Back in 2014, Mark Schaefer introduced the world to content shock. The amount of content we can consume has been totally eclipsed by the amount of content we produce, he says. And production will only continue to grow.

In simpler terms, content marketing is getting harder. Marketers have more competition for the same finite amount of demand.

This situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon (or maybe ever). To succeed in content marketing, you need to find a way to sidestep content shock and make a meaningful connection with your audience.

Here’s how you can do that:

Build a Strategic Content Operation

The days when you can earn traffic by writing a weekly blog post are over. You still need to create content regularly, but that’s no longer enough.

You need to understand:

  • Who you’re writing for
  • The phase of the buying process they’re in
  • The information they need
  • Formats that best deliver the information

And more.

Successful content marketing needs an end-to-end plan for content that addresses the needs of your audience. That’s where content operations come in. It’s the set of processes, people, and technologies for strategically planning, producing, distributing, and analyzing content.

This systematic approach to content marketing helps you create content that stands out from the crowd. That grabs readers’ attention despite the content shock they’re feeling.

So, how do you go about doing that? How do you put your content operation to use in defeating content shock? Let’s look at the steps you need to take to build that operation.

Understand Customer Needs Better Than Anyone Else

As a long-time freelancer, I’ve had a lot of clients come to me and say, “Here’s something that we think is interesting—write a blog post about it.” My first question is always the same: “Will your readers think it’s interesting?”

The answer, after some reflection, is often, “No.” And that’s where many content campaigns go wrong.

It’s also one of the driving forces behind content shock. Companies spew out blog posts as fast as they can on anything they think might be interesting.

That’s why so many blog posts go unread.

Successful content operations start with the needs of the reader. And not a nebulous, homogenous reader that encompasses everyone who might come to your site. When defining what readers need, “to find out more information about our product” isn’t a good answer.

Each individual is coming to your site looking for information relevant to their situation. That means every reader’s needs are unique. However, you can’t create unique content for everyone, so you’ll need to split it up into categories.

The most common tool for solving this problem is the buyer persona. Your buyer personas should be human-centric and encapsulate the needs of potential customers. When combined with a buyer’s journey map, you’ll have a good idea of which content will help your reader. (Speaking with your sales team is another great way to find out what prospects are looking for.)

Even taking a few minutes to do this for each piece of content will help you stand out in a world filled with noise. Millions of pieces of content are written for no one in particular, and your reader will be appreciative when they find something that’s been written specifically for them.

Build Authority with Consistency

When someone needs information, they go to an authority. Content-savvy consumers know that there’s a huge amount of content out there and that not all of it is worth reading. If you’re considered an authority, potential customers will come to you when they have questions.

And that makes content marketing a whole lot easier.

Yet building authority is a challenging, long-term process. And it starts with consistency. The more you publish, the more likely people are to see your content (just don’t focus solely on consistency—that’s why content shock is happening in the first place).

Creating a consistent schedule requires support from multiple teams in your company. Your marketing team needs to consistently create great content. Sales need to keep marketing up to date on what buyers are looking for. Customer support and customer success need to be vocal about the content they need.

Adopting the model of content operations will help you build an editorial calendar that’s manageable, valuable, and builds authority.

And don’t forget that your content should be useful, too. Teach your readers things that will help them in their buyer’s journey, and you’ll become a go-to source of information for your subject area.

Create Content for the Entire Funnel

Content marketers are great at filling the top of the sales funnel. Much of the content available targets readers in the awareness stage.

But many content marketing campaigns drop off after that. They don’t help buyers in the consideration or decision stages, and they certainly don’t target customers who have already bought the product or service being sold.

That’s a mistake.

Every potential customer is important—even if they’re also a current customer. These groups are often underserved by content marketers, and creating content specifically for them helps you stand out in a world of content shock.

So, what kinds of content can you create for current customers? It might be blog posts on how to best use your product. But there are other options, too, including:

  • Support articles
  • Upselling resources for your salespeople
  • Videos that outline how to do common tasks
  • Guides and eBooks that answer common questions

The important thing is to remember that your content marketing operation can target your entire sales funnel. Including current customers.

Have a Plan for the Lifecycle of Content

Do you write blog posts and then completely forget they exist? You’re not alone. Content marketers are constantly juggling tasks, and it’s easy to get into the publish-and-move-on habit.

Content has an entire lifecycle. And if you’re not planning for it, you’re missing out.

It starts even before you write the content. So, what can you do to prepare? You can reach out to experts (laying the groundwork for future distribution), conduct a survey, or get in touch with potential customers to ask what would be most useful for them.

After you publish, you’ll need to distribute your content (if you’re not sure how to do that, check out these three companies that are nailing their content distribution).

Monitoring analytics is a part of the content lifecycle, too. Effective monitoring means you can see which content is most valuable to your readers and capitalize on it in the future.

You can also republish your content in different formats. A blog post can become a video. A podcast can become an infographic. A SlideShare presentation can become an email newsletter.

Getting more out of every piece of content makes your content operation more efficient.

Ask of Every Piece of Content: How Will This Stand Out?

When content shock is overwhelming—and likely to get more so—your content needs to stand out. Publishing a weekly blog post doesn’t cut it anymore. Instead, you need a strong content operation and plans on how you’re going to establish authority and capture readers’ attention.

So, before you publish a single piece of content, ask yourself this question: How will this stand out from what else already exists?

It might be that it targets a keyword no one else is targeting. Or that it covers a topic in more depth than anyone else has done in the past. Maybe it’s a new content format that’s underutilized. Or it exhibits unique thought leadership.

No matter how you plan on standing out, have a plan before you publish. That’s how you sidestep content shock and build an engaged, committed audience.

Dann Albright

About Dann Albright

Dann helps companies build content marketing operations and positive marketing ROI—but he likes to think that he just plays with words for a living. Find out more about him at his website.