Content 101: It’s All About Giving Audiences What They Want

Content, content, content. Marketing teams the world over have espoused the importance of content for years and are in a seemingly never-ending race to produce more, more, more of it. But the focus on quantity of content often overshadows the importance of creating quality content, and many businesses are left with content that doesn’t convert.

A well-thought-out content marketing strategy—one that gives your audiences what they want when they want it—is what will set you apart from the competition and, ultimately, reflect in your bottom line. Before you rush to put out content, make sure you have a strategic plan in place.

What is content?

“Content” can refer to any number of pieces your company produces to communicate with your target markets. Blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, webinars, e-books, white papers and case studies are all examples of content.

“Content marketing,” however, refers to a specific type of marketing that focuses on producing and delivering content based on your market’s needs rather than your product or services.

Marketing expert Gerardo Dada explained the concept in a guest post on our blog:

Content marketing is a philosophy based on the premise that marketing needs to be useful, educational and customer-focused.

Implicit in this definition is that marketing needs to shift from talking about what you want to talk about (your products, most likely) to talking about what the customer wants to learn about.

Content marketing requires that you understand your customers’ needs and interests, and that the best marketing is educational; it helps customers achieve their goals, answers their questions and makes them smarter.

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Why is content important in marketing?

content marketing helps differentiates you from your competitors

Today’s consumer is flooded with news, information and products that claim to improve their lives every day. When it’s done well, content is the thing that can set a company apart by putting the focus back on the consumer. 

Unless you’re, say, Apple or Nike, it doesn’t matter to the average consumer that you have a new product to sell. What they’re most interested in is finding a solution to their problem.

According to Dada: “One of the benefits of the recent focus on content marketing is that it also brings about a renewed focus on customers (personas). Understanding customers, how they think and the problems they want to solve is the fundamental source of value that marketers bring to the organization.”

Another reason content is important is that it differentiates you from your competitors. That is, as long as your content is good.

Technology companies constantly are looking for ways to stand out in a commoditized industry. If you and your competitor have similar products, who do you think a consumer is more likely to buy from? The company that only pushes out ads and product specs or the company that offers to educate the consumer on all the options available to them, how to go about deciding on the right product and what to expect during the implementation process? Bingo, it’s the latter. This type of content pays off in the long run as well, working to build trust and turn first-time buyers into lifelong ones.

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Who is responsible for content?

Given that it’s called “content marketing,” it’s easy to assume that content is solely the responsibility of marketing communications. But in reality, a strategic content marketing plan must originate with the product marketing team.

Here’s why: Product marketing understands the buyers best. Through research, product marketing is in the best strategic position to map out the buyer experience, create buyer personas and identify the types of information buyers want at each stage of the sales cycle. Once these steps have been done, then marketing communications (with some input from sales) can brainstorm specific ideas on how to present information and create the actual content.

How to build a content strategy

Creating a content strategy can seem daunting. But like anything else, once you do it a few times, you’ll see it’s not that difficult. After all, as the person who knows your buyers best, you already have a lot of the information you need to get started. Here are the steps:

1. Gather your intel

Ideally, you should already have your buyer experience mapped out and buyer personas created. If not, take the time to establish these vital elements. If they do already exist, be sure to revisit and refine them before moving on to step two. 

2. Outline buyer communication preferences

Next, you’ll need to establish or confirm how your buyers prefer to receive information. We say establish or confirm because, ideally, this information will already be included in your buyer personas. Either way, it’s worth revisiting. Because if you created buyer personas when you were focused on traditional marketing efforts, the media mix you established for buyers then may not hold up now. Now you’ll need to dive deeper into how buyers want to receive educational content, which is what you’re going to provide them.

For example, you may have determined in your buyer personas that Andrea the IT manager prefers to hear about new products from industry newsletters, but she’d prefer to learn, say, “How to Use Technology Champions to Make Your Next Implementation Go Smoothly” in a podcast. CFO Sam might enjoy getting industry news from weekly emails but is much more likely to read an article titled “What to Do If Your IT Budget Is Ballooning” in a print magazine.

3. Develop messaging

Before you bring in marketing communications, you’ll need to develop the messaging that will be used to inform the content. Messaging, simply stated, is what you want buyers to walk away knowing after consuming your content. But, again, you may need to add onto or tweak any product messaging you developed during the product positioning phase because you’ll want to broaden or refocus your messaging around what the buyer wants.

For example, let’s say you’re the product team at Square. It’s likely (although this is only an educated guess) that one of your product messages is: Square lets you receive payment for products wherever you decide to sell them. For content marketing purposes, you may add some educational messaging, a la: Point-of-sale doesn’t need to be relegated to a storefront.

Another example: Say your product is DocuSign. Your product messaging may include something to the effect of, “DocuSign is the most secure digital contract platform.” Your educational messaging might be: Paper contracts are a security risk waiting to happen.

4. Perform keyword research

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At the most basic level, the keywords in your content define what your business is about and what you sell. A simple way to think about keywords is to imagine how your buyers would search for your product on the internet.

The number and quality of keywords included in your content help search engines such as Google determine where to display your website on a particular search-engine results page (SERP). The higher you rank on the SERP, the more reach and traffic you will garner, which is why it is crucial to have keywords in mind when planning out content for the year.

5. Build a content calendar

This is when you’ll transition the process to marketing communications. But don’t just hand over your intel and be done. Work together, along with sales, to develop a content priority list, so marketing communications knows what collateral should be developed when. Be sure to point out any important dates or timeframes, including annual industry events and seasonal themes, such as when buyers are likely working on next year’s budget. From there, marketing communications will brainstorm specific concepts or topics for a mix of articles, webinars, videos, social posts, etc., and plot them on a monthly or weekly calendar to be produced.

6. Consider content delivery and promotion

No matter how beneficial your content, if it never gets in front of your target audience, then your efforts are all for naught. So make sure your content marketing plan includes a strategy for how to promote the content that gets created. The more opportunities your audience has to interact with content they want (and that’s the key), the better. Make it available on your website, yes, but also promote it in your email newsletter, post about it on social media, send out email blasts, etc. And don’t overlook digital advertising. Sponsored posts and paid ads aren’t only for selling products. They can also be used to “sell” content.

7. Establish metrics

Content marketing is a much slower burn than traditional marketing and advertising, and, thus, measuring success of a content marketing campaign is often more difficult. Still, you’ll need to establish metrics to be able to determine if your efforts are successful and where improvement can be made.

Depending on how sophisticated your tracking system is, content metrics typically fall into four categories: consumption, lead generation, sharing and sales.

  • Consumption metrics: How many people viewed, downloaded or listened to a piece of content.
  • Sharing metrics: How the content resonates and is shared with others.
  • Lead-generation metrics: How often content consumption results in a lead.
  • Sales metrics: Whether the content actually earned any money.

Delve deeper into each of these metrics and take the guesswork out of measuring content.

8. Use data to inform future content

As you begin to draw conclusions from the metrics you’re tracking, you’ll soon be able to see which pieces of content are strongest and which aren’t performing as well. But before you make any rash changes to your content strategy, consider the full picture. Were there any hiccups in promotion—did your email newsletter go out on the same day major industry news broke or were your digital ads somehow mistargeted? Perhaps you haven’t perfectly aligned your content with the buyer journey yet.

Once you’ve accounted for those types of things, then you can use the data you’ve gathered to make changes to your content strategy and calendar. Did a white paper you put out get tons of shares on LinkedIn? How can you repurpose that piece of content into articles, blog posts and speaking engagements? Or, can you replicate that success with a new white paper?

For more on this topic, view our webinar Using Data Insights to Create Value-Driven Content Strategies.

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Examples of content marketing

As mentioned, most companies today are doing content marketing, but very few of them are doing it well. One technology company that’s absolutely doing content marketing right is Hubspot. 


Hubspot publishes more content than you can possibly imagine. As a matter of fact, we’d argue that Hubspot is a content company that also sells CRM and marketing automation software. The company’s content is directed at all sorts of audiences (which align with its target markets) and ranges from educational and informative to entertaining and humorous. Hubspot’s content occupies its own microsite and offers up to five-plus pieces of content each day. And most of it is only tangentially related to Hubspot products. For instance, 11 AI Health Care Companies Revolutionizing Medicine and Can Friendship Apps Cure the Loneliness Epidemic don’t mention Hubspot anywhere in the article but offer up several hotlinks for readers to delve further into the topic, eventually landing on content that’s more product-focused.

There’s one other thing Hubspot does particularly well, and that’s treat every webpage like a homepage. No matter how you enter Hubspot’s main website or content microsite, you’ll always be one click away from learning about Hubspot’s products, chatting with sales or viewing a demo.


At the risk of tooting our own horn, another company doing content marketing right is … Pragmatic!

When we first developed our content marketing strategy, we wanted to truly become a trusted partner for all things product management and product marketing. To do that, we decided we needed to provide our audiences with real opportunities to learn new skills in a variety of formats.

As you might (now) notice while reading our articles and listening to our podcasts, we don’t typically talk about or even link to our courses. We’ll never give you half the story and then direct you to a course to find out what to do next. Instead, what we do is focus on teaching people what it means to be good product-management and product-marketing professionals and giving them stories of people who have taken our courses and successfully used our methods in the field. Then, when folks are ready to sharpen their skills, we’ll be the natural choice for training.

Are you ready to create a content strategy?

Everyone’s doing content these days. But you will differentiate yourself from competitors by doing content right. Let Pragmatic Institute help you become a master content creator. Check out our Launch course today.

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