Creating marketing content for your target audience is the most powerful way to build relationships at scale. As organizations start to grow, it becomes impossible to maintain a 1:1 relationship with every customer and prospect. As much as we want to engage with everyone on a personal level, we simply can’t.

That’s why a content gap analysis is so important.

If you’re neglecting a persona or customer segment from your content strategy, you’ll miss out on key relationship-building opportunities. You’ll also create space for competitors to sweep in and forge bonds that could otherwise be yours.

If you’re not sure where to start with your content gap analysis, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Content marketing is a brand-new field, and the mechanics of an “audit” are the polar opposite of straightforward.

Here’s one simple blueprint that can point you in the right direction.

1. Start with Internal Qualitative Research

Your sales, account management, and customer support teams will have crucial roles in kickstarting the gap analysis process. Ask these team members to walk you through the following areas: prospect types, customer types, frequently asked questions, and industry challenges. This perspective will give you a stronger sense of who your customers are and what challenges they’re facing. You’ll start to get a sense of the themes you’re succeeding in addressing, as well as areas of opportunity.

2. Validate Step 1 with Direct Qualitative Research

When it comes to the content creation process, customer conversations are the ultimate form of research and intelligence. During these conversations, focus on listening and learning as much as possible: see what your target audiences care about, what’s missing from industry dialogue, and what your brand is doing well. Rather than striving for a “target number” or a “statistically significant sample” of conversations, look for patterns. Once you start to see the same commentary over and over, you’ll know you’ve reached the “right” threshold for responses.

As you’re leading these conversations, make sure you’re recording them. You can use your cell phone to record in-person conversations, and a service like UberConference to record phone-based discussions. Use a virtual assistant or transcription software to transcribe these conversations, and then mark them up. Use highlighters, pens, digital tools—anything that can help you visualize patterns.

Compartmentalize the content from your transcript into a set of patterns and trends. Create “buckets” of content based on theme or topic that you should be creating. You’ll reference this document later on in the process.

3. Take Inventory of What You Have

Ideally, you’ll have your content in a dedicated CMS or marketing content platform. You’ll also have a taxonomy that allows you and your team to tag, analyze, and find content by key elements, such as product line, geography, persona, buying stage, or theme. If you don’t have a taxonomy set up for content, figure out which fields matter most to your business. For example, do you want to make sure you have content that addresses every buying stage, persona, pain point, and geography?

Next, run a content audit. You’ll want to automate this process as much as possible. Pull past content and tag it by the fields you’ve identified as crucial for your company. If you aren’t working with marketing content software, use tools like the Content Auditor or Google Analytics to run a quick export of your blog content.

4. Compare Your Lists

Software like Kapost helps you tag and see all of your content gaps with a simple, visual grid, which can be sliced and diced by any of the fields you’ve identified as important for content. If you don’t have software to completely automate this process, take your lists from step 2 and cross-check them with your lists from step 3. Based on this analysis, you’ll have a clear understanding of what’s missing from your editorial calendar. Rank-order these gaps based on each one’s level of importance to your customer—you’ll want to rely on your notes from step 1 or re-engage your sales team to do this. Regardless of your approach, the goal of this step is to identify content categories that you should be creating.

This process will be iterative. Every time you reach a new milestone (for instance, an understanding of your content gaps), there will be an opportunity to dig deeper and learn more. Not to mention, you’ll also want to examine contextual factors, including SEO, syndication, and relationship-building opportunities.

The above blueprint will eliminate the “right” amount of noise and help you see where to focus your efforts. Always be learning, looking for areas of opportunity, and searching for ways to modify this approach to fit with your team’s workflow.

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Ritika Puri

About Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri is an entrepreneur who founded Storyhackers, a company that helps business create impactful and inspiring content programs. She enjoys writing about data, teaching others things that she’s learning, and helping other business owners succeed. In past lives, she built enterprise analytics programs and created revenue streams for an ad tech company. She is also an advisor to a mobile app startup, Sortly.