Understanding what your customers want means putting yourself in their shoes, knowing their problems and offering solutions. Working to first educate your audience goes a long way toward positioning the sell.

“When you freely give your audience something so valuable that they’d be willing to pay for it, you build trust, which ultimately, is your most powerful selling tool,” according to Marketo’s “Definitive Guide to Engaging Content Marketing.”

Here are five tips for content marketing when your company’s product or service is intangible, complex or just downright boring.

1. Don’t talk about your product.

Companies might think they have to talk about their products and services in their content marketing — they don’t.

“They need to focus on the problems that buyers have. They need to focus on the challenges that their customers have. They need to focus on the problems that their products and services can solve,” said David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR and Newsjacking. “There are so many things that you can do if you can clearly articulate what the challenges are of the people who have the problem that your boring products solve.”

2. Identify your target audience’s needs and pain points.

Your message must be consistent not only with your brand, but also the type of customer you want to reach. Buyer personas are profiles of the type of customer you want to do business with based on research. When you have that profile hammered out, it’s much easier to develop content and messaging to that personal profile.

“There are some products that are ideal for social media platforms and others that are a perfect fit for very technical and specialized blogs. The key to any content marketing initiative is to first clearly identify the target audience and recognize the best ways to reach that specialized audience,” said Marie Alonso of Miles Technologies.

3. Apply those customer’s needs to your content marketing efforts.

Once you have identified what your customer is seeking and the problems they’re trying to solve, that goes a long way toward narrowing your focus and message.

“I think that every other competitor is going to be talking about their products or services, but if you instead are focused on the buyers, then you’re going to stand out accordingly,” Meerman said.

For example, calls-to-action are often a big missed opportunity to understand your audience and provide value. As Paul Cheney clearly states in his Marketing Experiments blog post, “A call-to-action should be an act of customer service.”

Although figuring out how to improve poor CTAs might be challenging, the pay off is tremendous.

4. Provide value.

The hard-sell approach is not going to work with content marketing. Instead you must be useful by listening to your customer, engaging with them and providing value. This is the only way to gain footing and reach with your targeted audience.

“You should understand who your buyers are and understand what challenges they have and engage accordingly. The last thing you want to do is pitch your products. It’s not going to work,” Meerman said.

5. Content marketing is only as good as the effort put into it. 

The cliché “garbage in, garbage out” also holds true with content marketing. Alonso said any content marketing and brand publishing campaign is only as successful as its creators’ level of creativity and commitment.

Ideas Are Scary by General Electric via YouTube

“A company that sells tires, a business that sells corporate calendars and a popular bakery can have the same degree of social media success — it takes creativity. Social campaigns can include photo contests, games, live events, podcasts, hashtag engagement and blog posts that reflect the attitudes, interests and trends that connect with a given audience. While it may be easier to have fun with more mass appeal products, there really is no limit to what a creative social media and overall brand publishing campaign can achieve,” she said.

Alonso pointed out how General Electric is engaging its audience with posts that talk about technology, trends, innovation and science on multiple platforms. She also mentioned BIC, whose lighters and pens may seem limiting from a marketing perspective.

“Take a look at…some of the fun, vivid and visual campaigns and promotions BIC is fueling, not to mention clever social media. A company – even a seemingly boring business in a dry market with arguably dull products – can be a content marketing player with the right balance of brand storytelling, customer engagement and cross-platform creativity,” she said.

The “Body Language” collection by BIC Design on Fire via Facebook

We love to see brands adopting content marketing. Check out our favorite brands on YouTube and the companies killing it with millennials. You can also learn more about ScribbleLive here.