How to pinpoint your content sweet spot

Sonja Jefferson

content sweet spot

Getting your central message right

So you have a blog, a Twitter feed, a YouTube channel; your e-newsletter is ready to go. But what are you going to say?

Creating content without having a really secure understanding of what you want to be known for will never really bring you the business results you crave.  A solid foundation of ‘who you are and what you stand for’ is vital if you’re not going to find yourself floundering for the right words a few weeks down the line, so let’s give this some thought.

“Writing is a lot easier if you have something to say.” Sholem Asch.

Whether you’re new to this content marketing thing, or a seasoned professional looking to up the value of your content, I urge you to spend time getting your central message right. This is the super fuel that’ll power up your content efforts, and there’s every chance it can transform your business too.

Here are some idea starters to help you to discover your sweet spot, but first let’s look at a few companies getting it just right.

Learn from the best

When researching for candidates for our Valuable Content Awards we’re looking for the best content from around the world, to highlight what’s possible. Time and time again we notice that the businesses that consistently put out irresistible content are the ones who nail their content to a bigger business purpose.

Companies like:

All these valuable content heroes have something important to say – an overarching vision, a big idea, a framework, an approach – a unique, defining, inspiring message that underpins all they do. Once they’ve found this then they’ve nailed their content sweet spot and their content really flows.

Where content strategy meets brand

Sharon and I are lucky enough to have the last three companies mentioned in the list above as clients. Getting really clear on the main company message is where we advise people to start their content marketing programmes. Pinpoint this and it becomes very easy to work out what content to create.

“You cannot create an effective content strategy without clarity on the wider business message.”

This is where content strategy meets brand, and I think it’s virtually impossible, indeed unhelpful to separate the two. You simply cannot create an effective content strategy without clarity on the wider business message.

If content strategy and brand are handled by different people in your company then get them together to work on this challenge.

How to pinpoint your content sweet spot

Prepare yourself for some soul searching, real research and creative thinking. This is not something you can conjure up in a flash – give yourself the minimum of a couple of months to get this right. The investment will be worth it, I promise.

It’s at the intersection of your ideas and your customers’ needs that you’ll find that elusive sweet spot, and it’s through storytelling and content that you’ll get that message across.

Here are the steps we go through at Valuable Content to help people find that elusive sweet spot. We hope it helps you too.

 

1. Who are you talking to and what do they value?

You’ll know stuff about your customers, obviously, but I urge you to look deeper.

Who do you really want to do business with? Pinpoint your ideal customers and get to know them better. Do some indepth research to uncover their opinion of the value you deliver, their challenges, needs and desires.

Don’t base your thinking on assumptions – ask them; call them up; spend some time interviewing them to uncover their real needs. Work out what they love about the service or product you offer.

The richer the picture you can build of your audience the easier it will be to create a message they’ll sit up and take notice of.

2. What do you want to be famous for?

Customer research alone won’t get you to that sweet spot. I’d advise you to do some soul searching and look inside your company too.

What do you want to be famous for as a business? What is it that you know that customers truly value? Where does your passion as a business really lie? What’s the approach you take that defines the way you do what you do? What do your leaders and your own team think?

 

3. Focus not on what, but on why

All the messages communicated by our content heroes are customer-focused, not company focused. They concentrate first and foremost not on what or how but why these companies are in business. From the customer perspective, they answer the question ‘why should we care?

“Answer the question – ‘why should we care?'”

You can do this too. Remember to speak to your customers directly when crafting your core message. The question you are answering is bigger than ‘why should I do business with you?’. It’s more like ‘why do you matter to the world at large?’

If you want more on this approach watch this fantastic TED talk from Simon Sinek: Start with the Why. It’s just the kind of inspiring outside-in thinking you’ll need.

4. Write the story

Your core message is tied to an authentic story that engages your customers on an emotional level. This is the magic – the gold dust that lifts your message from ‘blah blah’ to  ‘oh yes!

If you’re a writer, we give you free rein to think creatively when you do this. You’re looking for the grit that makes the pearl, and you won’t find it in the usual business lexicon. Think metaphors, analogies – even poetry. Have fun with it, let sparks fly and see what settles.

“You’re looking for the grit that makes the pearl, and you won’t find it in the usual business lexicon.”

If the thought of this is making you panic, rather than making you excited, then hire a good writer. You’ll find more to help you here – Once Upon a Time. Why your business needs a story.

5. Think manifesto

Communicating your values in a manifesto (like Desynit does – as recognised in this Guardian article this week) will help you nail the message in words that unite your people, and resonate with your customers.

We’re huge fans of manifestos, and the way they raise the profile of belief in business. Articulating why you do what you do in simple words is a powerful exercise. The fact that pouring some design love into those words turns them into something beautiful that makes your people feel proud is a brilliant bonus.

For more on manifesto thinking read Sharon’s post: Stand Up and Be Counted. The Return of the Manifesto.

6. Write your content plan

Now you can get down to your content planning, and you’ll find it so much easier once you’ve got the big idea clear – you’ll be confident you have something to say.

Shout this message loud and proud on your website. Aim for a good balance of stock and flow pieces – the big hitter content as well as the continual stream of blogs.

Start with a clean sheet of paper. Think: ‘what are the ten most useful things we can create that will really help our ideal customers?’ This is a good starting point to fill your content pipeline but more on the content planning process here soon. (In the meantime you can download this content calendar to help get the ideas flowing).

Have you found your content sweet spot? Without doubt, getting the big idea clear will make the biggest difference to the success you get from content marketing.

You won’t regret it.

More content on this approach:

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4 Comments

  1. Hello Sonja,

    Another great article and I agree with most of what is written here. (Although get a little iffy about manifestos. A little fluffy for me!)

    The point I want to make, is that the sweet spot for content is (as you say) where your ideas meets your customer’s needs. There is an even sweeter spot when you take this a level deeper and really get to know your customer as they go along their buying journey and what they are interested in, and overlay that with your own business development challenges. I.e. at key points for the buyer (not the seller). Then focus your content plan on where in your BD process you need to improve your effectiveness.

    For example, do you have problems in keeping in touch with people who may only be able to recommend you or need your services infrequently.(This is a key problem for transactionally led services such as Mergers and acquisitions’.) Then focus on content which will interest and be valuable to potential buyers who are in a ‘status quo- i.e. no need for your services’, ‘recognising needs and problems – i.e. something is not quite right but not absolutely sure what and whether I need to deal with it’ or ‘defining desired outcome – i.e. I know what outcome I want to achieve but not necessarily how I will get there’

    We find that having a framework to hang the ‘what do my customers want to read’ really helps our clients write/produced targeted content which has a quick and sustainable impact on their business development goals.

    Reply
  2. Sharon Tanton

    Hi Heather, thanks for this.

    You’re right, tying your content to your customers’ buying cycle is really effective, and helps you understand what content you need to create, but we find that so many companies miss nailing the bigger message first – and this is crucial.

    Leaping in and seeing your content primarily as a vehicle to sell without being able to articulate the belief behind your business in language the customer loves is a missed opportunity. We see this time and time again when asked to create winning content strategies for businesses.

    Nailing the message, writing your story, creating a manifesto – these are missing links that stop businesses flourishing with content marketing. Some might say it’s fluffy, but we say it’s the soft stuff that’s the hard stuff! And it matters.

    If you can get this stage right first, and then put a framework around creating content for every step of the buying process as you suggest, that’s when your content moves from good to great.

    Thanks again for the comment Heather.

    Sharon

    Reply
  3. Hi Heather.

    Good to see you here. Totally agree about creating content around the buying process. I love Bryony Thomas’ thinking around this – http://watertightmarketing.com/2014/06/04/does-your-marketing-support-every-step-of-a-sale/. I’ve learned a lot from her on this point. I guess like Sharon I feel that, if a company really wants to stand out with their marketing, this is step 2.

    For me there’s a difference between strategic content thinking (what’s our message? How will we win with our content?) and the content plan (exactly what content do we need to create, when, how and where?). Get no 1 right and no 2 becomes a whole heap easier.

    This is your point of differentiation. Imagine IBM without ‘smarter planet’ or Hubspot without ‘inbound marketing’ – they definitely wouldn’t have much to talk about if they hadn’t got the bigger message clear.

    Logic + emotion, and the emotion takes a lot of thinking to write.

    Hope that helps.

    Sonja

    Reply
  4. Hi Heather, I absolutely agree with you on the points above. As you say, we need to deliver information to our customers, when they need it, and anything else is fluff.
    However, I know from experience that having a manifesto in place, has given the business I work for, a consistent starting point for all of our messages. So, yes if it’s not relevant to your customer, it’s self satisfied fluff. If it is relevant information, and in addition is true to your own core values, then that’s the sweet spot.

    Reply

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