Monday, February 22, 2010

Content Marketing Basics: First Understand How You Create Value

The first step in creating an effective content marketing program is to identify and describe all of the significant ways that your products or services create value for customers.  Creating buyer personas, describing the stages of your customers' buying process, and developing content for each buyer persona and for all stages of the buying cycle are all essential steps in building an effective content marketing program.  But I contend that it's critical to start with a thorough understanding of how your products or services create value for customers.

Knowing how your products or services create value tells you what issues and problems you can help customers solve and what benefits customers can gain by using your products or services.  When you combine this knowledge with good buyer personas and then apply good content marketing principles, you can create exceptional marketing content.

To develop a complete picture of how your products or services create value, you should assemble a cross-functional team and construct a customer value matrix for each of your product or service offerings.  The team should include both marketing and sales personnel and could also include customer service and other support personnel.

The first step in building a customer value matrix is to identify all of the reasons that people might have for purchasing a product or service like yours.  These reason-to-buy statements should describe a basic need, issue, or pain point and the logical explanation for the need, issue, or pain.  The best format for reason-to-buy statements is I or We want or need to do something because of some reason.  Be sure to include reason-to-buy statements for all of the people (or groups of people) in the customer organization who would be significantly affected by your product or service.  This broad-brush approach will help you identify the people who will make or influence the decision to purchase your product or service and the buyer personas you will need to create.

Once you have listed all the reasons to buy, add the following information for each reason.

Affected Parties - Who is affected by the need, issue or problem described in the reason to buy?  Who has the most to gain if the need, issue or problem is resolved, and who has the most to lose if it isn't?  Use job titles or job functions to describe the affected parties.

Desired Outcome - The specific results that the affected parties want to achieve with respect to the reason to buy.  The desired outcome will resolve the need, issue, or problem described in the reason to buy.

Solution Component - The specific features or functions of your solution that will resolve the issue described in the reason to buy and enable the desired outcome.  This can be an attribute or feature of the product or service, a characteristic of how you produce or deliver the product or service, or a particular capability that your company possesses.

Value Measure - The specific way that your product or service creates value with respect to the reason to buy.  Your solution can create measurable value by enabling the customer to reduce existing costs, avoid future costs, or increase revenues.  Your task here is to identify the specific kinds of costs that will be reduced or avoided or the kinds of revenues that will be increased.

Building a complete customer value matrix takes time and effort, but when it's done right, the matrix will provide a comprehensive picture of how a product or service creates value.  And understanding how a product or service creates value provides the foundation for an effective content marketing effort.

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