Understanding your customer and creating content that is perfectly suited to answer their needs and questions is at the root of successful content marketing, whether in the form of blog posts, videos, podcasts, lead magnets, or some other form of content.
To understand the connection between understanding your customer and great content, we first need to understand what customer insights are.
What Are Customer Insights?
When we say customer insights, we don’t just mean anything you know about your customers and users. For example, when you’re creating content about a business software tool, it’s highly unlikely to be useful to know if your readers lean more in one political direction than another.
Instead, we think of customer insights as unique glimpses into the psyche, motivations, goals, challenges, and beliefs that drive the decision-making process of your customers.
Even for the same person, there can be different insights depending on why you’re trying to reach them.
Generating these insights isn’t easy and usually involves a number of tasks:
- Intensive research to find out who your customers are, outside of vanilla demographic data.
- A sales and customer support team that is able to categorize and track the requests, challenges, and questions that come up when talking to customers.
- Surveys and polls to find out what your customers are really trying to work on and solve.
- Being open to having opinions overridden by customers when it’s clear that preconceived notions no longer hold to be true.
What Goes Into Content Planning
There is no reason that content planning needs to be complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that you can just overlook. After all, Forward-looking planning is the basis for every successful content marketing effort. Without it, you can’t hope to win. Click To Tweet
There are three parts to successful content planning: themes, topics, and the unique ‘x’ factor.
Figuring Out the Right Themes
Themes are the basis for the topics you’re eventually going to write about. If you’re just getting started, we recommend no more than five themes, since anything more will be a daunting task to take on.
These themes should largely reflect what you know about your customer’s pain points and key challenges.
If your customers or users are focused on two or three main problems, then you should take those and turn those into themes. The difference being that the themes should be focused on solutions for those problems, not just a reiteration of the challenges that they’re facing.
Figuring Out the Best Topics
Once you have the themes in place, you should begin generating ideas for topics. This typically takes the form of dozens of ideas being floated around, each with a different angle on some sub-problem of the theme you’re addressing.
There are a few different approaches you can take here. You can base it off of keywords, you can base it off of what people will share on social media, or you could base it on what people are searching for on your site.
A combination of these approaches should leave you with a list of potential topics, each with a small snippet of explanation for why it would be worth writing. It’s not a final list, but it’s something you can work with more tangibly.
Figuring Out What’s Unique
Whatever your approach to figuring out the best topics, you’re going to want to prioritize which topics are most important and which will have the best return on investment. Which brings us to the final part of our high-level overview of content planning.
From our perspective, the best way to do this is to figure out what is unique. That means looking at your competitors and, beyond the people who compete with you on products, looking at the people who are competing for the attention of the same set of customers.
Once you have a handle on what’s unique, you should look through your list of potential topic ideas and eliminate the ones that have already been covered, prioritize the ones that you have something unique to say about, and begin working on the ones that seem to be in-demand.
Why Customer Insights Are the Backbone of High-Quality Content
That explanation of content planning is only the beginning though and it’s information that none of us will find that surprising.
Truly great content planning, however, is based on unique, differentiated customer insights. Why? Two reasons: understanding needs and filtering based on utility.
Content Should Be Based on Known Needs
Understanding the needs of your customers is Running a Business 101. Despite that being the case, it’s surprisingly rare to see someone use the same attention to detail when creating content that they do when creating products.
What we recommend is that when going through the normal topic planning process we detailed above, you should go out of your way to make sure everything is reflective of your understanding of your customers.
That’s because you aren’t just creating content for The Internet, you’re creating content for the people you want to become customers. You’re even creating content for people who already have a business relationship with you.
When you change your mindset like that, you’ll end up with content that isn’t just successful in terms of quantitative measurements, but successful in terms of how well it resonates with your target audience.
All Ideas Should Be Filtered Based on Utility
You should never publish something if it isn’t going to be useful to your reader. It doesn’t matter if it’s a feature you’ve been working on for months: if reading the article about it isn’t going to improve the life of your audience, then it’s not worth taking their attention.
The best way to make sure you don’t commit that mistake is to use your understanding of your customers’ needs during the content planning process. What we mean is that when you’re generating ideas for topics and beginning to prioritize them, compare the final ideas with your understanding of the key goals and challenges that your customers have.
If your audience is a designer that’s looking for help with picking the right type of paper, one of their top needs may be getting a clear definition of different paper-specific terms. If that’s the case, you probably don’t want to create an article about how designing for paper can improve their web design sensibilities.
Would it be interesting and would you write something interesting? Possibly! But that’s just a guess; if you base your content off of known customer needs, it’s a guarantee that it’ll resonate and be more successful.
How to Use Insights to Generate Content Ideas
The last thing we should note is that your unique and differentiated customer insights shouldn’t just be used as a mechanism for shooting down ideas you don’t want to work on.
In fact, the process of coming up with unique customer insights can generate great ideas on its own. For example, you can use the process of creating customer personas to figure out the needs of your customers and come up with themes and topics based on what you find. Similarly, you can use customer feedback to come up with ideas for articles that would preemptively answer customer questions.
All-in-all, any customer insights you have can be used to improve your content planning, whether by coming up with new ideas, vetoing ones that won’t resonate, or by making you more confident in the content you plan on creating.