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Content marketing has grown up—nearly every size company in every industry is using content. As a result, there’s a lot of content out there. But although much of that content features good writing and nice design, it tends to be shallow and similar to what’s already been published. Which is why companies (and the marketing agencies creating content for them) just aren’t seeing the results they want to see.

If your goal is to generate leads and conversions, you’re going to have to go deeper. Here are four steps to the type of content that attracts interests.

1. Know your audience.

As a marketer, you know the importance of developing personas. But to create high-quality content that gets the attention of your audience, you have to have a complete understanding of that audience, beyond the typical data included in persona profiles. You need to get a clear picture not only of their demographics and their concerns and pain points, but also how much they already know about those needs and the topics you’re writing about. You need to know this audience like you know a close friend. How can you gain this level of knowledge?

  • Check out your audience’s social media pages and groups, and watch for how they describe their frustrations as well as things they get excited about.
  • Look at the case studies of your competitors or other companies targeting the same audience for information on shared pain points.
  • Interview individuals within your audience, asking questions like the following:
    • When did you realize you needed help with [the problem your product or service solves]?
    • Tell me more about that problem—how it manifests itself in your work week/life.
    • What do you look for in a product/service provider?
    • What’s your typical method of researching potential products/service providers?
    • What websites do you use on a regular basis?
    • What social media platforms are you active on?
    • What publications do you read?
    • How do you prefer to learn information? Webinars, podcasts, eBooks, blogs, videos, one-sheet PDFs, infographics?
  • Survey your email list with the same types of questions as those listed above.

One-on-one interviews are the most valuable technique in that list. They take time, but the information you’ll learn is gold. People communicate more effectively over the phone than they do via surveys, and you’ll discover nuances you would never have found otherwise, including how they phrase what’s important to them and the terminology they use.

2. Decide your objectives.

What do you hope that your audience will do when they consume your content? You understand the importance of strategy, but it’s easy to gloss over when you’re on a deadline and you have deliverables due.

Before you start creating content, outline your objectives. Which part of the funnel do you want this content piece to address? Is the purpose to build the brand, create thought leadership, or trigger an action? The process of deciding your objectives will give you clarity that will result in a better piece of content that has a much higher likelihood of achieving success. As the old saying goes, “You’ll never reach your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.”

3. Look at what’s already out there.

Does the content you plan to create already exist? Rehashed ideas won’t generate attention. People are looking for fresh ideas and something they haven’t seen yet. Before you create a piece of content, get on Google to see what’s already out there.

If you find a lot of material on the topic you’re planning to focus on, consider how you can differentiate. Look at the topic from a different perspective. Connect the topic to a current event. Take a contrarian position. Offer detail when the existing content paints in broad strokes, or put a topic in context when existing content is in the weeds.

Ideally, the insight you share will lead back to your UVP—what you can offer that your competitors can’t. When your new insight leads your audience to realize that your product or service alone can fully solve their need, they’re more likely to take action and buy from you, rather than a competitor.

4. Bring in experts.

For your content to be credible, you’ll need expert opinion and facts backing it up. The tools of journalism can be invaluable here—interviewing experts, quoting primary research, even doing original studies if budgets allow.

How can you find the experts you’ll need? As an agency marketer, one of the easiest ways is to interview experts on staff at the client company. You can also reach out to your LinkedIn network and/or your client’s network. Check out local chapters of industry organizations as well.

Also be sure to look at industry research and studies that have been done by companies like CEB and Forrester. Unless the author of the content has the credentials, back up all your points with credible source material.

Creating quality content that actually accomplishes what it intends does take some forethought. But because so few marketers are following these steps to publish next-level quality pieces, a little effort goes a long way.

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