Selflessness emerged as an underlying theme during Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing Master Class, which was held in New York City on November 10. Led by Chief Strategist Robert Rose, the daylong class consisted of exercises and lectures on topics including persona development, measurement strategies, and story mapping. Here are five key lessons I learned that demonstrate the importance of selflessness in becoming a content marketing master:
Audience persona development requires product-free thinking. During his class, Rose stressed the necessity of separating your buyer personas from your audience personas. While your audience might include your buyers, it also includes any individual who influences the purchase decisions of your buyers, or has a general interest in the topics you’re covering on your website—so you should never limit your audience to buyer profiles alone.
Using the example of a higher education institution, Rose outlined the primary buyers as students and parents. However, there are other individuals, such as alumni and professors, who also influence an institution’s success. Whether or not you decide to target all your audience personas, you should at least identify them and consider incorporating them in your content mix. Be selfless and think holistically about your audience to avoid restricting your personas to the framework of your buyers.
Just as your audience personas should be developed independently of your buyer personas, your content must deliver value to your audience beyond the benefits of your products and services. Rose emphasized that content marketers should deliver a unique value proposition (UVP) based on the personal interests and needs of personas that align with—but don’t mirror—the UVP of their business.
Consider why each of your audience personas should care about you and what you can do for them. Develop a content mission that addresses and satisfies their needs and wants. Identify the connection between your brand and your audience’s personal lives and create content that makes the connection real. Selflessly uncover what your audience cares about apart from your products and services.
Your products and services are no longer your differentiators—rather, it’s your marketing approach and the experiences you create that define your brand. Rose provided an overview of the various marketing eras throughout history, predicting that as the relationship era declined, marketers would see the rise of the experience era. It isn’t enough to simply describe your value; today, you must create value through experiences.
To achieve experience-based marketing, Rose asserted that brands should eliminate features-and-benefits language from website navigation and copy. Don’t tell, show. Consumers have adapted to digital disruption and expect content experiences that resonate. Remember, your competitors are not your sole competition—you are now competing with everything that is vying for your audience’s attention. Be selfless: Remove promotional messaging from your content and create an experience portal of centered on your audience.
Don’t force a story into a medium. It’s easy to begin with the channel, but you should instead focus on the story you want to tell to avoid narrowing your storytelling. In mapping the path to identifying your measurement goals, Rose discussed the importance of leading with the story you want to communicate, then identifying the ideal channel to express it.
Don’t selfishly decide, “I’m going to create content for Instagram,” without a clear purpose. Determine instead which channels are the best vehicles for your audience to consume and respond to your story. Shelve your brand egoism and prioritize the “what” before the “where.” Purpose-driven content has a distinct mission that drives its distribution, management, and measurement.
Don’t confuse platform success with business success. Your audience may be responding positively to your content, but audience engagement doesn’t always translate to your bottom line. And that’s okay: Rose emphasized that you should focus on building an audience before proving the business value of your content efforts.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your platform using attention metrics that correspond to awareness and consumption, then gauge the impact of your approach through social metrics that indicate its resonance. Once you’ve proven the success of the platform, assess the business contributions. Put aside your business goals at the outset of your content initiative to selflessly prioritize the development of your audience.
The virtue of selflessness is a prerequisite to becoming a content marketing master. From personas to measurement, it’s critical to market selflessly with an audience-centric strategy. In the battle for attention, the self-centered marketer never wins.
Follow Christine Warner on Twitter at @cvwarner to continue the conversation, or leave a comment below. If you’d like to learn more about how Skyword can help you create the stories that speak to your audience, request a platform demo.