Written by Mark Michaud on October 23, 2014
in Content Marketing

In honour of the CMA’s 2014 Content Marketing Show that took place in Vancouver yesterday, I wanted to share some thoughts on what content really means, and what goes into making good content. Everyone wants to produce more content these days. After years of championing content as the key to helping customers along their purchase journey here at Ariad, it finally seems as if brands are starting to understand the transformative power that it can have on their customers, and on their business.

But often, a renewed focus on content ends up creating an unintentional emphasis on quantity over quality. Brands sometimes want to make up for the fact that they haven’t been creating content in the past by pushing out high volumes of content without thinking about the strategy behind it. At the end of the day, content isn’t worth anything unless it’s good content.

But what does that mean? There are very few universal rules for good content, as variables such as brand positioning, product or service category, channel choice, and audience motivation are different in almost every case. Instead of focusing on hard and fast rules that don’t always fit your needs, here at Ariad we prefer to focus on the strategy behind a piece of content and use that as the building blocks for content creation. We prefer to make the right thing before we make the thing right. Here are a few of the basic questions to ask when making good content:

  • Does it meet a customer need? Nothing is more effective than content that provides something a customer is already looking for. Content for the sake of content is simply noise, junk mail, or recycling bin fodder if it doesn’t address a customer need.
  • Does it help rather than sell? Think about each piece of content from the customer prospective—does it solve one of my problems? Does it provide value? Does it educate, inspire, or inform? If the answer to any of these is no, you may want to rethink the reason why you’re making content at all.
  • Is it different from the others?  Your brand wins when your content stands out from your competitors and from various media outlets. With consumers getting bombarded with more content than ever before, it’s easy to become part of the noise.
  • Is it actionable? Good content should always show your customer what to do next. If your content has engaged or interested your customer without providing clear next steps, it has failed at its number one mission—to help your buyers buy.
  • Is it engaging? A great story, empathy for the customer, humour, and humanity all draw your audience closer to your message. The key is to create content that allows your customers to identify and engage with your brand—not to tell them about your latest product. Are you a bank looking to sell mortgages? Include a customer story about the joy of buying their first house. A CPG food brand looking to sell to professional mothers? Empathize with their busy lives and provide them with a way to simplify it through your product. You need to tell stories that enrich your customers.

Ultimately, content has a key role in helping your customers throughout their journey. Only by defining those roles, understanding your customers, and meeting their needs in original, actionable, and engaging ways can you stop making content for its own sake, and start making good content for your customers’ sake.

Mark Michaud is Senior Vice President and the Head of Strategy at Ariad Communications.

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