This weekend I had the good fortune to present at the Minnesota Blogger Conference where nearly 300 local bloggers gathered to learn, get inspired and network.
For my part, I gave a presentation on how blogs are still an incredibly useful tool for marketing. Keeping the reason for blogging top of mind as well as empathy for reader preferences in how they find, consume and act on information are essential if a blog author expects marketing outcomes from their efforts.
When a blog or any content hub can become “the best answer” for the topics that are important for buyers, the return on blogging goes way, way up. One way to execute a content plan to become known as an authority is through topic targeting.
For experienced multi-channel and integrated marketing pros, this kind of approach is going to be fairly common. But for the vast majority of bloggers, whether they be corporate or enthusiasts, the shift from writing for yourself (or your brand) to writing to satisfy specific audience needs is a fundamental shift.
Topic targeting starts by answering a few key questions:
- How do you want to be known? How do you want your product or service to be known? What are you, your brand, product or serve the “best answer” for? That singular distinction is essential in order to stand out.
- What questions relevant to your area of expertise do buyers have? What information do they need in order to move from curiosity to specific interest to transaction?
As you come to find the sweet spot between how you want to be known and what customers care about, that’s the focus of your topic targeting plan.
Topic targeting is an approach that involves creating resources, experiences and connections that result in an undisputed affinity between a target topic and your brand.
On a large scale for large companies, this is essentially brand marketing. For a small or medium business without massive budgets or resources, these 3 phases below represent a practical approach to becoming the “best answer” wherever customers are looking.
When starting out from a position without prominent authority on your desired topic, one of the most effective ways to close the gap between where you are and where you want your brand to be is to connect with those that already have the authority and community you desire. Recognizing topical influencers in a creative and qualitative way with an emphasis on inspiring readers to think in new ways about the topic is a good start. Co-creating content with topic influencers is also particularly effective. Your target topic will drive which influencers you engage with, the questions and interactions you have, and the titling of the resulting content.
Additional inspire tactics include speaking events that are “on topic” in the conference scope, track and/or title of your presentation. Social engagement promoting target topic content and events should also align. Comments made on industry articles (blogs and online magazines) are also opportunities to create affinity. Blogging about the target topic from different perspectives (what would a buyer need to know from start to finish) is also an effective directed content effort that will contribute to becoming the best answer.
Lastly, a limited number of guest posts on relevant, high profile blogs and contributed articles to industry magazines and websites on your target topic will provided added support for your brand and the target topic.
Anticipation is a gateway to topical authority. Continuing to blog on the target topic and growing influencer relationships will lead to even more community engagement opportunities. Consistent creation of useful and entertaining blog content as well as alignment with industry influencers will create a very powerful mental state amongst your blog readers: anticipation. A community that can’t wait to see what you’re going to publish next will be instrumental for amplifying content and stimulating new perspectives on your target topic. That desire leads to advocacy, evangelism and scale for reaching a target audience in a highly credible way.
Demand for information and expertise leads to demand for your solutions. As authority is built on your target topic represented by the content you create on your own websites, third party references to your brand as an authority, growth of your community around the topic and advertising activities, there are several opportunities to show more tangible evidence of expertise: Some examples include:
- Case studies
- Definitive topic resource/guide
- Events – online and off
- Industry survey and report (annual)
- Lists recognizing experts in the topic (annual or quarterly)
All of these tactics provide opportunities for readers to move from awareness and learning about the topic (with your brand at the forefront) to consideration and action – leads and transactions. Consumers increasingly expect to be able to educate themselves to a purchase decision and making it easy to find, experience and act on your content isn’t just good content marketing, it’s what buyers want.
Specificity is essential with topic targeting as are patience and persistence. This is an earned achievement that also needs to be maintained. But once consensus and momentum are achieved, the ability to attract those actively seeking what you have to offer will expand the value of your content beyond lead generation and sales to other means of monetization – sponsorships, advertising, syndication.
To apply the approach mentioned in this post will require some homework – research in your market or industry to see what kinds of content and messages resonate with the target audience. That’s where the audience Discovery, Consumption and Action model for understanding your audience comes in to play. It is also a continuous effort that can start simply and scale based on what works and what doesn’t.
But the most important thing if all, is to start: How do you want to be known? How does that fit with what your customers want to know?