This post originally appeared on Forbes.
We’ve all been there: You land a new client but soon discover he has no idea what your company does — let alone what he actually expects from working with you. This is the client who pisses off your employees, takes up all your time, and makes you go Tony Soprano to get the bills paid.
Not surprisingly, this same client is often dissatisfied by results, complaining about missed objectives completely unrelated to your company’s expertise.
To describe this experience as frustrating would be an understatement.
Content marketers feel your pain. In light of its recent buzzworthy status, business leaders know they want a piece of the content cake. Unfortunately, that’s all too often all they know.
Without the well-defined goals and strategy that come from a decent understanding of content marketing, your content is just noise — noise that neither you nor your customers will be satisfied with.
Whether you’re cooking up a blog post or compiling a masterpiece for The Wall Street Journal, you need to know that piece’s purpose. What should people do after reading your post? The answer to this can range from finding out more about your company to applying for a job.
5 Business Goals That Will Turn Noise into Music
Businesses’ content marketing goals will vary greatly; however, here are five solid goals that businesses of any type can plan for:
1. Brand Awareness
This is one of the most common goals of a content marketing strategy. In fact, MarketingProfs and Junta42 found that brand awareness was the No. 1 goal for B2B marketers in North America. That’s because high-quality, purposeful content can showcase your company’s expertise, leaving readers asking, “Who wrote this?”
2. Brand Loyalty
When readers find themselves consistently reading a brand’s content, they start to see that brand in a new light, not only in terms of credibility but also likability.
The social media tool Buffer is a great example of this. A few years ago, Buffer invested in an industry blog that featured clever posts like “The History of To-Do Lists” and “Common Mistakes Our Brain Makes and How to Fix Them.” With entertaining, informative content that actually provides value outside of its product offering, Buffer has developed a huge following in addition to a loyal customer base. This says a lot when everyone — and their grandmas — is busy developing “groundbreaking” social media tools.
3. Customer Education
An educated client makes a happy client (and keeps your customer service team from running to the bar after work). Lucky for you, educating potential customers is one of the most efficient ways to put content marketing to work.
Start off by writing down the questions your sales team hears from clients. I guarantee those questions will spur ideas for articles that would be valuable to your audience. They may even convince a few hesitant customers.
4. Customer Engagement
Publishing an article and then responding to comments or questions with current or potential customers is an opportunity to connect. This type of engagement humanizes your company logo — giving it an opinion, expertise, and (most importantly) a personality. Customers want to buy from people, not a brand.
5. Talent Recruitment
Use content to showcase your company vision and culture via meaningful, no-B.S. content. Do you really want people who love a good fluff piece working for you? You want employees who appreciate thoughtful, honest content. We wrote about our team members contributing to a douchebag jar when they said crappy things to each other. Great talent saw this article and identified themselves as the right fit for our team.
Why Traffic Is Missing from the Mix
You may have noticed that two biggies — increased Web traffic and click-throughs — are missing from the list above. There’s good reason for that.
If a content marketing strategy leads to an increase in traffic as a byproduct of its great content, that’s wonderful. But a content marketing strategy that’sdesigned to directly lead to an increase in traffic is shameless self-promotion.
Let me assure you: Promotional links and other lovely tidbits that a company thinks will result directly in increased traffic will come off as spammy, diminish the quality of the content, and severely damage credibility. Readers are smart, so creating an article with the intent of driving traffic will only prevent your audience from drinking the Kool-Aid you’re serving.
Content marketing is meant to educate, entertain, and provoke questions. It’s the next level of advertising, but what’s different is that readers actually want and enjoy this type of marketing — if done right.
If you understand and align your content with the right goals, it can breathe new life into your marketing efforts and create genuine connections with your customers.