Content marketing is all about an organization’s understanding of the customer. If you know your customer, great things can happen. If you don’t, good luck! Knowing your customers’ deep-rooted wants, needs, and pain points gives you the opportunity to create, not just something that wows your customers, but an event that actually changes behavior.

To make this happen, here are seven important strategies you need to be employing now.

Dedicate editorial resources

Dedicate one person or group to the editorial content you create. Whether this is an internal communications specialist or a contracted team of experts, your organization must have a focus on creating great content for customers and prospects that is not about your products or services. Many organizations find someone here and there, without that person having a deep understanding of the customer. You need a person on your team who knows their role… and can work within the silos in the organization to get everyone on the same page. Think Chief Content Officer.

Make internal a priority

Almost all content marketing articles and discussions revolve around externally based content programs — think programs for lead generation or top-of-the-funnel activity. Yes, talking to our customers and prospects in a way that values them is of utmost importance, but often we forget about the stakeholders that can have the greatest overall affect on our brand — employees. Be sure you set up long-term, consistent internal communications programs. Samples would be internal newsletters, forums, blogs, and other employee communities like Yammer.

Invest in design

Nothing can discourage a customer from engaging in your material more than bad packaging. Be sure to use creative designers who have a solid understanding of user behaviors (user experience), likes and dislikes. Remember, after bad content, nothing hurts the readership of a magazine more than a poorly designed cover. You can’t get anyone to change behaviors if they don’t even pick it up and turn the page.

Let your content go free

Take your advice from Google on this one… for any search on Google, there are generally 10 results on the first page. Of those results, you can own a maximum of two of those results, at best. But let’s get greedy. Don’t you want all 10 results? Of course you do.

To get dominating search results, you need to spread your content around the web wherever your customers are at. Some examples include:

  • Repurposing blog posts into Slideshare presentations
  • Submitting guest posts to sites that draw in your customers
  • Have brand experts engage in outside webinars
  • Develop news releases and submit those to sites like PR Newswire
  • Create content partnerships with non-competitive sites. Share investment and resources to tag team pillar pieces of content.

For every story idea, begin to think of at least 10 different ways you can leverage that story as part of your content marketing strategy.

Turn poor-performing content into a positive

First, make sure you always have feedback channels. Second, once you decide, don’t hold back. Even if there is negative feedback, use it to listen to your customers and improve your content product. Recently, CMI held a webinar that some people liked, while others loathed it. I received feedback directly through Twitter, Facebook, my email, and on someone’s blog post (I was listening). In each case, I responded to the person and had some back-and-forth discussion. In all cases, I think they became stronger supporters of CMI and our community. The lesson: Poor content can spur positive results if you have the right feedback loops.

Focus on your niche

The best media companies in the world, at one time or another, focused on one niche that they could be the best in the world at. Start out with niche content and build from there. If your organization hasn’t been great at content, don’t try to do all things at once. Concentrate on an area you can truly focus and deliver targeted, valuable content to a segment of your customers. Find your content marketing hedgehog. Once you’re successful there, move on.

Experiment

Don’t get stuck in the same old delivery channels. Your customers are experimenting with all kinds of devices. Go where your customers are and try some different outlets. As long as it’s great content, your customers will never hold it against you. The key: Have a clear understanding of why you are using each channel. In other words, each channel needs to have a goal. Make sure the entire team working on that particular channel knows the goal, and reviews the KPIs for that goal on a regular basis.