Zerys for Agencies Blog

3 Things to Remember Before You Tackle B2B Content

Posted by Don Musacchio

shutterstock_222453112For many content marketing agencies, marketing directly to consumers has been the primary focus of their clients. However, that is changing. 81% of buyers say that their business' purchasing process begins by searching the Internet. Many buyers are following industry trends on their social media accounts. Business to business marketing is undergoing the same digital transition as consumer marketing. This is great news for your content marketing agency because your business opportunities are expanding. You can now create marketing strategies and content for B2B clients.

While the fundamentals of content marketing are the same, producing content strategies for B2B customers may require some adjustment on your part. Here are three things to remember before tackling content for your B2B clients:

Longer Buying Process
Consumers can make decisions fairly rapidly, even decisions involving substantial investments. Businesses, on the other hand, have a more involved buying process. It takes longer for businesses to make a purchase. In addition, many purchases involve service contracts that last for a long time, so the business may not be able to simply opt for new services whenever it wants. For example, if a business has a contract with a printing service that involves renting copiers and printers, it may have a two or three year contract. If a business is at the beginning or middle of this contract, it may not be in a position to consider competitors for some time.

This makes lead generation and lead nurturing an important part of B2B marketing. When buyers interact with your client's content, they may only be kicking the tires and doing research in anticipation of the end of their current contract. They may not be ready to buy for another 18 months. Your content may capture the important information about this prospect, but instead of passing this information directly to the sales team, it should go to a lead nurturing program. The prospect should continue to receive emails, news items and technical information about your client without attempting to sell the product. Good CRM software can identify when a prospect that has been in the lead nurturing process starts to exhibit behavior that shows that he is ready to make a purchase. Then the information can go to the sales team for them to make the connection.

More Involved Decision Making Process
Businesses may have multiple people in different departments involved in the decision making process for the purchase. For example, a company that sells medical devices to hospitals and research facilities may have to deal with doctors, technicians, buyers and administrators in order to win a contract. Each of these people will have different concerns, goals and interests to promote in the purchasing process. A content marketing agency will have to produce content targeted at each of these different groups in order to succeed. The key to working with B2B clients is to understand the different audiences that might be involved in the purchasing process and create content that appeals to each of these different audiences.

Solutions-Oriented Content
While much of content marketing aims at offering solutions to problems, consumers tend to want more entertaining content and make decisions based on emotional factors. Businesses, on the other hand, have different motivations to purchase. They are looking for solid solutions to their problems. Your agency must provide this content. You have to start by offering the practical benefits that your client's products and services can offer without the emotional sugarcoating that is sometimes found in consumer-oriented content marketing. Your content must demonstrate that your client is an expert in the field who can be trusted to provide effective solutions to their customer's problems. This involves establishing real thought leadership in the field. You will have to interview your client's technical and sales staff in order to create content that is technically rich enough to attract the prospect's interest.

In addition, your content can support the sales team. By interviewing your client's salespeople, you can find out what questions they are constantly answering and what objections they often face. Then you can produce content that addresses these questions and objections. The salespeople can then refer prospects to this content instead of constantly answering the same questions.

Content marketing is not just for businesses selling to consumers. It is also very effective in B2B marketing. With just a few adjustments, your agency will be ready to take on B2B clients and tackle their content needs.

Creating a Winning Topic List for Your Clients

Posted by Rachael Gerkensmeyer

shutterstock_242783257As a content agency representative, coming up with the right topics for your clients is essential if you expect to get the results you've committed to working for. If you continually use the same variations for the topics you create, you'll find that your content ends up too familiar to competitive pieces already floating around on the Internet. It's essential to keep things fresh, viable, and unique to not only attract new readers, but to keep them coming back for more. Here are three steps you can use to create winning topic lists for your clients:

Step 1: Doing Some Research

Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of developing effective topics for clients. Keyword research offers an opportunity to learn about the basic interests of your target audience so that you can better meet their needs. Keyword research is about getting the right audience to your content – those who are more likely to have an interest in the products and services your content is ultimately promoting.

Your keyword research should be the basis for every topic you develop. But you'll need to be creative and come up with topics that have not already been saturated on the Internet. The other methods in this list will help you do just that.

Step 2: Gaining Consumer Insight

After getting your keyword research done, it's time to dig deep and gain some insight into what your target audience is interested in so you can develop topics that they're more likely to read and share. This can be done in a number of effective ways including:

  • Visiting and interacting in forums where your target audience frequents.
  • Adding surveys to websites that you manage.
  • Reading user comments that have been left on previously written content.
  • Researching what competitors and their audience are talking about.

You can also be straight forward and ask your readers what they want to learn, which types problems they need solutions for, and even how they like their content delivered. This won't only give you some topic ideas, but you'll find that readers appreciate the personal connection and attempt at understanding them.

Step 3: Establishing a Unique Storyline

It's important to design your topics in a way that draws readers in and engages them with a storyline of some kind. Take your topic and turn it into its own spectacular story that your readers can relate to. If you've got an article to write about MP3 players, put yourself in the shoes of your audience to determine what might trigger them emotionally. You may great results outlining the challenges of sticking with a workout regimen as a busy mom, and outlining how an MP3 player can help moms get the most from the little time they have to workout.

The idea is to go beyond generalizations by tapping into specific demographics within your audience and fleshing those angles out one at a time. Don't worry about alienating a part of your audience when developing targeted content because you can reach everyone who might be interested in the products and services you're promoting by simply diversifying your topics.

Good keyword research, understanding your audience, and crafting ideas that meet their specific needs will help you effectively create fresh topic ideas that gets your content noticed and sets the brand you represent apart from the crowd.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Content

Posted by Don Musacchio

shutterstock_169845773If you run a digital advertising agency, you are probably familiar with the difficulty of establishing the effectiveness of what you do for your clients. You are asking your clients to spend a lot of money to develop content marketing campaigns, and they are going to expect results. The difficulty lies in identifying the best ways to measure and report results.

Setting Expectations
You are an expert in getting results on the web. You can generate Internet traffic, increase page views, enhance engagement on social media, build an email list and many other critical activities. Your clients many not understand the value of all these activities. They want to see a good return on their investment. Clients could care less about page views; they ultimately want to see increases in sales and revenue for their business.

Integrating Business Goals
Before you start setting up marketing strategies for your clients, you need to sit down with them and understand their business goals. They are hiring you to help meet these goals, so you want to be specific about what they are hoping to achieve with your help. For example, a business goal may be to build brand awareness. Another business goal will be to increase sales and revenue. Yet another goal could be to generate new leads.

Once you identify and prioritize the business goals of your client, you can identify the key performance indicators that will tell you whether you are achieving these goals. By tracking these KPIs over time, you can show your clients that their business goals are being met. Monthly reports on KPIs are a great way to show the client that your strategies are effective.

Bridging the Gap Between KPIs and Goals
There are a wide variety of metrics that agencies can track for their clients digital marketing campaigns. The key is matching these key performance indicators to business goals. If you tell your client that their page views have increased by 3% this month, this means nothing. But if you tell them that page views are an important part of brand awareness, the client can see that they are meeting their business goal. Here are some examples of how key performance indicators match up with business goals:

  • Build Brand Awareness: Many client want to promote their brand. They hope that by positioning themselves as a trusted expert in their field, that people will turn to them to solve problems. Content that builds brand awareness is effective when more people engage with it. Agencies should track overall traffic to the website, page views of specific pages, downloads of white papers and ebooks, social mentions and links back to content.

  • Engagement is another important business goal. Engagement customers are loyal to the business brand and return for repeat business. They also promote the brand to their connections. Engagement can be measured by social activity online. Comments, likes and shares on social media demonstrate engagement.

  • Lead Generation: Many companies are looking to increase the number of leads that they capture from their digital marketing. This goal can be measured by the number of time people fill out forms on the webpage. It is also measured by email and blog subscriptions as well as the conversion rate of leads to customers. Since most businesses have multiple ways of generating leads, lead attribution is going to be important. It is critical that your client identify the initial point of contact so that the effectiveness of the various marketing channels can be measured. This is especially important for mobile marketing where prospects may use the touch dialing feature to initiate a call from the website itself. These lead should be attributed to the mobile marketing strategy and not to other forms of advertising.

  • Sales: Many clients are interested in the bottom line. They want to see increases in sales. This is fairly easy to track. The difficulty is similar to lead generation. You have to attribute each sale to a particular marketing source. You want to track both online sales and offline sales. In addition, you should get reports from salespeople and customers about the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

The key to establishing the effectiveness of your digital marketing is to relate your metrics to the business goals of your client. When this happens, you can demonstrate how your efforts are producing desired results for your clients.

3 Useful Tools to Help You Create Even Better Content for Your Clients

Posted by Laura Holton

shutterstock_122324287Whether you want to increase productivity, improve the quality of your content, or generate more ideas, there are numerous tools out there to choose from. As it can be difficult to know which are worth using and which are a waste of time, we have created this list featuring three of the best.

1. Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer

Titles are just as important as the body of your posts. Without an attention-grabbing title, you have no chance of drawing your readers in. To use the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, simply submit a title of 20 words or less and select a category that best describes the industry of your client from a drop-down list. The tool will provide you with an Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) in the form of a percentage. Creators of the app recommend that you aim for a minimum of 30 percent, but between 50 and 75 percent is ideal. The tool also gives you a classification that expresses how your headline will affect your audience: intellectually, empathetically, or spiritually.

2. Hemingway

Named for the concise writing style of the greater writer, the Hemingway app is a free web tool that assesses sentence structure, style, and readability to ensure content is easy for your audience to consume. After you submit your content, the app will tell you how many sentences are hard to read and how many are very hard to read along with instances of adverbs and the passive voice (including a recommendation of how many you should aim for according to your word count). All the above are highlighted in the text through a color-coded system, and you can make corrections to the text within the app.

3. HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator

If you are running out of ideas for new posts and you want to avoid generic content, you may benefit from HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator. Simply input three nouns into the boxes and the tool will generate five fresh, inspiring headlines (or a week’s worth of blog post titles, as the app calls it.) Usually, the titles are perfectly coherent, but some may need some minor grammatical tweaking.

Once you start using these tools, don’t be surprised if your clients comment on the higher quality of your blog posts, the greater engagement they are receiving with their content, and the unique ideas you are producing.

When the Content Well Runs Dry...3 Ways to Find Your Inspiration Again

Posted by Rachael Gerkensmeyer

shutterstock_124449988Coming up with fresh content for multiple clients can be a draining process. With so much pressure to deliver uniquely crafted content on the same topics time and time again, facing a dry well of ideas once in awhile is a serious possibility. But as you know, clients aren't concerned with how you come up with the ideas for their content as long as you deliver what they need on time – so it's important to push through those content idea droughts by coming up with new brainstorming methods and techniques. Here are three effective options to consider:  

Keep a Running List

Every time you sit down to think up new ideas for client content, write everything that comes to mind down whether or not you think it's helpful at the time. Keep your list handy so you can refer to it when you're having a hard time developing new ideas on your own. You might be surprised at how often your list provides inspiration for a new angle or aspect that you've never thought of before.

Create two or three basic categories for your list so you can keep your ideas organized, which will make it easy to refer to the ideas that correspond to the particular niche that you happen to be working with at the time. Storing your list electronically will give you access to it through your Smartphone or laptop no matter where you are when the ideas start popping up.

Consider Feedback

A great way to compile new ideas, angles, and insights for content creation is to dig into reader comments that have been left on content that you've previously published for your clients. Readers often leave hints about what kind of content would be well received by offering constructive criticism, asking questions, and providing personal insight into the topic at hand.

You can also frequent consumer forums to learn what topics are buzzing within the community, and which aspects or angles of those topics have a demand for fresh content. You'll likely get plenty of fresh ideas from forum posters to help you craft original titles and topics your clients (and their readers) will love.

Put a Spin on Keyword Research

When doing keyword research on a particular topic for the hundredth time, jot down a few off-topic ideas that somehow relate to the original niche that you're working with, and see if you can work those topics into your content by searching for keyword phrases that combine the two ideas. For example, if you're researching keywords about decoration ideas for an apartment community client, you can branch out your ideas to include furniture refinishing, do-it-yourself woodworking projects, or even carpet stain remedies.

In addition to taking advantage of these tips and tricks, one of the most important things you can do to reinvent topics so they're fresh for readers is to think outside the box every time you brainstorm. Try to come up with one new way to infuse different ideas into your content preparation process. 

The Art of Finding the Right Voice for Content

Posted by Laura Holton

shutterstock_60934993The delivery of your content is just as important as the information it contains — and this is where voice comes in to play! When you work with a number of clients, mastering the art of creating the perfect voice is more critical than ever because each of your clients is targeting a different audience. Every company needs a unique voice that represents their brand, allows them to stand out from competitors, and enables them to build trust with their audience. These tips will help you find the right voice for every one of your clients, increase the number of readers to your posts, and lead to greater engagement and more conversions.

1. Create Personas

Whatever persona you choose will depend on what is relevant to your clients’ products or services. Work with your clients to create as detailed personalities as possible using any relevant demographics and statistics. This may include age, gender, occupation, salary, location, values, and goals, to name just a few suggested by Buffer.  You can gather the information for your persona by website analysis, asking your clients about their customers, researching through social media, and talking to the customers directly through surveys and other means.

2. Think about Style

Once you have a clearer idea of your target market it is time to figure out what type of voice your audience will respond to best. Several factors come in to play to take into account when developing the style of your voice:

  • Formality: Addressing your audience with the correct formality will determine how well you connect. Bear in mind that formality comes in an array of shades, and you need to use your personas to determine what will resonate best with your target audience.
  • Vocabulary: Use your personas expertise and understanding of subjects to decide the degree of technicality of your vocabulary. If in doubt, explain terms, spell out acronyms, and keep your language simple. However, if you are reasonably confident that your audience will understand how the industry speaks, avoid going into unnecessary depths to explain as this may bore your readers and might possibly appear patronizing.
  • Person: The last style consideration is whether to use first, second, or third person voice. In most cases second-person voice is best because it enables you to involve your audience. And when you involve your audience they feel like they are a part of what it is you are trying to accomplish. However, if a client prefers you to take a particularly professional tone, you may like to opt for third-person voice. Reserve the first-person voice for talking about experiences from the client’s point of view, of course, but to ensure that you still relate to the customer, use at least a few second-person pronouns such as you and your. Generally your client will tell you how he wants the information displayed and what voice he prefers.

3. Identify the Qualities of the Brand

Finally, you need to infuse an element of the brand into your voice. Interview your clients to ask them about their motivation for starting their company’s, what message, concept, and values they are selling to their customers, and how they feel that they are different from the competition.

Distilled recommends that you condense your information so that it is specific to what the client is asking for. This can be achieved by using words and phrases that express the company’s goals, ideals, and expectations within the marketplace. Your last challenge is to apply these findings into your content. For example, if your client’s goal is creativity, consider using an upbeat voice to inspire your audience. If the brand is proud of being trustworthy, take a more authoritative tone and focus on being informative.

When you start working with a new client, developing a new voice from scratch may seem like a lengthy process but it will be well worth your effort. The right voice enables you to connect with readers and gives your content a greater impact. Plus, provided you take all of the above into consideration, you will only need to complete the process once and thereafter you will be able to make slight adjustments now and again as you monitor the effectiveness of your content.

7 Ways to Create Email Content That Converts

Posted by Jennifer Gemmell-Adams

shutterstock_118101760In the trending landscape of personalized pop-ups, microinteractions, and other marketing strategies that have migrated toward a dominant focus on mobile-friendly content and design, some marketers feel that email marketing is losing ground as a viable and effective tool in their marketing arsenal.  Can email content still generate viable leads and increase your conversion rates?  Of course it can, and here are seven ways you can revitalize your email marketing strategy with content that converts:

Less is More

You've likely heard (too often) the phrases "keep it simple, stupid" and "less is more."  Are you putting these phrases into practice with your email content?  If you are sending emails that divulge an excessive amount of information, people won't be motivated by a desire to know more -- because you've already told them too much.  Your email content should be a teaser to introduce recipients to something and give them a glimpse of what awaits if they take action.

"More" is More, Too

While many so-called marketing experts advocate the use of a prominent call to action in a highly visible location in your email content, others will tell you to practically stuff your email with CTAs.  This doesn't mean it should be little more than a page filled with "click me" links, but you should include a variety of opt-in options at different points in your content, from start to finish.  People have different points at which they reach a decision to enter a marketer's sales funnel, so make sure you have an open door waiting for them when they choose to take that step.

Encourage Engagement & Reward Loyalty

When introducing your subject matter in an email,  the content should address the recipient's level of engagement with your company, brand, products, or services.  Are they already a customer, or are they still at the window-shopping stage?  How long have they been a customer and how often do they make purchases?  Do they or have they provided successful referrals?  Your email content should approach the recipient on their level of engagement and encourage them to take additional steps into your sales funnel.  You should also offer unique "rewards" for loyal or long-term customers.

Personalized and Dynamic Content

If you've already compiled some information about your email recipients such as age, gender, occupation, or basic interests, you can personalize your email content.  Dynamic content generates conversions because it addresses your recipient individually and can speak to their individual needs, wants, problems, or questions.  You can also include offers or information that may be restricted to individual traits like gender or marital status.

Mobile-Friendliness is Essential

Email content should naturally be mobile-friendly because more people than ever before are using smartphones and other devices to access Internet content, including emails.  They are making purchases, doing research, connecting and communicating personally and professionally -- all while they are on the go.  This means your email content needs to be accessible, viewable, and actionable on a mobile device so the recipient can take action immediately.

Test, Measure, Tweak

As always, you should perform A/B testing for your email marketing strategies and use an effective analytics or other metrics measurement tool to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies so you can make adjustments as needed.  Stay on top of current marketing trends and don't be afraid to think outside the box and implement unconventional or innovative strategies; keep in mind that sometimes the simplest changes can make the biggest difference.

Content Essentials

Don't neglect the essential components of your email content while focusing on strategies for improving your email conversion rates.  Attention-getting subject lines, provocative first paragraphs, and the basic format of your content (plain 'vanilla' black and white text versus vibrant colors and appealing images or videos) are critical parts of successful email content and are often the singular motivating factor in getting the recipient to open, read, or click in the first place.

If you do choose to include images or video in your email content, keep in mind that some smartphones automatically disable the display of this type of content.  You should use responsive design strategies for your email content to ensure readability across the broadest spectrum of devices.

As you refine your email marketing techniques and take your content development to the next level, you'll be able to determine what is working most effectively toward helping you reach your marketing goals.

Does a Buyer Persona Really Matter When You Create Content?

Posted by Laura Holton

shutterstock_278847149Buyer personas are more than just a collection of demographic information; they are a detailed characterization of your ideal customers. Your buyer persona should have a name, a face, a career, a family (or not), and a few hobbies. They should drive a specific car or have a dream vacation planned. In other words, your personas should be just like real people. With all the work and thought that goes into creating a buyer persona, it can be tempting to skip the process. You already have a pretty good idea of what your target market is like. Why go through all the fuss, right?

Buyer Personas are an Essential First Step

The process of creating a buyer persona is more than just an administrative task or busy work. The process helps you get to know your customers and prospective buyers better, and helps you to refine your target in a solidified way. As you go through the process, you'll be looking at everything from educational backgrounds to fantasy cars, and through this information you'll get an understanding of what the needs and interests of your buyers are.

If you skip this process and dive right into content creation, you run the risk of creating content that is totally off the mark. Not only are you wasting your time with the creation, but you might also be wasting the time of the salesperson who has to spend time with leads who are not a good fit for the product.

What Buyer Personas Do for You

In a nutshell, buyer personas give you the ability to create content that speaks to the reader instead of at the reader. You'll gain the advantage of understanding the psychological factors that influence buying habits and decision making. That way, you can fine-tune your content in a way that addresses these factors. 

For example, if you are marketing luxury vacation rentals, it is not enough to know that your target market tends to be men who are over the age of 50 with an income well into the six-figures. If your rentals are beachfront properties, you might be looking for men who grind away in the city and need to get some fresh air. You might need to know that they are motivated by ease of lifestyle, or that their primary concern is a good return on their investment. It could also help to know that they have adult children that might want to share the space.

Looking for Leads in All the Wrong Places

Without a well-defined buyer persona, you might be picking up all the wrong details or failing to highlight the most important factors. You might leave out the fact that the market for luxury housing in this area weathered the recession and is stronger than ever while spending too much time talking about the nearby water park. In other words, you might fail to address the motivations of your best targets because you're casting your net too wide. The result, of course, is missing the target.

In fact, almost 75 percent of online consumers get frustrated when content appears to have nothing to do with their interests. When you create buyer personas first, you will be able to segment your strategies so only the most relevant content reaches each individual, and the rest is left out. Any content you create that discusses the water park or daycare facilities will only be directed at your personas with kids in the mix. Content that focuses on money will be directed at those who are serious about their investments. 

In Other Words, Buyer Personas Matter

Take the time to create detailed personas. Flip through some stock photos and give your persona a face and a name. Create enough different people to cover your best targets, but not so many that your messages are diluted. And, most importantly, do all of this before you create any content so you don't waste anyone's time with misguided content.

How to Streamline the Content Creation Process

Posted by Don Musacchio

shutterstock_221314189As a content agency, you probably are familiar with the difficulties of producing a consistent fresh stream of content for your marketing campaigns. You have to manage both clients and content creators in an effective manner to generate high-quality content that drives sales and profits for your clients. Here are some tips for streamlining the content creation process.

Stages of the Content Creation Process
The content creation process must pass through four stages. First, the client and the agency must develop the content marketing campaign. Next, the agency must engage with content creators to produce the content of the campaign. Then, the agency must approve all the content produced. Finally, the client must be happy with all the content that is produced and deploy it in a marketing campaign.

Clients have all the content knowledge. They have to share this knowledge with their agency and content creators for an effective campaign. Clients can slow up the process by being too finicky and picky about the content.

Content creators know how to produce effective content. They can educate and inform the audience. They can also produce highly persuasive content that sells or motivate the audience. The best content creators know how to forge an emotional and personal bond between the audience and the client. Content creators need a working knowledge of the client and his brand to do this effectively. If content creators don't get good instructions, they may have make guesses and judgment calls that move in the wrong direction.

Agencies know how to develop an effective strategy to promote the client. They have work with the client to develop a brand and the right strategy to promote it. They also have to work with content creators to make sure that the content is meets the requirements of the marketing campaign.

Agencies must be able to optimize the stages of this process to develop a successful campaign. The goal is to avoid producing content that must go through many revisions or even end up rejected. If the same content must cycle back and forth between clients, agencies and creators, the results is wasted time and money.

Effective Communications Between Clients and Agencies
Content agencies need to effectively manage their relationships with clients. Here are some tips for staying focused:

  • Use targeted questionnaires to get information. Questionnaires allow your clients to think carefully about their responses. A phone interview may not allow the same reflection. Use phone interviews clarify responses to the questionnaires.

  • Don't let clients dump too much information on you. Your clients may have a lot of info about their products and services that are not relevant to the campaign that they want to give you in lieu of reflecting on questions. This is not very productive. You need to get your clients to reflect on what sets them apart. You can help them through this process, but you can't do it for them.

  • Set expectations clearly. Make sure clients understand that the goal is get content that attracts traffic and drives sales for the least investment. Being a perfectionist only adds to expenses without necessarily producing any gains in profit.

Effective Communications Between Agencies and Creators
In general, when working with creators, more is more. The more detailed the instructions for the assignment are, the more likely it is that the creator can hit the target on the first try. You don't want to leave the creator guessing about what is required and have to field a lot questions or ask for revisions.

  • For large projects, set up clear general instructions. Give your creators all the information they need in a clear format. You can create text instructions, but making screen casts where you go over your expectations in a brief presentation also helps writers.

  • Give your creators access to all the information from the clients. Once you define the topics for the content, you could interview experts from your client to give creators the best information on the topic. Creators will be able to organize and articulate this information in the best way.

As an agency, you not only have to design the strategy to promote your clients, but you have to effectively manage the content creation process. By bringing clients and creators together in an efficient manner, you can get consistent high-quality content for your marketing campaigns.

Two Essential Questions to Answer for Successful Online Content Development

Posted by Jennifer Gemmell-Adams

shutterstock_85447960An often overlooked feature of high quality content is that it creates conversations rather than just contributes to them.  You want your material to make an impact, and the most effective way to do so is by crafting innovative content that gets things started and makes things happen.  Doing so, however, is often easier said than done.  Online content development is not a process that should be undertaken with anything less than meticulous dedication.

You have to commit yourself to providing your target audience with what they may not even realize they're seeking.  Regardless of any superficial reasons behind someone's search for specific online content, people seek online information to solve their problems, answer their questions, fulfill their wants, or meet their needs.

The First Step

The first step in online content development, and a step frequently skipped by many content creators, is to gather information.  To be able to develop and deliver original and engaging content that appeals to your audience and gives them what they’re looking for, you have to answer two essential questions:

  • What goal are you trying to accomplish with your content?
  • Who, specifically, are you trying to reach with your content?

You might be wondering how web designers, marketers, or business owners could begin, much less complete, the online content development process without knowing the answers to those two questions beforehand.  Surprisingly enough, a great deal of content is created for online audiences without the answers being found to either question.  For obvious reasons, content that has no predetermined goal or target audience is content that is designed to fail.

Identifying Your Target Audience

Knowing who your content is intended to reach is the most important question to answer because you can't meet needs, solve problems, or answer questions if you have no idea who has those needs, problems, and questions.  The characteristics of your target audience can also influence what marketing channels you will be using to distribute your content, how or in what format the content should be provided, and when you should make it available online.

For example, if you are working on an online content development plan for social media distribution, you need to further narrow down the demographic of your desired audience.  This will help you choose the social network best suited to receive your marketing content.  Each social network has a distinctly different user base demographic. 

When identifying your audience, a basic profile is your first stage in the process.  You'll want to know various things about your audience like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital Status
  • Education Level
  • Occupational Sector

Some of these qualities may not be as important as others, and some may not apply at all for your marketing campaign.  Once you've narrowed down your target audience to a basic demographic profile, you'll then want to fine tune the details even further and identify more elusive qualities.  Ask yourself what your audience reads or watches, what their web surfing and shopping preferences are, what appeals to them or engages their emotions, what problems or challenges they face on a daily basis, and what they want out of life on a variety of levels.

Defining Your Goals

After you know who your content should be directed toward, you can then define your marketing goals.  Goals can be as simple as establishing a consumer-initiated connection or more complicated like achieving a sale that includes at least two viable referrals that are eventually convert to sales.  Your goals can also consist of statistical accomplishments like a specific number of sales or the collection of a certain number of qualified leads within a predetermined time frame.

When setting marketing goals, it's nice to dream big but you want to set goals that are reachable with your current capabilities.  As you grow and expand both your business and your marketing outreach, you can then raise the bar for your goals and reach higher than before.

The Final Step

The final step in your online content development process is to create content that is hand-crafted for your target audience and tailor-made to assist you in achieving your goals.  When content is designed specifically for a definite type of customer it is instantly more appealing because it appears more personal.  Goal-oriented content is significantly more successful than marketing content that appears to have been developed just for the sake of filling the "white space" on a web page.