The road to business nirvana (and how content plays its part)
I’ve long been fascinated by the transformative power of content. Over the last 20 years I’ve witnessed all kinds of businesses reshape, grow up and thrive through investing thought and effort in the content they share.
Time and again I’ve seen that if you focus in on producing valuable content for your customers – (helpful or inspiring blogs, guides, talks, social media feeds etc.) then good things happen for your business. The potential benefits are huge: greater awareness, differentiation, more of the right leads coming to you (warmer leads too for an easier sales process), happy loyal clients so more repeat business, easier talent attraction, and an army of fans who love what you do and are happy to spread the word for you – word-of-mouth marketing on steroids. And in many cases, a more confident and engaged workforce too.
“If you focus on producing valuable content for your customers, then good things happen for your business.”
It’s clear to me that content is a brilliant catalyst for exciting business change.
Success takes time, but there’s gold to be found on the journey
All the right work coming to you – that’s nirvana right? Every business owner and marketer’s dream. This is totally achievable – just have a read of our Valuable Content Award winners’ stories to see examples of businesses of all sizes in all sectors all over the world winning by getting their content right. But – I’m not going to sugarcoat this – ultimate success with your content does take time.
Marketing with valuable content is a long-term business development strategy. There’s no spell that will magic you up success straight away. The journey is a voyage of discovery – it takes deep thinking, tough decisions, investment and hard graft. Enough to stop the faint hearted in their tracks before they step out on the trail.
“The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” – Fabienne Fredrickson, Boldheart
But here’s the exciting thing I’ve noticed over the years – embarking on the content journey brings huge business benefits in its own right. Seeking to answer the question: “what IS valuable content, for our organisation, for our customers?” is the beginning of a transformative business adventure – a quest that will bring you clarity on your brand, a whole new level of customer focus across all you do, a deeper connection with your clients, and greater collaboration across your team.
“Embarking on the content journey will bring you huge business benefits in its own right.”
Here’s how the quest to create and share valuable content will change your business, putting your company on the path to a brighter, better future.
Golden opportunities at each step of the content journey
A lot has to line up to create and share the type of content that the right people find valuable, and there’s gold to be had at every step of the process. Let’s look at a few of the destinations on your journey and the transformative business benefits you’ll come to realise along the way.
1. Set the strategy for your content – and get clearer on the direction of your business (and life)
The first job is to link your content efforts firmly to the business direction and over-arching strategy. This means understanding the ultimate purpose, vision, focus and goals of the business. Why are you investing in improving your content? What’s the driver, the pressure for change? What does success look like? Where will you focus? And, if you’re running the show, how does that tie in with what you want from your business and your life?
Exploring these big questions through the lens of your content is a powerful exercise in its own right. In fact, content is the ultimate practical test of your business strategy. If the strategy is fuzzy or off track your content will be too.
“Content is the ultimate practical test of your business strategy.”
I’ve seen companies re-focus and double down on their most profitable and exciting niche. I’ve seen a couple of people change direction completely and start on a new, more fulfilling path. Either way, it’s an important debate to have. Setting strategy for your content gets you much clearer on business direction.
2. Understand your customer’s world – and forge deeper connection and stronger relationships
Every content strategy project we work on involves thought on the type of customers/clients you most want to serve and research to uncover their challenges, wants and content needs. We’ve written about this listening process many times. Asking your customers for their thoughts, taking time to listen and then evaluate their feedback is one of the most valuable exercise you’ll ever do for your business. There’s so much benefit to be had through this exercise.
- Talking to a range of your customers/clients about how, why, where and when they use you will help you get your offer and positioning straight.
- It’ll help you improve how you tell your story. Ask them how they’d describe you when referring you and what you get back is pure gold. (More often than not your customers will be telling the story far better than you do yourselves!)
- All this feedback is the evidence base you need to help you make tough decisions on strategy and direction for a whole new customer focus.
- Asking for feedback strengthens relationships – customers value being asked for their opinions. This often leads to new sales opportunities and deeper client loyalty.
3. Uncover your perspective – differentiate your business and get better at what you do
To be successful with your content you need a distinct point of view. To work out what to say in the blogs and other content means getting clear on your area of expertise, your particular approach to what you do. And you need to unpick what matters to you, what you believe deeply in as a business. (Read Sharon’s post – how to harness the awesome power of perspective and stand out from the crowd)
Your unique perspective is the backbone of your content strategy. Unpicking it will get you clearer on how and why you do what you do. Writing and sharing your perspective gets people thinking harder. “People come to you for your knowledge but they hire you for your perspective” (says Blair Enns). Communicating your perspective will differentiate you from the rest of your market, and ultimately also make you more expert at what you do.
4. Write valuable content – and become a more customer-centred business
To consistently write means setting aside time to think hard about your customers and how you can help them. It means regularly stepping out of delivery mode, and into a space where you’re thinking ‘what can I share that will be genuinely useful to my customer?’
To make writing fit easily into a busy schedule means banking ideas as you go. You don’t have time to sit and wait for inspiration to strike. If you want to write valuable content regularly, it’s essential to get into the habit of jotting down ideas as you go – noting the questions customers ask you, the challenges the people you serve are facing. Asking more questions, listening more intently, developing empathy.
Becoming more customer-centric is a really useful byproduct of having to write 800 customer-focused words every week/fortnight/month!
5. Collaborate on content creation – and build better, stronger teams
“Embedding collaboration strengthens teams from the inside.”
The process of creating and writing valuable content is rarely a solitary pursuit.
In a larger organisations this necessitates close collaboration between subject matter experts (for ideas), your technical teams (to bring it to life on the web) and your comms and marketing department (to help get the story across in customer-friendly way).
Embedding collaboration strengthens teams from the inside. (Perhaps you could say that collaborating on content is like Pilates for your business – a series of small, repetitive actions centred in the right places builds core strength that increases business flexibility.) It brings together people from across an organisation, all working together for a common goal.
If you’re a micro-business or one woman band then it helps to collaborate on the content creation too. Just look at how Andrea P. Howe works with another business owner to get a blog post out each and every week.
Transform your content, transform your business
“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. And sometimes when you get there, you’ll look back and you’ll realise that you wish you could go there again because all the experiences are the reason that you are who you are today. ” – Drake
Content is a brilliant change tool. You will find your somewhere over the rainbow but remember – the ultimate destination is fabulous but so is the journey. Follow the yellow brick road and open your eyes to enjoy every minute of a fascinating business adventure. Yes, content can get you to the Emerald City, but its real joy is the fact you’ll build a better, stronger, more differentiated, more customer focused, and more successful business along the way.
If you’re not yet on the path I hope this helps to inspire you. And if you’re on the road but haven’t yet reached your Emerald City or Bountiful Bay (whatever that looks like for you) then I hope it helps you to see how far you’ve come already, and motivates you to continue. Enjoy the journey!
Learn from the Met Office’s content story
Read about the Met Office’s transformational content journey. Simon Swan, digital strategy and transformation lead, shares his experiences of using content as a catalyst for digital transformation – Digital Transformation Done Right – lessons from the Met Office’s Content Story
“By enabling content creation from experts within the business, Simon has taken the Met Office on a transformational journey – one from which many can learn.”
– James Ainsworth, Head of Content, Prophecy Unlimited