Start by listening deeply: The 8-Step Honner content model to connect, converse and convince

Craig Morris, 16 May 2019

Our blog last week Far from the Madding Crowd – outlined how brands are increasingly grappling for a share of voice to effectively engage their target audiences as content marketing reaches a saturation point.

The Honner Content Team has pulled together a bumper outline of what a firm needs to do to transform their content marketing process. The Honner infographic: Turning Content Marketing into Conversations details the key steps to executing a winning content marketing program and how to nurture a conversation with your customers. A good conversation always starts with listening.

Over the next eight weeks we will put the spotlight on each key stage, outlining key strategies and tips to maximise each step. This week we’re focusing on the first stage: Listen Deeply. Many firms skip this stage, relying on their gut instincts and jumping straight to execution. Unfortunately, they often end up building content programs around what is important to them rather than their customers.

If you get this listening stage right, it will allow you to provide that fresh angle and ensure your program is truly grounded in dealing with the pain points of your customers. It will also ensure your content program is crafted with an awareness of your competitor strategies.

Strategies to use at the listening stage:

  1. Develop customer personas. Firstly, identify your different customer groups (e.g. individual investors, retirees, financial advisers, institutional investors, for-purpose firms and influencers such as asset consultants). Start to map the key concerns, challenges and pain points against each of the personas. Also outline the different publications and channels these personas are using to consume content and undertake research.


  1. Interview your employees. Mine the insights from those internal resources who are close to the client/market to gain their views on what they are hearing from clients. They should be able to give you first-hand insights on the key pain points that drive decision making.


  1. Create a Customer Advisory Board (co-operative content). A great way to get an inside look into your customers’ minds and opinions is to set up a Customer Advisory Board. This is made up of key customers and influencers. It is designed to listen to customers (not sell) and can help you shape the research agenda as well as other initiatives, such as product development or competitive intelligence. This works particularly well for institutional asset management clients and independent financial advisers – and also provides a networking opportunity for participants.


  1. Get to know your enemy. Today you can get a lot of transparency into your competitors’ content strategies. Check out your competitors’ websites and social media profiles to get a sense of what they’re producing and sharing.


  1. Have your fingers on the pulse: Gathering customer insights is essential to any winning Content Marketing program. But you also need to ensure these insights are in real time to be nimble and respond quickly to new pain points or new events. The most successful content pieces are often those that are first to provide insight into a recent issue or event. But in order to do this, you need to be able to pick up on these new themes or be prepared when a key event occurs (e.g. market correction, interest rate change). Timing is critically important.


  1. Undertake keyword research. Keywords reflect the voices of your audience. Search queries are effectively a vote that yells “I want content about this topic!”. It’s important to do some effective keyword research as it impacts where your brand ranks in online searches. You can simply do a Google search on key terms that are important to your firm and customers. Look at how your competitors rank relative to your own firm. If they rank higher, check how they are optimising their content for search. Also check out some of the tools available online, below, in the tips section of this blog.


  1. Newsjacking. Again, timing is everything. So, take time to monitor the stories that are trending and gaining key media traction now. Be nimble or opportunistic and start to write about those topics. Newsjacking is defined as ‘the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed’. But don’t just jump on the bandwagon – look to add some fresh perspective and more value to the story.


  1. Undertake A/B testing on headlines: Did you know that 8 out of 10 searchers will read headline copy before clicking a post, but only 2 out of 10 will actually read the post (Copyblogger)? A/B testing can you help to identify what messages convert most effectively. So, test two different types of headlines and see which one performs better. If you want some inspiration try a headline generation tool like portent.


  1. Mind the emotional gap: According to a harvard business review article, “when companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge”. It is no longer sufficient to read the initial comments, qualitative data and insights from customer surveys. But identifying these emotional motivators is difficult, because customers themselves may not even be aware of them. You need to unlock the attitudes, emotions and intent of your customers – you need to understand the ‘why’, or the context. These could be factors like ‘protecting the environment’, ‘be the person I want to be’ and ‘feeling secure’. This context is essential to identifying specific customer pain points, addressing them, and feeding back to customers material that will connect with them at a deeper, emotional level.


  1. Incorporate insights from metrics: Being able to analyse metrics on the performance of your existing content can help you learn from the past and shape the type of content you want to produce in the future.

Honner tips and tools to play with

  • buzzsumo is a one of the top social media analytics tools to gain insights on how prospective clients find your content, how you can lead them to your content using SEO, and when it’s best to publish content. BuzzSumo only shows you 10 ideas unless you pay the $99 a month fee. Simply visit the BuzzSumo website and place your particular query in “inverted commas” to search on the exact phrase (e.g. ‘emerging markets’ or “income for retirement”). The tool also shows you the most popular blog posts and how well they perform for the each of the major social channels.
  • sem rush is a great tool to research competitors’ traffic on Google and the keywords which are enhancing their rankings. Just type in the relevant website domain and you’ll get useful data related to SEO. The free registered account reveals the top 10 organic keywords driving traffic.
  • ubersuggest is a keyword idea generation tool. It provides a complete list of keywords, generated by search terms people are using on Google and the terms that providing traffic to your competitors.
  • answer the public provides content marketers with valuable data about the questions people ask online. Simply input a keyword and it fetches popular queries and generates a graphic with the questions and phrases people use. This provide content creators with keyword suggestions.
  • Honner also provides qualitative market intelligence services. These include:
    • in-depth personal interviews with key decision makers such as CEOs, institutional clients, and executives;
    • designing online surveys that provide deep insights; and
    • bespoke competitor reviews services.

Next week we’ll publish the second in the eight-part content marketing series, Ideation and Mapping. This second stage is all about turning the insights you gain in part one into concrete content ideas that are aligned to the business agenda of the firm. It is also about being organised and having a central map of your long-term content agenda, so you can keep all stakeholders in your business informed and engaged in the content process.

If you’d like help creating a well-researched content marketing strategy, or more information on Honner’s 8-Step Content Marketing Model contact Craig Morris. Also, if you have some strategies and tactics on using market intelligence to improve your content strategy – share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

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