shutterstock_79614673.jpg “Content is king.”

It’s an oft-repeated expression in marketing departments. The recent explosion of content-based marketing campaigns and the constant pressure to create more content only serve to confirm the notion. But in all the hype surrounding the content itself, don’t forget that a related trend -- inbound marketing -- is on the rise, and with it the balance of power in B2B marketing departments has shifted yet again.

Inbound marketing has rendered outbound marketing all but obsolete. Due to advances in search and social technologies, customers engage vendors when it is convenient and optimal to them. Marketing’s role, therefore, is to be ready when customers do engage, and content is a big part of this responsibility.

Content that is compelling, focused and on time will drive the customer buying process forward. Content that is sloppy or misguided can derail an opportunity. So, how do marketers ensure their content plan is on target? Here are five steps to creating effective, customer-centric content:

Step 1: Get to Know Your Customer

Content mapping may seem tedious, but taking the time to plan your content strategy can add focus to your marketing efforts and save a lot of time in the long run. Create detailed profiles of your buyer personas and identify the types of content that would be most useful to each audience. Be sure you can answer the following questions:

  • What role does this person play in the sales cycle? (Influencer? Decision-maker?)
  • What problem is he or she facing that your product can solve?
  • What questions will this person have at each stage in the buying cycle?

Once you’ve answered these questions, it will be easier to define the content that best suits each constituency. Creating content with specific goals in mind is a far better use of your resources than creating content purely for the sake of having more material.

Step 2: Make Sure Content is Customer-Focused

Your customer likely didn’t seek out your blog or website because they wanted to read up on your company. Particularly in the early stages of the sales cycle, your brand means less to your customer than the industry expertise you can provide. So, instead of talking about what makes your business special, focus content on your ability to meet the customer’s needs, which will reinforce the point that it’s all about them.