Expert Q&A Series Part 1: Matt Pfluger Talks Content Development Best Practices

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with our very own Vice President of Digital Strategy, Matt Pfluger, to discuss exactly how crucial content development is in this ever-changing consumer landscape. Joining us in late January 2014, Matt has brought with him a wealth of information and experience.

To avoid the all-too-common pitfalls in content development, Matt shared with me some of his insights and best practices.

Julia: What would you say is at the core of your content strategy?

Matt: Value creation. Content strategy and the resulting development is no small task, so before starting there needs to be a conscious focus on developing content that your target audience will find valuable. This approach is even more important for B2B organizations with complex product/service offerings appealing to multiple buying influences within an organization. If your content is too homogenous, or too generic, you miss valuable opportunities to engage with different audience segments. And worse, may find yourself dismissed as irrelevant. With value at the core of your strategy, the focus becomes creating content that will benefit your target audience segments by providing insight, tools or advice that will help them do their job better. Achieving this means bolstering your audience segments’ opinion of your brand and laying a foundation for continued interaction.

Julia: What is one thing that truly vexes you about certain content?

Matt: When marketers employ a one-size-fits-all product push as a “content strategy.”  You don’t have to look far to find examples of this approach, which amounts to a brand distributing the same brochure or sell sheet in the same format to a broad audience across all owned media, including web, social and CRM.

Julia: Why is it important to steer clear of a one-size-fits-all approach? 

Matt: It misses the point in a few different ways. First, most brands have multiple audiences with different needs and motivations. Presenting content in a singular way isn’t going to resonate with everyone. By not thinking about how to hone content for different audiences and buying influences, brands miss an opportunity to connect with a larger audience.

Second, a one-size-fits-all approach typically leads to homogenized content. Taking a brochure or sell sheet and trying to write it in a way that applies to everyone, often produces something so high-level and broad it’s not especially meaningful for anyone, or worse, it’s boring.

Finally, this type of approach generally leads to content that lacks empathy with the audience. It may talk about product feature or service benefits, but will fall short of striking a chord with the audience.

Julia: What brand do you think is doing a good job with their content strategy?

Matt: A good example of a brand doing it well is Home Depot. Their core business is to sell hardware and raw goods for home improvement. And, they could easily stick with a mass media approach of broadcast advertising complemented with FSIs and coupons, both of which they do very well to begin with. In complement however, they have a robust content strategy plan that includes how-to guides, video product reviews, user feedback, idea generators, room visualizers, video tutorials and in-person workshops. All of these have a specific audience in mind and are designed not only to educate and promote specific products, but to help their individual audiences visualize how the Home Depot can help them realize their home improvement goals.

Julia: Is there a right way to repurpose content?

Matt: While it’s possible to repurpose content, a better way to think about it would be around how different content types can be created from the same source idea. So, rather than jumping straight to writing an e-mail or brochure about a singular topic, start with the topic itself and figure out all the key points you want to make (ease of use, ROI, competitive advantage, etc.), then determine different ways these ideas can be expressed. An ROI point may be best articulated via an eBook and infographic combination, whereas ease of use may benefit from a demo video. Try to create as many content pieces as you can (while still keeping them valuable) and you’ll have the ability to talk about the topic over a longer period of time and in more interesting ways.  

Julia: What is your content development golden rule?

Matt: Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself, “Is this content we’re creating going to be valuable to me?” And, answer it honestly. Consumers are driven by the thought, “What’s in it for me?” and need to believe that there will be a payoff before they engage with a piece of content that comes across their view (via e-mail, social, web search, etc.). If you aren’t giving them something that’s going to resonate with their current situation, then all your efforts will be for naught.

So, next time you sit down to fill in the empty drawing board of your content strategy, stop and think about the consumer and remember, after all, they are and always will be the driving force behind your content creation efforts.

If you have questions regarding content development or marketing tactics, please feel free to tweet questions to Matt (@pflugs) or contact us.