Content Marketing: Are You Relevant?

Welcome to 2014, less than two months young and chock with its own flair: a polar vortex, the winter games, Princeton and Facebook with their public “my smarts are smarter than your smarts war”. Seems like it’s going to be eventful and full of content marketing fodder. (Yes, I had to drop that word into the first paragraph.)

This morning, our CEO said to me “Today, I need you to make the time to write a blog. The world needs to hear what the principals of this company think. Something simple. Your view of the world.” I’ll spare you the gritty on my view of the world because let’s face it; I haven’t lived long enough to formulate a view worthy of a blog post.

My marketing mantra this year:  Is it relevant? (It’s actually been my marketing mantra since 2011)

Focus on your career and/or your business with me here for a second.

  • Who are you?
  • Who do you want to be?
  • What do you need to do to bridge that gap?
  • Who is your brand?
  • Who are your customers?
  • Are they both who you want them to be?
  • What do you need to do to change that?

So those are hard to answer, but as you start to narrow down your swirling thoughts, force yourself to check every answer against this question: is it relevant?

Relevant to what? That’s the easy part.

are you relevant

If you’re focusing on your personal brand, you need to make sure that your brand, you, are relevant to either the employer you want to work for or the customers you hope to attract should you chose to embark on some sort of self-employment. By definition, relevance is all about being connected to the matter at hand, which means, you have to think like the employer seeking to fill that position. What is their “matter at hand”? What struggle does filling this position solve for them? Sure, you have to make some assumptions, but do it. And don’t think you’re doing it just because you regurgitate the words they used in the job description. Tell them your story, in the words of your authentic self, but emphasize the points that are relevant to the problem they’re trying to solve. And look beyond your resume and cover letter. Check your social profiles, your personal blog, your website, the comments you left on that news story. Make sure they’re all telling the same, relevant story of your brand.

Now what about your brand (be it truly your company or just the brand you’re responsible for)? What does that have to bear relevance to? A whole slew of things—but your customers first and foremost. How do you find out if you’re nailing it or off the mark?

You have to ask them. Really, you do. And depending on your industry and the scale of your brand, there are a variety of ways to go about this be it an online survey you email to the masses or more intimate interviews with your best, worst and aspirational customers (fancily termed: focus groups). But you have to do it in order to really answer the question, “is my brand relevant to my customer”?

Here’s another way to find out whether or not your brand is relevant to your customer—take a look at your search engine positions. You’ve endured a solid 18 month onslaught of the term “content marketing” and here’s a ridiculously simplified explanation of that tactic: the search engines (Google) are paying attention to whether or not a customer deems the branded information you’ve thrown out there relevant to their circumstance.

And by circumstance, I mean, stage in the buying cycle.

Dig deep on this one, and when you think you’re getting there, accept the fact that you’ve only scratched the surface.

Get to know what that customer’s buying cycle really is (and they have one, regardless of whether you sell soda or satellites). Whether you embark on digging into that cycle through your own research or you hire an agency or a consultant to help you figure it out, get to know the real thing and not just what you perceive it to be. Even better than just knowing the stages, know what your customer needs and values at every stage so that you can start to make your brand, and the content you send out into the universe with your logo on it, relevant not only to the logical circumstance but also to the emotional need.

Once you’ve identified the cycle itself and the values that will move your customer to a purchase, you have to understand what type of content it is that they are most likely to digest at that stage in order to make a choice. Case in point, are they standing in front of a cooler at the gas station and choosing a soda based on package and price (no white paper needed here) or are they in their office, holding an RFP that is about to be issued to the five companies that they’ve initially recommended to their board praying that allowing your business to answer this RFP isn’t going to cost them their credibility (enter the white paper chock full of case studies and testimonials relevant to what you’ve done for customers in their situation and industry).

It’s a simple concept, it takes a heck of a lot of time to execute, but it is overwhelmingly underutilized and overwhelmingly misunderstood by marketers.

Relevance. Nail it this year and good things will come.