Planning and creating content is hard, but if done right it can generate great results for your business. But what is it that makes content succeed or fail? How do you engage your audience in a way that delivers on KPIs?

This post is inspired by a content marketing conference, AdTech Content Collective, which myself and a colleague recently attended. The following are my personal key takeaways from a range of insightful case studies that were presented, including shout-outs to my favourite talks of the day. Here we go with my view of the four keys to content (marketing) success!

#1 Be Authentic

Iconic brands like Apple and Red Bull are successful because they each have a distinct personality and live and breathe their brand values. They don’t sell a product; they sell a lifestyle, and that’s what makes people love those brands. I think Simon Sinek hit the nail on the head when he said that you have to find your ‘why’ to inspire action (if you haven’t yet, please watch his TED talk.) The following graphic also sums it up really well:

Graphic via UserOnBoard

People buy better versions of themselves, not the product itself. This is true not only for high-end products, but any product really. Even when you’re selling washing powder, what you should actually be selling is the vision of how great the buyer will feel when/after using your product, e.g. for this example, show a person that loves the new smell of their clothes when they come out of the wash!

The best example of this at AdTech Content Collective was presented by Christophe Eymery, ‎Head of Digital and Media at L’Oréal ANZ. He spoke about the brand’s award-winning MakeUp Genius App. From the vision to the execution, the app is quite amazing, so it’s not surprising that it turns users into loyal customers and advocates of L’Oréal.

Slide from Christophe Eymery at AdTech Content Collective Sydney

How can you achieve authenticity?

Stop trying to appeal to everyone. Start by identifying your dream customers. Who are they? What are their goals? Who do they want to be and why? Initiate your planning phase by defining your ideal customer personas and clear goals of what you want to achieve with your content.

#2 Be Helpful

Genuinely caring about and listening to your customers can go a long way. Word of mouth is insanely powerful (but unfortunately very hard to measure). Identify your customers’ pain points: what situation prompted them to research your product? What problem did your product solve for them? What questions are they asking? Listen and answer, and offer genuine help.

Valerie Khoo from Australian Writers’ Centre addressed this very point in her talk, in which she described how she built up her company over the past 10 years. One thing she did was send out a newsletter with tips and advice to potential customers. This helped build her personal brand authority and awareness in the industry. She also runs a weekly podcast and repurposes content across different channels e.g. one podcast transcript will be turned into 3 blog posts, combined with other transcripts it might be turned into an eBook, and so on. Don’t be afraid to try new things with your content.

How can you be helpful?

Start by simply listening to your customers. This can be as easy as digging through social media posts and online forum discussions, or speaking to your customer service and sales departments. Uncover commonly asked questions and aim to address them with your content.

#3 Have Meaning

This ties in a lot with authenticity. Doing something for the greater good or for people in need will inspire others to do the same, and people love a brand that has powerful purpose behind it.

Best example at AdTech: Sebastian Terry, who started his ‘100-things’ project initially to set and achieve goals for himself. The whole thing has since turned into a massive mission to help others — completely by accident.

How can you put meaning behind your content?

Support a good cause. That can be doing something to help the environment, giving a hand to people in need, or simply making a customer’s wish come true and writing or making a video about it. But make sure your organization can commit to the cause — there’s no being wishy-washy about this.

#4 Entertainment

With this one, you want to address your audience’s pleasure points (as opposed to pain points). Delight them by being entertaining: tell a story, be funny, be informative, and deliver content that speaks to and connects with your audience.

Ryan Wilson from Bonds calls it ‘advertaining’. Bonds has achieved great results with its Bells to Bondi Road Tripcampaign where it teamed up with Bondi Harvest to leverage existing brand loyalty to expand their own audience. The campaign captured ‘Aussie heritage’ in the five-part series, in which the two guys behind Bondi Harvest, Guy Turland and Marl Alston, travel from from Bells Beach in Victoria all the way to Bondi Beach.

How can you entertain your audience?

This one is probably the hardest. It comes down to first figuring out what makes your audience ‘tick’ and find a way to connect with them on that point through your content. The trick is: whatever you produce, it needs to be authentic and relevant to both your brand and the audience.

Conclusion

There are many, many more fantastic examples of brands doing content marketing well, including Red Bull’s Stratosand Air New Zealand’s Safety Defenders. But, you don’t need a massive budget to engage your audience online. Look at YouTube stars like Jenna Marbles who certainly did not start out with a huge budget and managed to build a huge audience by using what resources she had coupled with her authentic personality. Just don’t forget that you are marketing to real people.