Content Types are a key aspect to consider when creating a content marketing plan to support your go-to-market efforts. Creating a content marketing plan does not have to be painful but it will be painful if you do not spend time documenting content types, content format and content platforms, before tactical execution commences.
Content Types are the buying process, phases or steps that are outlined in the buyer behavior model.
Content Format is the state of the deliverable: digital, printed or verbal.
Content Platforms are the channels or vehicles used to deliver and present the content to the buyer.
First, it is paramount to ensure all content is relevant to the target audience.
Segmenting content types into meaningful categories that align to the sales or buying process will increase content relevance and serves to provide a holistic approach to fulfilling a buyer’s content needs. Next, drill down and review all content available to determine whether or not it is possible and appropriate to provide the content in all three content formats. Finally, leverage the appropriate content marketing platforms to get the content in front of the target audience at the right time, in the right format and at the right time.
Content Marketing – Content Types
Rather than randomly creating content in an ad-hoc manner – i.e. because it sounded like a good idea or someone was interested in creating a specific deliverable — let the Buyer Behavior Model provide the direction and guidance for which content types to create. For illustration purposes, assume that the buyer behavior model has three stages: education, engagement and validation. In this scenario, content will be created for each of these three stages and each stage has a different buyer need and objective. Review each idea for content and if it does not “fit” the model, then the model may have to be reviewed and modified or the content in question may not be relevant – meaning there is no need to create it.
Example of Content Types (stages in a buyer behavior model)
Education – the focus should be on addressing the question of “why.” Education embraces everything until the light-bulb goes off and information here tends to be topical in nature.
Engagement – this involves providing insights around “how” and content created for this stage should provide insights into what is involved. Ideally a person, place or thing is used to position the solution as a concept.
Validation – this communicates the proof — ideally from a third party’s point of view — and completes the transition from the solution as a concept to one’s offering.
These stages should be a direct fall-out from the buyer behavior model. They should not only drive which content is created but should become the framework for the nurture process. Depending upon a buyer’s interest, they should be scored based upon their behavior and the content they did seek out. They should also be added to a nurture path that has been specifically created to align with the content type viewed and contains bridges for the additional stage in the buyer behavior model.
Content Marketing – The Way People Learn
Once agreement is reached on the type of content to be offered, consideration should be given to how people learn. The goal of a Content Marketing Plan should be to build brand awareness, increase customer retention/loyalty, generate demand, increase website traffic or thought leadership, nurture prospects or facilitate the sales process. In order to facilitate the achievement of that goal requires an understanding of how people learn and transfer knowledge.
Every individual is different and learns differently. Unfortunately, while the optimal learning style can’t be provided to every individual on the planet, it’s important to at least be familiar with the seven most common learning styles — before content platforms channels are chosen for broadcasting content. While different individuals prefer different styles, using multiple learning styles increases the probability of connecting with one’s audience.
The Seven Learning Styles
Visual (spatial): the use of pictures, images, colors maps and spatial understanding are preferred to organize information and communicate with others. Specifically, ideas, concepts, data and other information are associated with images and techniques. Individuals that prefer this method like to draw or scribble on a note pad or white board.
Verbal (linguistic): using words, both in speech and writing are preferred. These individuals learn well by speaking, listening and writing. Extroverts and introverts can fall into this group as extroverts like to speak and introverts have a tendency to write. This group of learners tends to be well-spoken and written, and demands a high standard.
Auditory: a person learns by listening to spoken words, sounds or music. Auditory learners must hear what is being said in order to make a learning connection. Auditory learners rely on their listening and repetition skills to sort, organize and comprehend information.
Physical (kinesthetic): physical learners prefer to use their body, hands and sense of touch. These individuals prefer to perform a physical activity rather than listen to a lecture, watch a demonstration or read. Kinesthetic users are estimated to account for less than 10% of the population.
Logical (mathematical): these learners prefer using logic, mathematical reasoning and systems, and get frustrated with long-winded answers and fluff. It’s easy for this group to recognize patterns and make connections between material and they prefer to work though problems in a systematic manner.
Social (interpersonal): as the name implies, social learners prefer to learn in groups or with other people. These individuals typically communicate well both verbally and non-verbally. A classroom setting is ideal as this learner enjoys to spending 1:1 time with an instructor. The individuals tend to be extroverts and enjoy interaction and reaction to ideas.
Solitary (intrapersonal): solitary learners tend to be introverts and are private, introspective and independent. As such, these learners prefer to work alone and use self-study. They prefer their own space and a quiet environment. They prefer to work on problems alone and only surface when they have figured it out.
The purpose of reviewing how people learn highlights that it is wise to acknowledge and serve all learning types since most if not all will be represented by the personas within one’s target market.
Content Marketing – Content Format
Content Formats (digital, printed or verbal) should be guided by Personas, a Buyer Behavior Model and accompanying Journey Boards.
A content marketing plan should not only be conscious of learning styles but it should ensure the content format is optimized. It should not only provide the right information at the right time but provide that information in the right format and implementing an assessment at this step is a good start.
While personas are helpful and directionally correct, the market segments they represent will include individuals with learning types spread across more than one learning type. As a result, it is necessary to embrace all content formats. The good news is that it is relatively easy to translate content into various content formats. The bad news is that many organizations do not do this — and that is a missed opportunity.
A best practice is to start with the Journey Board. The Journey Board is a linear representation of all available content that could be served up to a prospect during the buying process. Next, review each deliverable to determine the level of time, expertise and cost to convert the content into all three formats. Often a compelling event will drive the creation of content types. For example, one could video the next webcast. Yes, extra effort is required to do this, but the video can be transcribed and parsed to create numerous other assets (blogs, FAQs, white papers, slide decks, images, podcasts, on-demand webinars, video clips, etc.).
Content Marketing – Content Platforms
Content Platforms are the channels or vehicles used to promote or broadcast the content. It’s not good enough anymore to just have great content. Great content is Step One. Step Two (even more important than Step One but Step One is a prerequisite) is to make the content accessible to the target audience on social and web platforms that they instinctively go to for information. It’s true that you can change an individual’s behavior and teach them to go to point X in as opposed to point Y, but why bite this off initially? As a first step, serve the content up on the venue of choice for the target audience. This reduces friction as the social and or web platform already has an established level of trust for the buyer so the gate is less formidable. By doing this, the sole focus can be on ensuring that the content resonates with the target audience and head towards sales conversations.
Ideally, the target market is homogeneous, but even homogeneous segments are heterogeneous because they contain individuals with personal preferences and different learning types. As a result, successful content marketing plans do not put all their eggs in one basket and broadcast content through one social or web platform. Instead, most organizations will leverage at least six content platforms in order to yield the best results.
To be effective, the content marketing plan should be focused on finding, connecting, engaging and strengthening relationships with the target market. To do this effectively, content has to be meaningful, relevant, in the desired format and accessible via the channels of communication preferred by the buyer. And, content marketing strategies should align to support content marketing goals: brand awareness, customer retention/loyalty, demand generation, website traffic, thought leadership, sales or lead nurturing.