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Companies are spending billions of dollars in content marketing—$145 billion in 2014 alone, according to one estimate. The hope is that the content they create leads to an increase in brand awareness or more customers and leads for the company. But with the incredible amount of blog posts, images, ebooks and videos being produced and shared on a daily basis, how can companies cut through the glut of content available?

That’s the billion-dollar question Michael Brenner, head of strategy at NewsCred, and Nick Stein, SVP of Marketing at customer intelligence platform provider Vision Critical, answer in the recent webinar The Secret Ingredient to Killer Content Marketing. Here’s a summary of top takeaways from the webinar:

  1. Customers and leads expect better content.

Social media, mobile technology and cloud-based apps have changed the way people consume content. Because of these technologies, the balance of power has shifted from companies to customers. The trust people once have in the brands and companies they relied on for information has eroded. That’s why, according to Stein, companies need to move beyond a one-way relationship that views customers as “consumers” and create a more meaningful connection.

The higher expectation of customers today is also influenced by the amount of content that’s available. One incredible stat about content marketing suggests that 4.75 billion pieces of content are shared on a daily basis. The volume and variety of content has raised expectations about the quality and reduced loyalty to brands. Companies need to create compelling content if they want to attract an audience and turn them into customers.

  1. Content marketing needs to provide value to the audience.

Useful content is key to getting content marketing ROI. The content that marketers produce need to address or solve problems that their target audience have.

“Companies need to be a source of insight,” said Brenner. He also quoted Ann Handley, chief content officer and founder of MarketingProfs, who said, “Take your brand out of the story and make your customer the hero.”

Ultimately, creating great content requires a consideration of both brand purpose and customer understanding. Marketers need to put the customer’s needs first and produce content that fulfills the needs of their target audience while still delivering value to your business.

  1. A more holistic customer understanding leads to better marketing.

The key to killer content marketing is a deeper understanding of the customer. Unfortunately most companies don’t have the mindset or the tools yet to become truly customer-centric. Often the approaches that companies use—big data, social media analytics and ad hoc surveys, for instance—treat customers as data points, not the individual humans that they truly are.

If you want meaningful insight from your customers you must know what, where and how much they buy. And you need to know why they buy. The best way to get a more complete picture, according to Stein, is to talk to your customers—to engage them in a two-way conversation on an ongoing basis.

Concluded Stein, “Stop assuming about your customers and start engaging with them.”

Why you need to embrace new customer-centric strategies

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