No. 1 on the content marketing checklist: Know your audience

There is a lot of buzz about Content Marketing. Many companies are getting on board. Among marketing professionals there is vast amount of information and discussion about what works best, which format is most effective and which channels drive the most traffic. Yet the single most crucial factor to success is not the content itself. It is the real people that are seeing, consuming and connecting with it.

Think of it this way, if I were to try a new gourmet recipe on a group of friends at a dinner party it’s likely to be a big hit (and even if it’s a disaster, my friends will probably be polite about it). But for my two year old, forget it. It will end up splattered on the floor, walls and furniture.

You can’t force feed unsuitable content to an unwilling audience either.

If content is rich with interesting data, yet fails to engage the right people, or is communicated in the wrong place and the wrong way, it is worthless.

Successful content evokes an emotional response in the intended audience. This is because taking the time to listen, engage or buy from a brand or company is an emotional decision. So people don’t do it indiscriminately – they are selective. Companies need to be selective too.

People require content that is thought-provoking and emotional, that connects with them on a personal level. When you create content, picture your audience seeing it and nodding, smiling or hitting 'share'.

If you understand your audience intimately – what they like, what they’re interested in and what kind of content connects with them – your content marketing strategy is on track for success, even before you write a single word.

Your audience will define everything you do – from the content you create, to the conversations you start and the communication channels you use. If you follow what other brands do to find ‘safety in numbers’ you're likely to be following the wrong approach.

When you understand who your target audience is, and what they are looking for, you can build relationships based on common ground. And when you build a relationship, your content has succeeded.