reading a book at the computer
The anatomy of content marketing involves the brain, heart, eyes, ears and hands PHOTO: Tranmautritam

Whether your goal is to create a more reputable business, change your industry, reach more potential customers or expedite the sales process, your organization invests in content marketing to influencing people.

To do this effectively, content marketers must create the most persuasive content possible, although that’s not always as easy as it sounds. In fact, if you are a student of content marketing, you know that trying to master the intricacies of professional content marketing can quickly become incredibly complicated.

The 5 Vital Components of Your Content Strategy

However, the process of creating more influential content can be learned, and to get started, I’ve found that it can help to focus on these five basic yet vital components of content anatomy:

The Brain: Strategize a Connection

Since creating influential connections with your audience doesn’t happen by chance, smart content marketers must rely on analysis and insight and to create carefully thought out content strategies. However, it’s important to remember that your content strategy cannot exist solely in your mind.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report (pdf), 61 percent of North America’s most successful B2B marketers have created a documented content marketing strategy, whereas only 13 percent of the least successful have done so.

Documenting a content strategy to reach your audience disciplines you to consider:

  • Content formats and marketing channels
  • Audience interest and customer needs
  • Resources and budgetary needs
  • Team expectations and workload
  • Execution of the content creation and distribution process
  • Success metrics and measurement

The Ears: Listen to Your Audience

To understand what types of content influence your industry, you must first understand the needs of your audience.

While some industry knowledge is acquired through years of experience or by climbing the corporate ladder, other experience can be gained through detailed research, relationship building and listening before you speak. This is where savvy content marketers must rely on their ears.

To gain a greater understanding of your audience:

  • Join customer service calls or participate in product demos
  • Go to industry conferences or local events
  • Host your own events
  • Reach out to current and past customers on social networks
  • Hold a monthly meeting with other department leaders, especially in the areas of sales and customer support
  • Analyze industry content through search engines and forums

In addition, consider interviewing your customers or partners to add credibility to your content. Conversational interviews can often provide detailed industry information that you might not be able to surface on your own.

The Heart: Empathize with Pain

Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content sums up quality content as, “content that is packed with clear utility and is brimming with inspiration, and it has relentless empathy for the audience.”

Handley understands empathy and has used her knowledge not only to create influence but to help evolve content marketing. Influencing your audience starts with gaining an intimate understanding of their daily challenges, routines and what makes them tick.

Remember that the difference between listening to your audience’s needs and empathizing with them lies in being able to genuinely feel their struggles and offer ideas to help them.

Using empathy will allow you to create how-to articles and share personal stories with more transparency. And content marketers who empathize with their audiences also help their brands appear more human.  

The Hands: Create, Craft, Mold and Experiment

After developing a strategic plan and studying your audience, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and create content. This is when content marketers must get creative and experiment to determine what mix of content types, formats and marketing channels will work best for their audiences.

Consider creating a mix of the following influential content types:

  • Customer testimonials and product reviews
  • Whitepapers, ebooks, webinars, infographics and interactive content
  • Product demos, tutorial videos or other visual content
  • Guest blogging or mentions in leading publications

Remember that when experimenting with new content types, it’s best to start slowly to ensure your ability to develop repeatable processes that consistently meet quality standards.

For smaller or underfunded content departments, focus more on creating high-quality content that resonates with and engages your audience, rather than creating content simply for the sake of keeping up with a production schedule. Create a realistic content editorial calendar to help your team manage its expectations and stay organized.

The Eyes: Distribute to Your Community

After you’ve invested in creating content, the only way it can be influential is if your audience actually sees it.

Content marketers must pay considerable attention to how their content is being promoted, distributed and received to determine if it is registering its intended message with its readers.

After distributing your content through paid advertising, influencer marketing or social media, go back to those channels to see how people are engaging with your content.

This step could be as simple as joining the discussion around your content online or as complicated as measuring your content through more advanced analytics practices.