to listen, you’ll find inspiration all around you. It’s what you do with what you learn that will determine how effective your content marketing strategy is.