Are content marketers being asked to become miracle workers? A few years ago social media was the answer to all a company’s marketing woes. Now it seems like content marketing is the new miracle cure.

The more content you create, the more Google will love you, the more opportunity you have to attract prospects, and the more you’ll create the stickiness you need to get your prospects to hang around your site because they can’t wait for more of your pearls of wisdom.

Well, at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

But in a recent presentation by Solar Winds’ VP of Product Marketing and Strategy Gerardo Dada, much of what content marketers are being asked to do is basic marketing strategy.

In other words, if your content marketer has to develop an understanding of who your customers are, develop personas based on your ideal clients, understand how and why they buy, and map the buyer’s journey, then you haven’t got a content marketing problem, you’ve got a marketing problem.

Getting Your Marketing Strategy Right

All the most successful companies do one thing right: they make marketing a top priority. They see marketing as food, not medicine. If you think about some of the most successful companies – Coke, Apple, P&G – marketing is at their core.

But there are other companies that see marketing as medicine. As says: “Not enough customers? Take some marketing and call me in the morning.”

Unfortunately that’s the approach too many companies take in their marketing. Marketing is an after-thought, until it becomes urgent.

And content marketing seems to be the all-too-common cure for a company’s marketing woes. So before getting into content marketing tactics, focus on getting your marketing right.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Uncover Your Uniqueness

I work with technology consulting companies, a somewhat difficult niche because of the perceived lack of differentiation between firms. According to a recent report there are 442,000 IT consulting firms in the U.S.

However, it is still possible to find unique qualities for each organization. A colleague who consults to many of these companies took a group of about 10 outsourced software development firms through an exercise to uncover their unique differentiators. Without fail each one was able to find something valuable about their approach, processes and people that could help them distinguish themselves in the marketplace.

Bonus Tip: Interview 5-7 of your best clients, or better yet – have a neutral 3rd party interview your best clients. Ask them what they liked about working with you, why they would recommend you, and how they felt after doing business you. After a few interviews you’ll find common patterns that emerge that point to your uniqueness.

2. Target a Niche or a Territory

When your business is growing, or times are tough, you want to sell to everybody. Money is the issue, and whoever has money and a pulse could become a client.

But selling to everybody is terrible marketing strategy. You’ll be fighting over the same clients with every other company who sells to everybody with money and a pulse.

The conventional marketing wisdom says to focus on an industry niche, which is fine. But you could niche yourself into a niche that might not sustain your business. Instead target a territory within a niche.

Taking the territory approach , choose a popular niche (popular niches are niches with lots of money) and carve out a territory within that niche.

Think of Apple’s approach to the PC market back in the 1980s. IBM clones were saturating the market, but Apple created the Macintosh, which targeted the creative, artistic types – a very profitable territory within the PC niche.

Bonus Tip: Do what Copyblogger did when entering the crowded “blogging about blogging” space. They joined two concepts into one. They connected the copywriting discipline with blogging to carve out a territory in a crowded niche. Look at your target niche, and figure out what other concept you can add to what you’re doing to target a previously ignored territory.

3. Understand Your Customers

Every marketer should understand their customers – what motivates them, what problems they face, what they read, what they need. In fact, the most successful consumer brands were using buyer personas before this became a content marketing “thing.”

But buyer personas have become one of those overused buzz words devoid of meaning. Let’s go to the source for clarification: According to the Buyer Persona Institute:

“Buyer personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence in strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the status quo.”

They are an essential part of your whole marketing strategy. They can help you:

  • Create the right products
  • Determine what to say about your products, and how to say it
  • Decide where and how to advertise
  • Design the most appropriate website

And much more.

Bonus Tip: Create Buyer Legends for your buyer personas. Buyer Legends, as described by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg in their new book of the same name, are stories used to describe how your ideal target customers will interact with your brand and become a customer, and how your product will help solve their problems.

4. Make Sure Your Marketing Is Useful

One of the hallmarks of content marketing is how useful it is. Jay Baer wrote about this in his book YouTility: make your marketing so helpful people would want to pay for it.

Have you ever bought a projector? If you have, then you were probably bombarded by projector jargon: MHL, LCD, DLP, Lens Shift, Lumens, etc. What does any of that mean? Wouldn’t it be helpful if the projector manufacturers provided a glossary of terms, or better yet a pop-up describing each term whenever you hover over the term with your mouse?

Please, for your customers’ sake, make your marketing useful!

Bonus Tip: Use your buyer persona to guide you through whatever copywriting you do on your website or your advertising. If your buyer persona is a grandma who is not technical at all, then you know to use very straight-forward, simple language, images and videos to explain your widget.

5. Measure Your Marketing

In a previous blog post I explained how to measure your content marketing. But you should measure all of your marketing.

In his book Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins was talking about measuring advertising as far back as 1923. How did Hopkins do this?

“This is done through keyed advertising, by traced returns, largely by the use of coupons. We compare one way with many others, backward and forward, and record the results.”

Bonus Tip: Find a way to make the connection between offline and online analytics. The best way to do that is to make sure each offline component can be tied back to an online component.

Content marketing is the best thing to happen to marketing in the last ten years. It emphasizes the importance of customers by providing useful, entertaining information that can help them, whether they buy from that company or not. It has brought to the forefront key concepts marketers should use throughout their strategies.

But content marketing is not panacea – it’s just one of many tactics you can use. As a firm, you need to craft a basic marketing strategy before implementing content marketing, social media marketing, advertising, SEO, or any other marketing tactic.