Your content shouldn’t give readers a déjà vu feeling. Nor should they feel like they’ve stepped onto an automobile showroom. Fortunately, a lot has been written by top content marketing strategists on how to give your audience what they’re looking for — while benefiting your business.

As you plan your content strategy or next piece of content, ask yourself three key questions:

  1. Is my content relevant to my audience?
  2. Does my content solve real problems?
  3. Does my content offer something people can’t get elsewhere?

Here’s how to answer a resounding yes on all three!

Make your content relevant

In every definition of content marketing, you’re likely to see either “relevant” or “valuable.”

In Search Engine Journal, Julia McCoy says, “Content marketing is relevant and useful storytelling that captures the interest of your specific audience and helps them solve their problems.”

Similarly, the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Unfortunately, value and relevance are subjective qualities, open to interpretation.

In “10 tips for making content relevant,” Neil Patel talks about the aura of mystery surrounding the concept of relevance. Relevance is a dynamic force, not something you can nail down. And there’s no formula for relevance because it’s audience-specific.

“There’s no such thing as content that will be relevant to everyone,” he states. That’s why he urges marketers to create a buyer or a customer persona before all else. Then the process of developing relevance can become data-based and systematic.

He likens it to a conversation. And you have to know who you are talking with in order to start that conversation.

Solve a problem with your content

Now that you know the "who," you can focus on the "what." Ask yourself: What are the questions these people are asking? What information do they need make their jobs or lives better?

Michele Linn, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, points to BabyCenter as an example of a content provider that makes life easier for a specific demographic.

Each month, eight out of 10 new and expectant moms online use BabyCenter to get tips and advice on pregnancy and parenting. Little do they know the site is owned by Johnson & Johnson, manufacturer of baby powder and other products for babies.

In the B2B world, MultiBriefs serves as a good example. Here, content largely comes from professionals writing to help others in their field and related industries. Whether discussing a new trend, recent research or what’s worked for them on the job, their content is about having a conversation that solves problems for a specific audience.

You can still write great content for an industry you’re not an expert in or for a demographic you don’t know much about — that is, if you do your research.

In a recent Content Marketing Conference webinar, Andy Crestodina, co-founder and CMO of Orbit Media and author of “Content Chemistry,” shared how he goes about finding out what people want to know about a given topic.

His search starts with Google. When the results page pops up, instead of looking at the results he checks out “People also ask,” which appears after top results and “Searches related to” at the bottom of the page. Both show what people are searching for on Google. To go deeper, Crestodina recommends mining both Quora and Answer The Public.

Make your content unique

The top choice for making content that stands out, according to both Linn and Crestodina, is to conduct your own original research. Here’s why.

“It helps you get attention, establish yourself as a leader in your industry and build an audience,” explains Linn in an Orbit Media blog. “It’s one of those content tactics that truly breaks through the noise if you do it well.”

You become the primary source that people reference, notes Crestodina.

“This is why research gets more links and more shares than any other format for content,” he writes in a data and example-filled blog. “And links and shares are the key to search and social, the two big sources of website traffic.”

He admits that the process takes time, but shows through first-hand experience and data that it’s time well spent.

So how do you figure out what to gather research data on? Linn provides questions to guide the process.

  • Are there certain things you anecdotally tell clients and customers that you want data to back up?
  • Are there questions your clients ask that you want to answer with data but can’t?
  • Is there a specific niche you want to be known for and you want data that will help tell your story?

By providing valuable information that’s been lacking in your industry, you do a service that sets you apart as an authority. Inadvertently, your positive reputation reflects on what you offer in the marketplace making buyers more likely to seek out your business and buy or recommend your products or services.