Posted: Wed 15th May 2019
Content marketing helps customers find and understand your business. Publishing blog posts they can relate to helps build trust. Search engines look favourably on sites that publish high-quality content regularly.
This post looks at how to generate ideas for content marketing that are led by your customers' experiences. We'll show you how to map the journey they're on around your product or service. The approach helps align the content you write to the business' brand.
Start with your customer's journey
The idea for a new product or service normally comes from a customer need. It might even be something you've experienced yourself. You could be trying to spread positive thinking through a clothing brand or creating a chew toy that your baby can't throw on the floor.
Customers may only use your product for a small amount of time but that need features in a wider journey your customers are going on and your brand can embrace that journey. You're helping them get from point A to point B and that's why so much advertising is aspirational.
The purpose-led clothing brand is Keep It Bright. Founder Zara Khalique's idea came from her own struggle with mental health. She's not just selling clothing, she wants people that interact with the brand to go from thinking negatively about themselves to having self-belief.
Cheeky Chompers creates "stylish and innovative attachable baby essentials to make parents' lives that little bit easier". That's why the company's blog shares advice on breastfeeding alongside product news.
The content these businesses create isn't just about the product but the journey their customers go one, their emotions and aspirations.
Widening what you think about as content marketing from the product to a customer journey helps engage a wider range of potential customers. It also creates multiple touch points as people return to the blog or social channel, building trust.
Think about the length of your customer journey. How are you helping your customers? Where do they start on the journey and where do you hope they end up?
Start mapping your customer's journey
Get out a notepad or sheet of A3 paper. Draw a line across the bottom and write down the start and ideal end point you identified.
Plot the key milestones on that timeline. What do customers celebrate on their journeys? What are the step changes in the skills they develop? A milestone for a social media agency could be making their first sale through a platform. The pizza dough brand's potential customers could be establishing a routine of buying fresh and interesting vegetables.
Start jotting down the different challenges and questions your customers have around those milestones. It can be helpful to add services or products they've used on this journey and emotions they're feeling.
Here are examples from the companies listed above:
It's difficult to commit to an exercise routine because work is unpredictable
There are too many social media channels and we don't know where to start
The family gets frustrated because cookbook recipes take too long
Think about what type of customers are going on this journey. Content marketing might go beyond your core audience because it's a long-term strategy. If it's on brand, helpful and relevant to your product, it's useful to have people reading your site.
Developing these challenges into ideas
Look at your notes and think about how educational content can help your customer with the challenges they face. Try to be specific. That allows you to provide more detail and makes it easier for customers to identify with the posts.
What advice would you give your customer if you chatted about their challenge? If you've talked to someone about it before it's a great indicator a blog post would be popular (don't include anything which might identify them without permission).
To go back to that list of examples:
Having difficulty committing to exercise routines is likely to occur during the early stages of building a healthy lifestyle. Blog posts that could help this frustrated office worker could include 'Three 30-minute lunchtime exercise routines for beginners' and 'How creating an exercise plan with a colleague helps build commitment'.
A lot of small business owners feel like they don't have time to invest in social media. You could publish a case study that shows how a business of a similar size generates sales through a particular channel.
Knowing your customers aspire to cook healthy meals but lack the time is a great opportunity to help them and make sure your brand is front and centre when it comes to pizza night. 'Three quick, simple recipes your kids can help you with' and 'How to incorporate play into mealtimes' are two potential posts.
Use the kind of language your customers would when discussing the issue. This helps them identify with the content and shows you understand what they're going through.
Leveraging your community for ideas
Conversation with customers are absolute gold dust when you're looking for content marketing ideas. It's likely you chat about lots of stuff related to your area of expertise. The Cheeky Chompers founders might talk about teething children or other aspects of being a parent. Look for commonalities in these conversations. What challenges and topics keep coming up?
If people love the idea of having a "long-term, sustainable fitness routine and positive body image" but tell you work keeps distracting them, you know the exercise on your lunch break idea might work. You can even figure out whether they were able to find the solution they needed online already. Just ask what happened when they Googled the question and where else they've tried to get advice.
Keep adding ideas to your A3 brainstorming document or content plan as you speak to customers.
Be relentless about sticking to your brand
At some point on the content planning process, you may be tempted to write blog posts with clickbait headlines.
Having a controversial title can provide a short-term benefit as people click on your site to find out what on earth the 56th reason you should quit dieting is. But it won't help build your brand. Customer trust is a precious thing. Provide value and be patient.
What's the relationship between SEO and content marketing?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of making changes to your website that mean your business appears higher up in Google's search results. It's common to write content to target keywords that potential customers might search for.
Keyword research is a helpful way to generate ideas. The audience-led strategy described in this post centres on building trust and long-term relationships by providing value. It makes sure you're learning from your customer.
The approaches can complement each other and it's useful to think about SEO when writing blogs too, wherever the idea comes from.
How can I create a content calendar?
Creating a content calendar helps brief your team and build a level of accountability. The amount you publish depends on your resources and priorities. Be realistic about how often you'll have time to write articles.
There are several tools that can help you record this information and act on it.
Use your diary or a wall planner to write down content ideas. Simple, but effective.
An easy-to-use and visually attractive tool for planning projects. The ability to assign tasks, add dates and attached content assets like photos makes it a good tool for creating a content calendar.
Read Trello's guide to using Trello as an editorial calendar.
These programs will allow you to capture more detail and sort the information easily. They're useful when the volume of your work increases.
It's important to remember that winning customers through content marketing can be a slow process. However, the investment pays dividends because it gives customers a reason to keep returning to your website, building trust with them as they learn more about the brand. And you know that you can have a positive impact before they use your product or service.