I've been on a number of calls recently with companies that want to break into a new market. They think that content marketing may be the key, but are uncertain if they're right, as well as how to approach this new direction.
Content Marketing is definitely a key strategy. In fact, I'm not quite sure how a company would go about breaking into a new market without it. But there are some challenges when your goal is quick uptake and your company doesn't have a lot of exposure or familiarity with the target audience.
Here are the things that come to mind. It shouldn't be surprising that most of them aren't related to the content, itself. There's a foundation that must be set. During these calls it dawned on me that whether you're breaking into a new market or establishing a content marketing strategy, a lot of the work is the same.
To be effective, a content marketing strategy must be based upon knowledge and understanding of the target audience (market). Call this personas, profiles or market research — whatever works for you.
- Who are they?
- What do they care about that your solution helps them get?
- How are they answering the need today?
- Is how they're doing it a workaround or a solution?
- Why is whatever their doing not the best way?
- What is it costing them? (time, money, growth, marketshare, efficiency, productivity, customer retention, talent retention, etc.)
- What could they gain if they switch? (outcomes they care about)
- Why would they be resistant to change?
- How would you overcome this?
- Why should they listen to you?
- Where do they spend time online?
- Who/what influences them? Who do they believe/follow today?
- What's the chatter? (LinkedIn, Twitter, market-specific forums/blogs, pubs)
Given what you learned above, how will this new market define value related to what you sell?
- What expertise do you bring that they don't have access to today?
- Is your thought leadership edgy or provocative? What new thinking will catch their attention that they will find relevant?
- Who has or can develop a personal brand that the market will relate to? It's not just about your company (inanimate) — it's about your people and your expertise.
- What are this person's strong suits? (expertise) What kind of support will they need?
- What does this market relate to that competitors bring to market? Are they truly happy with it or is there dissatisfaction? Where? How? Why?
- Does this dissatisfaction intersect with your company's strengths?
- How will you prove your answer to their problem works? (evidence)
Structuring the Content Marketing Story:
One of the things that I encounter the most is either "me-too" messaging that has companies sound just like everyone else in their markets or convoluted messaging that a Ph.D. would have trouble unraveling. If it takes too much effort, you've lost before you get started. The ultimate goal with marketing is to have your target audience "get it" as quickly as possible.
- Take what you think is your most compelling positioning or core message and rewrite it for a 6 year old based on what you learned above. Seriously - get all the jargon, important-sounding words and high-level crap out of it. You can always put it back in, but I bet you that it will take a bunch of effort to get it out. Go ahead - try it. Get down to the basics that matter. Think the 6-inch view vs. the 30,000 ft view.
- Now look at what you learned in the two steps above and see if you'd change anything else.
- Send it to people who know the market or who are the market and get their feedback. Make sure they're people who will be gut-wrenchingly honest. This can be eye-opening to those of us "in the tunnel." Trust me on this one. You'll learn stuff you never thought about. Be prepared to revise.
- Given this core message you've finally arrived at and what you know about your market and value, what questions will your prospects have? Make a list. It should be pretty long. Go deep, get into the weeds. Pretend you know nothing.
Here's the thing with the questions. Lots of marketing "experts" say to answer your buyers' questions. It's become the standard for simplifying content creation. But, when used strategically there's more to it than that. The difference when you apply "story" to this process is in the organization of the questions, how you answer them and how those answers work together to deliver what the prospect needs to know to take the next step. This is critical. There must always be a next step.
There's a strategic value to Q & A.
For example, If I ask why should I care about X? You say "because X can help you gain bigger share of customer wallet." The next question asked is not "How much does it cost?", but rather "Really. Hmm. How does X help me do that?"
Sure, prospects aren't linear all the time. I'm sure one of you would say, but they did ask about price! Ah, but do you know what other content they've also viewed? The questions people ask have some level of knowledge behind them that's relevant to the person asking.
The more relevant the next piece of content is in relation to what the person just expressed interest in, the greater your chance to gain an extension in their attention. The more often you can do this, the better off you'll be in generating pipeline momentum from a new market as they begin to nod their head in agreement and trust you.
Every interaction with your content needs to deliver on previously set expectations and set up new ones. I call this orchestrating progression.
There are obviously a ton of other things you need to do to break into a new market with content marketing, but try these three steps and see where you get. The first two will help you decide whether or not to go there. The third will help you determine how to create a story to extend your brand in that direction, should you choose to do so.
These steps will also help to define channels and execution options that will be most effective for generating awareness, reach and engagement within the new market you've targeted.