Are You Focused On Providing Value To Your Audience?

Posted 4/24/2015 3:48 PM by Jeff Julian

Have you recently read a headline of a post from a reputable source, but once you started to consume the information it failed to deliver on the promise?  Maybe it was too brief and you knew they just wanted to hit keywords or it used a click bait headline.  I know I have and it is frustrating.  Most of us only have a short amount of time available to sit down with a piece of content, whether that is a podcast, an article, or any other source of information and we wish there were a standards body or community quality filter to warn us. 

Now, I understand I just set myself up for your criticism because you are reading a piece of content that I hope will resonate and you will see as valuable.  If I fail to deliver on the promise of this headline, helping you find ways to make your content valuable to your audience, then I will have wasted your time that you could have used on another source.  No pressure at all.

So let’s get started.  With so much content available for consumption by your audience, it’s hard to make waves and set yourself apart from the others.  Finding your voice, ensuring you have the tools and discipline to create high quality assets, and knowing your audience are all prerequisites to the game.  These components will help you attract and build an audience, but the emotion they attach to your brand will be determined by the value you deliver.

In my previous post, I talked about what components make up a Content Item in Agile Marketing.  This article will focus on my favorite aspect and the heart of the content, the value. 

On a recent trip to the Carribean, I went on a photowalk by myself while everyone else went swimming with dolphins (nothing against the dolphins, I just like taking photos).  While walking through a makeshift market of tents and different types of island merchandise, I saw this lady in the picture below.  She maintained constant focus on her store to ensure it was being presented in the best way possible.  As marketers, we also need to keep our focus on the value promises we make with our content to ensure our audiences continue to hold us in high regard, and like her customers, feel refreshed after consuming.

Merchant in St. Thomas

What is Value?

Value is defined by Google as: the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something

While we are at it, here are some synonyms listed with value: worth, usefulness, advantage, benefit, help, and gain

When we focus on Content Marketing, the value we deliver is based on how much our audience feels it is worth.  The price of the content will determine who can get access and who doesn’t, but the value is applied by how they feel is based on the experience we deliver during the consumption of the content.  The better the experience is, the higher likelihood we will continue to have them in our audience. 

With a better experience, we will have a greater chance of them helping us build our audience through the sharing of our content with their audience.  Now we can see why How to Win Friends and Influencing People by Dale Carnegie is still popular today even though it was first released in 1934. 

Price is a Horrible Way to Demonstrate Value

Price can be good for helping setup an expectation of value, but if your content is part of a commodity market, outside factors take away that ability.  Take a book I reference often, Everybody Writes by Ann Handley.  This is an amazing book and I consider it a college course in 300 pages.  A college course like this would cost several thousand dollars, but out of it, you would be more prepared for your career.  If Wiley Business Books sold Ann’s book for several thousand dollars based on the value you would receive, it would not be on the New York Times Bestsellers list.  Instead, they sell if for less than $20 and thousands of people will read it. 

Most of our content lives in marketing of like commodities.  If we produce content in blog or article form, there is a very high likelihood it will be distributed for free.  If our content is a podcast, we can have premium access, but typically the subscription is less than $5 per month for most sites.  And if we create content in the form of a presentation, the price associated with access to the content is typically out of reach of the person creating the content. 

Real Value Is Determined After Your Experience

Just like Ann’s book, the value I associate with it was determine after the consumption of the content.  Because of my experience with the book, I share it with others often.  I have purchased copies for people, recommended it to several audiences at my in-person events, and even written a blog post dedicated to it.  I think it was the best book in 2014 and I am a fan of Ann’s. 

Ann didn’t stumble upon this content by sitting down and cranking it out, yet I think most marketers feel they can take this approach with the content they produce.  Ann thought about what her reader was going through, and produced a chapter dedicated to each problem she wanted to address.  Instead of writing a course book on becoming a better writer, she determined she would produce bite-sized chapters that would address a problem and present a solid solution.  The reader is taken on a journey and each chapter aims to sculpt your writing by exercising another skill.  Ann’s book is jammed packed full of value and the reader starts to have an emotional experience with the content.  They think about the problems they face, they read through Ann’s thoughts and insights on the problem and her advice on taking the next steps to a solution. 

Because Ann is willing to break the traditional rules and produce her content with a unique and authentic voice, you get the feeling she is sitting next to you and just having a chat over coffee. 

By the end of the book, if you ask the reader how much it is worth, it will be far greater than the Amazon or retail price.  But instead of paying Ann more money for the content after the experience, the reader will become loyal to future content, share their experience with their audience, purchase a ticket to a MarketingProfs event, and/or become a PRO membership to their system.  Content rules!

How Can My Content Provide Value?

We all want to produce content that will move the hearts of our audience and deliver an experience that exceeds their expectations.  Here are 3 tips you can use to help you plan:

  • Know Thy Audience – You absolutely must start with an understanding of who your target audience is.  In our previous example, Ann’s book would not do as well in a graduate level college program for future English professors as it is targeting marketers who do not have a writing background.  The title aims squarely at her audience by making the promise that anyone can write.  Persona exercises, interviews, social interaction, and becoming a member of some of the associations they are a part of will give them these insights.
  • Write Your Promises Down – Do not just start producing your content without a written commitment to provide a certain experience.  Listing what challenges you want to tackle, what feeling you want to trigger, or what knowledge you want to share will allow you to outline, produce, and review with the appropriate lens.  If you involve others in the production of your content, the team will be able to work toward a shared goal.
  • Determine How You Will Deliver On Your Promises Before You Start – Create a bulleted list of the ways you plan to deliver on the value promises.  Just like you have a good list of steps you will take before you start on a trip, list the points you will make and the key takeaways before you actually produce them.  These bullet points will act as a checklist during the production and review process to ensure you have done your best to create the promised value.

A Case Study

Recently I started working with a psychology and chiropractic practice to help them build a content strategy.  Their online content was the traditional brochure of service offerings that most websites are full of.  Some of their marketing efforts were traditional for their industry and I could see it was going to be hard for them to differentiate themselves as they grow into new markets.

During our initial persona exercises, I asked what prompts their customers come to them.  They stated that when a patient enters their office, they are struggling with something in their life.  This could be physical or mental pain, but it was to the point that they were ready to address it. 

If you are like me, light bulbs start to turn on at this point.  At the core of delivering value is understanding the desires of our audience.   If our target customer has to bring themselves to the point of reaching out for help through an office visit or the suggestion of a physician, then they most likely will not be looking for help before that.  This practice can address, through content, the struggles people face when dealing with mental and physical pain with a goal of delivering value through the relief of these struggles.  They will build loyalty and influence with an audience that has never entered their office.  With an audience like this, their practice can create alternative lines of revenue to help build their footprint as well as reach potential patients before they open a new location.  To do this, they must stop focusing their content on getting people into their existing service lines and instead focus on content that will deliver value that helps struggling people and that builds trust. 

Go forth and do likewise.