How to provide content that engages customers

While content has a number of purposes, those purposes cannot be achieved if the content does not engage the customer. That is, the content must generate interest and the best way to generate interest is to be relevant. Thus, research is the first step in any content marketing strategy.
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Engaging content is more than just telling an interesting story or commenting on the latest news, it must add value to the customers life in order to generate anything but a passing interest.  This means that your content must be customer centered.  It must reflect the customer's needs, wants and even emotions.  Ideally, it should supply the potential customer with the information that he or she can use.  It's also important to remember that it is the customer and not you who defines usefulness.  So, the first question that must be asked is what do you know about the people who have already purchased your product or services.  What was important to them?  What motivated them to buy?  In other words what problems did they come to you with that motivated them to buy from you?  Your present time customers are a tremendous resource.  The first step in drawing in future customers with content is to understand why your customers bought from you.

People often try to create engaging content by presenting what they think is important.  In reality, it's what the customer thinks that's important.  You can often get good information about importances from repeat customers because you must be doing something right that keeps them coming back.  It is highly unlikely that your repeat customers have problems that are unique only to them.  Which means that you can learn a lot about the needs and wants of potential customers by understanding your own satisfied customers.  The basic concept of good content is that it solves problems or, at the very least, helps people understand their problems.  It's up to the CMO and his or her team to understand the customer and what those problems are.

If you can address the customer's needs and wants then you have an excellent chance of engaging that customer in a positive way.  It's not necessary and indeed it's impossible to solve all problems with content.  But, it is possible to lighten the customer’s load a bit and then direct the customer to that product or service that can actually solve the problem.  Even if the customer walks away and doesn't  purchase, you have still communicated an important message. That message is "we've helped you and you can come back when you realize what you're up against”. It sometimes takes people a while to determine what they really need and as long as you have supplied even a partial solution, they will remember you.

There are a number of ways to gain insight into the needs of potential customers. These include but are certainly not limited to online or e-mail surveys, visiting forums and blogs where your target audience hangs out, and incentive driven questionnaires presented to customers following purchase.  And it's a good idea to integrate information capture into all marketing and sales efforts.

Competition for attention can be considerable and this is why it is important to invest in great content. Interestingly enough, one of the best ways to provide good content is to stop selling. Keep your marketing message mild and avoid aggressive sales techniques. The modern consumer is a rather jaded person who has heard it all before and prefers a company that knows what it's doing to one with a hefty pitch. Show that you know what you are doing by providing content that not only presents solutions, but also guides the discussion with thought leadership. Show that you know and your product or service will practically sell itself.

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