header, importance of research as part of content marketing plans

By John Lavey, Hammock President & COO

Creating editorial slates or designs in advance of research is merely guessing, and an exercise in competing aesthetic sensibilities. In other words, it’s a waste of time. Four basic areas of research are required to build  a successful content marketing plan. These areas help fulfill the following critical marketing commandments:

  • I. Thou shalt know thine audience. Simple enough, but you might be surprised how often this point is overlooked or undervalued. What does your audience want? Do you know? Has what your customers asked for changed in that last few years? (I can assure you it has, in important and nuanced ways.) Send a survey with key questions via e-mail, and keep it in the field for a couple of weeks. This research can be invaluable on the front end. Qualitative research that is conducted online, or facility-based, is another useful component. If you have research in hand, and it’s current (six months or less old), you’re off to a great start.
  • II. Thou shalt know thy business competitors. You may know the names of your competitors, but do you know how your content compares to theirs? What do customers and prospects think about your content versus another provider? How do they find you and your competitors online? It’s worth taking a fresh, objective look at your competition, and even challenging your idea of who your competitors are, before creating a content marketing plan. Delivering high-quality content requires a deep understanding of the conversation happening in your industry.
  • III. Thou shalt know thy content competitors. Many companies are crystal-clear about their business competitors, but they aren’t thinking about another type of rival: content competitors. No matter your business, any information you plan to provide to a customer or member is not the only source of information they are receiving. What else are they reading, surfing, watching or hearing? Even if you are the primary source of information to an audience (some association niche providers can be), knowing the information or media consumption habits of your audience is crucial to understanding how to deliver the kind of experience that will resonate with them.
  • IV. Thou shalt know thine own marketing. Whether you’re a one-person marketing department, or one player on a team with widely dispersed responsibilities, it’s critical to take inventory of all of your marketing assets and understand the role of each and relationship of one to each other. Don’t launch or boost content marketing efforts in isolation from your other assets. Focus on developing a clear intent for one form of content (like an email newsletter) to push your audience to another asset (like your website). It’s amazing how often the chance is missed to coordinate the excellent content that already exists.

Obey these commandments, and there’s an excellent chance your audience will look upon your content and find it good.