Great content connects—whether it’s in the form of an article (I usually save those for later), a podcast to listen to while driving, or a cool video to watch during your commute.

While I’ve been creating content for big-name brands for years now, when I look back on my work, there is one campaign I’m particularly proud of. On the surface it seemed simple. I was tasked with increasing the brand awareness of an international insurance company—but there was a catch. We had a limited marketing budget and were operating in a saturated market. 

We knew that if we tried to play our competitors at their own game, we wouldn’t have stood a chance. So, instead of claiming that our solutions were the best, we created a content platform that was useful and interesting for customers and potential customers. With this approach, we succeeded in gathering a large following. People were interested in the topics we addressed, which meant they were also likely to be interested in what we had to sell—and they began to move down the funnel.

The key to our approach was establishing ourselves as the go-to place for when people had doubts or problems that we could help solve. For me, that is the heart of a winning content strategy.

Building a successful content strategy

Every piece of content you put out must be informed by a vision and have a coherent message. In an era where we’re constantly bombarded with visual stimuli, creating beautiful content is not enough to stand out.

We are all becoming more immune to commercial messages, and as a result more of us are opting for JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) instead of having FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). People just don’t care if you are the best in the market or have organized an amazing weekend retreat for your employees—that is, unless they have a real connection to your brand. 

You have to give people something that they need; something they find useful or interesting. You need to talk to them; about them. Make them the center of attention. Only then will you be able to sell.

But how do you create great content? I follow these guidelines to achieve success:

1. Set your S.M.A.R.T. goals

What’s the purpose of your content? Do you want to bring visitors to your website? Do you want people to download a document? Are you trying to get leads for your business? If you don’t define S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals, you won’t know what success looks like. Oh, and don’t forget to measure everything—that’s the only way to find out if your strategy’s working and to improve it.

2. Define clear targets

You have to know your audience. Make sure to write down all the information you have about who you want to reach, create segments according to any parameter that you consider important for your business (demographics, stage of the marketing funnel, type of buyer, etc.), develop a customer persona for each of those segments and then create rich material that suits each segment. If you try to reach everyone with the same message, you’ll fail to be relevant. 

3. Choose your channels wisely

Ask yourself two things: Why should I push content on this specific platform? and Do I have the resources needed to manage this platform properly?

You’ll have to fight the urge (and sometimes pressure from other people) to be everywhere and to do everything. Choose your battles carefully. Each channel has its own quirks, and you probably don’t need to be present in all of them. 

Find out where your target audience is and then create the content. When doing this, you’ll need to ensure your messages are coherent between different channels, within the channels themselves, and also when moving from online to offline. If you say one thing on a display ad and then get a totally different pitch over the phone with a sales agent, people will get confused.

The Holy Trinity of content.

Great content should have (at least) three things: Consistency, relevancy and value. I call this the “Holy Trinity” of content.

Consistency: Content marketing is usually a long-term process, which means you’ll need to be consistent with your publishing calendar. And yes, you should definitely have a calendar. 

Relevancy: Make your content engaging by looking at the interests of your target audience, follow trends, look for what’s hot at the moment. Do you want people to see your content and think: Meh?

Value: People want solutions, whether an answer to a question, entertainment to pass the time or a product to fix something. If you provide something valuable, you’ll win over the audience. That means they’ll connect with you and might even become promoters, which is the best advertising you can get. 

This article was written by Rui Barbosa, a trilingual marketing and communications specialist from Portugal, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry. Currently, Rui is in charge of managing B2B marketing campaigns for a global supplier of industrial and electronic components in Spain and Portugal. He takes care of content, social media profiles, video production, translation and localization, and much more. Rui is also a freelance editor and translator at VeraContent. In his spare time, he drums in a rock band and travels at every opportunity.