What good are the best tools if you don’t know how to use them?

Rebecca Lieb is an analyst, author, and advisor researching content marketing, content strategy, and digital marketing — and one of the most insightful minds in marketing today. You’ve probably encountered her groundbreaking marketing research before, and you’ve almost certainly encountered her Thanksgiving turkey analogy for content atomization, which I mentioned in this post among many others.

But despite content marketing’s growth in recent years, Rebecca argues that many companies still lack a fundamental element of great content: strategy.

Content marketing may be one of the most powerful marketing tools available, yet companies often cut corners when it comes to strategy, blindly heading straight into content creation.

On this week’s episode of the Marketing Cloudcast — the marketing podcast from Salesforce — we discuss why strategy should always comes first, the new trend toward contextual marketing, and the modern customer experience.

Check out the episode here:

So how can you create new content with the right amount of strategy and forethought? Here are three questions you should always ask before creating a new piece of content, based on our conversation with Rebecca.

1. How does this help our company meet our goals?

“What I see when I look out there in the world is a lot of companies — an alarming number of companies — committing content marketing without first grounding themselves in content strategy.” -Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca explains, “Seventy percent of organizations don’t have a content strategy, even though pretty close to 100%” are creating content these days. To create carefully crafted content that resonates with audiences, she urges organizations to make a clear game plan. That plan should articulate your company’s top priorities and the metrics to achieve them.

2. Do we have shiny object syndrome?

“Just as the news cycle is 24/7, so too do brands feel under the gun to continually produce content.” -Rebecca Lieb

When you evaluate your content strategy, Rebecca advises that you search carefully for shiny object syndrome: jumping into every new content platform just because it’s new.

As marketers, we’re tempted to jump quickly into new platforms because they’re exciting, and it feels like all our customers are suddenly there. (Pokemon Go, anyone?)

Unfortunately, you have no business creating content for a new platform if you don’t know how to use it, or if it doesn’t fit with your customers’ experience with your brand. You probably don’t need to produce content as often as a news outlet if you’re not actually reporting journalism. That leads us to the next question.

3. Does this content make sense in the customer’s context, not just within our campaign?

“The customer experience is now paramount and has completely trumped advertising.” -Rebecca Lieb

Many companies are creating content based on their own campaign goals without sufficient respect for where that content fits in the customer’s journey. Rebecca spoke about a contextualization that has been happening in our connected and mobile world.

She said, “It’s not just contextualized marketing, because you know where that customer is and where and why and what they’re doing. It’s contextual because you have the 360-degree view. It’s matching up real-time, in-the-moment marketing with the storehouse of historical data that you have on their journey, and how they got there and what they did before they got there.”

This allows companies to send highly personalized messages and create journey-specific content.

Of course, creating content for every stage of the customer journey is no easy feat. It’s a growing process, and marketing teams will need special resources to pull it off. “It really does require new skill sets, new technologies, new technology integrations, and new vendor and agency relationships,” says Rebecca. As of yet, most brands aren’t there today. But that’s where Rebecca sees the industry heading.

Want more from our conversation with Rebecca Lieb (@lieblink)? Get the complete low-down on content marketing from one of the world’s greatest content analysts in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.

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