In content marketing we frequently hear the refrain of “relevant content.” Provide valuable, relevant content and drive your audience toward business goals. But relevant how? And to whom? What do we mean when we talk about content relevance, and how do we ensure we’re doing it well?
What Is Relevance?
If content marketing is utilizing content to engage an audience and compel them toward business objectives, then relevance is clearly determined by how effectively the content does so. Relevant content resonates with the intended audience – it speaks to their needs and interests.
But more than that, relevance speaks to where the audience is in the moment. While it is tempting to create content directed only to a preferred segment – the people ready to buy or inquire – that ignores the people who can connect a business to that segment, or who may become them in the future.
So Who Do You Create Content For?
So in seeking to produce relevant content, for whom do we define relevance? In his “Content Marketing Manifesto,” Rand Fishkin touches on this idea. He warns against what he calls an “obsession with relevance” – getting hung up on targeting content just to current or even potential customers. As he puts it:
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What “relevant” means might be a little different from how we typically interpret it. The experience that I’ve had on the web with content marketing is that great content that performs well doesn’t have to fit the “relevant to current customers” scale … you can be on the “relevant to anyone who potentially interacts with potential customers” – that is good enough.
The point here is that content need not speak only to that ideal customer who is on the verge of making a purchase: it can resonate with the person who knows that guy, and that’s valuable.
Why Produce Content for Someone Who Isn’t a Potential Customer?
Marketing is about timing. It’s about being in front of a potential customer when they’re open to being convinced, with a message that makes them choose you over the competition. But timing and reach is not an easy thing to manage. That’s why it’s important that some content speak to those who may only interact with potential customers, for two important reasons.
Expanding Content Reach
Someone may not be interested in becoming a customer, but they may Like, Tweet, email or otherwise share your content with one of their connections who is a potential customer, but not in your current content audience. This can be critical: the number of ideal prospects who view your content at any given time is limited. However, there may be someone who fits your target market who is one social media share away from finding it. That is the value of broader relevance: getting your content in front of more viable conversion opportunities than your inherent audience provides.
Google calls this the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) – the initial experiences and research a customer does before potentially buying a product or service. This online fact-finding can include individuals performing searches, watching online videos, reading reviews, or asking their network. Non-customers sharing and endorsing content can create a Zero Moment of Truth for their connections who are actively looking for what your brand offers.
Creating Future Customers
The second reason is that they may themselves be a potential customer in the future. Providing content that is relevant to someone who is not ready to convert can serve to establish awareness and trust.
- Awareness: ensure that when the person is finally at the point of considering a product or service, your brand is part of that decision.
- Trust: it may be the difference in what makes a prospect choose your brand – after all, you provided value to them before you were asking anything of them.
A Balanced Approach
Clearly, a brand’s content should consider more than just one segment of their audience. Just as focusing exclusively on too narrow an audience can limit marketing reach and growth, being too consistently broad may dilute conversion efforts.
As I’ve written previously, content can be targeted to where an audience is in the conversion process. By producing a mix of content that aims for relevance at different stages in that process, it is possible to persuade those who are in a position to convert while compelling others to share your content and remain engaged with your brand.