You likely hear this question every time you make a customer service call or order a meal, but how often do you ask this question as a marketer? Within this simple question lies the five core components of today’s most successful Internet marketing campaigns that are making companies the hot topics of their industries.

Help MemeAt its most basic level, the Internet is just a series of roads that deliver problem solving and entertaining content. Niche blogs and communities connect to search and social superhighways. This vast complex of interdependent roads has a simple purpose: deliver the right content to the right person at the right time, every time. If your brand can be the leading provider in your industry of this targeted content, you “win the Internet” and more customers than any company could ever hope to acquire. Like our mothers always said, “There’s no better way to build trust and brand awareness in an industry than by solving your customers’ problems with great content.”

This content mission sounds pretty straightforward, but its execution is not. Inbound marketers ranging from search and social media practitioners to online PR pros struggle with this mission every day. If you also struggle with producing relevant content for your prospects, try stepping back and asking the simple question, “How may we help you?” Let this question be your North Star. Let it get stuck in your head like a favorite song, and shout it from your digital rooftops.

Let’s break this question down into its finer parts so that we can better understand how to answer it. If you can answer these five components with confidence, it’s very likely your content marketing campaigns will be highly successful and earn the maximum media coverage from online press, social influencers and search engines.

How: What type of content?

Different prospect personas and online media outlets prefer different types of content. Sometimes the right content will be a short and sweet video for impatient personas, while other times a prospect’s problem can only be answered with a thorough and comprehensive eBook. The following four components will help you better determine the right type of content.

May: What inbound “permission” marketing channels?

No matter what you’re trying to market, interruptive YouTube commercials will probably not be the right channel to promote your problem solving content. Interruptive ads often frustrate Internet users, hurt your brand and kick things off on the wrong foot altogether. Forrester reports that approximately 90 percent of web traffic today comes from inbound, permission marketing channels, best defined by Seth Godin. The primary permission channels are online media outlets, digital communities, blogs, social media and organic search.

The best place to start is by creating content that will be shared by online media outlets, blogs and communities, because these are the places social influencers and search engines look to find content to further share. Figure out what channels and online media outlets your prospects frequent, and then tailor your content to them. A quick hint if you’re trying to get content shared on a popular industry blog is to find the blog’s most shared posts and look for their commonalities, such as topic and tone. Let these characteristics be a roadmap for your content and you greatly increase your odds of earning placement in the blog.

We: What authors or contributors?

Different topics will require different author skillsets. Most companies have internal subject matter experts on various topics relating to their industries and the problems their prospects and customers are trying to solve. Make sure you have the right authors contributing to or at a minimum, reviewing your content, so that you can be sure it’s going to resonate with its intended audience. Also, if you don’t have the right authors in-house, you can always look outside of your organization for the proper talent.

Help: What problem are you solving for your prospects?

Your content marketing efforts will undoubtedly fail if you’re not solving the right problem. Fortunately, with the right research, finding the right problem(s) to solve does not have to be a guessing game. You can use search engine keyword tools, social media listening and Q&A sites like Quora to figure out what questions are on the tips of your prospects’ tongues. You can even use an old-fashioned customer survey.

Regardless of your methods, figuring out what problem you’re solving with due research is a crucial component of any successful content marketing campaign. Also, never forget to make sure your content solves prospects’ problems in an entertaining way. To fully solve their problem, they have to actually want to continue reading your content. Lastly, problem solving content should not be a sales brochure. Sales literature does not normally get shared and can annoy users at the wrong stage of the buying cycle, so save the hardcore sales lit for your bottom-of-the-funnel landing pages.

You?: What prospect persona are you targeting?

“You” may be the last word in “How may we help you?”, but it’s your content marketing campaign’s starting point. Determining the right prospect persona to target and everything about them will help you correctly answer all of the other elements of your campaign. Essentially, you need to understand exactly who they are by defining their various demographics and preferences. Knowing your prospect personas forwards and backwards will ensure you better understand their problems, what types of content they prefer, and where they hang out online.

Many meteoric company success stories have been built on the backs of great problem solving web content. For example, Geek Squad, which grosses over $1 billion annually, credits much of its success to their hundreds of insightful web videos that help people fix their computers. If you’re looking to learn more about highly successful content marketing and earned media campaigns that answered the question, “How may we help you?”, with authority, check out Why Your Marketing Campaign Sucks and Online Marketing Success Gone Wrong.

If you’re really looking to become a pro at content marketing for earned media, be sure to pre-order Jay Baer’s new book, Youtility, or check out our newest resource, The Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Earned Media.