Content marketing: Watch your assumptions

Although I pride myself on being knowledgeable about technology, sometimes the greatest value I give my clients is to point out what I don’t know. For example:

  • I don’t know why I should care about the features they are so excited about.Perspective glasses
  • I don’t know what an obscure acronym means.
  • I don’t know what they mean by industry or company-specific jargon.

Often, their prospects are in the same boat. People tend to assume that others see the world from their perspective. That’s a real problem in content marketing. If you make incorrect assumptions about what your prospects already know and understand, or what interests them, your efforts may be wasted.

Perspective is critical to content marketing
Sujan Patel posted an article on The Search Engine Journal recently titled Seven ways to screw up a content marketing plan. Mistake #5 is “building content based around false assumptions.”

In my experience, it’s easy to fall into this trap. Invite your engineers to write a paper and they’ll often write something that fascinates others with similar backgrounds. That’s great if engineers are your target audience.

A good content marketing plan addresses the entire range of people involved in the buying cycle – at the various phases of the cycle.

This is tricky because your sales people are often asking for collateral that’s later in the sales cycle. Prospects don’t start talking to sales until they know there’s a problem and that your company offers a potential solution. If you want to catch a business decision-maker at the early “awareness” stage, then you need a different perspective.

Do a reality-check on your assumptions
The most important strategy is to do the work of creating your buyer personas. If you don’t have buyer personas, there are many sources of guidance – check out Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, or the article “Put the Person Back in Content Marketing Personas” by Mark Everts at the Content Marketing Institute.

Creating personas can take some work. What if you have something written already and you want to know if it will work? Here are a few quick and dirty ways to do a reality check on your content:

  • Run your piece by a few people who fit the general profile of the target for the piece. This could include friends or existing prospects. Some companies maintain advisory boards for this purpose, but they can be too close to your existing solutions to provide the outsider’s perspective.
  • Don’t have access to someone right now? Ask a tolerant friend or spouse to pretend to be the person as you read what you have to them. Watch to see where they look confused.
  • All by yourself? Picture someone in your head and read aloud to them. If it feels awkward, you should probably revise.
  • Search for the keywords or terms that you’re using online. If nobody in the world is using those terms in searches, they may not be familiar. (Watch out, however, for adopting jargon just because other vendors are using it.)

3 Comments on “Content marketing: Watch your assumptions

  1. Love this post! The best clients – and content marketets – are the ones who aren’t afraid of these very important questions. This actually demonstrates the value of freelancers/contractors, who come in with fresh eyes and healthy skepticism.

    • Thanks for your comment! As a consultant it’s a little tricky, too. We want to be authoritative, it’s hard to say “Hire me because I don’t know what you’re talking about”

      • Sometimes I have to say, “Hire me because I do know what you are talking about but I don’t believe you…” 🙂

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