The idiom “you can’t see the forest for the trees” means that a person or organization can’t see the big picture because they’re focusing too much on the details.
This is true for many companies when it comes to content marketing.
After analyzing the myriad things they want to convey tot heir target audience, they forget that it’s also important to paint the big picture.
Here’s why it matters and how to strike a balance between micro and macro.
On the one hand, it’s important to publish detailed information about your business, its products, and the value they deliver. This helps potential customers understand exactly what they’re getting if they choose to do business with you.
On the other hand, customers shouldn’t have to make hundreds of clicks and read pages of content to get an overview of what you do. They need this type of information to determine whether you’re relevant to their business and how you can help them succeed.
This creates a paradox. The more time you spend elaborating the details, the harder it becomes for a prospect to quickly answer higher-level questions. But the more time you spend on higher-level descriptions, the fewer details you provide and the harder it becomes for a prospect to evaluate your solution and conclude that it’s right for them.
When you are first building up your content library, it also creates a process dilemma: How much time should your team spend writing overarching content versus publishing the laundry list of detailed pieces needed to effectively cover everything a prospect might want to know?
There’s no perfect answer here, but I see a Goldilocks zone where your content is neither too detailed nor too general but “just right.”
To uncover where that Goldilocks zone lies, let’s spin the camera around and look at things from the prospect’s point of view.
The information needs of a prospect who has just begun solving a problem are very different from those of someone finalizing their purchase decision.
Or, indeed, from someone trying to get the most out of a product they have purchased.
The types of information they need varies. The format in which they wish to receive that information may be different. And, the places to which they will turn to find that information will be different.
At the beginning of their buyer’s journey, in what is commonly known as the awareness stage, prospects look for general guidance on how to understand and quantify the challenge they are facing. They seek to educate themselves broadly on the issue and how it has been tackled by others.
Later, as they begin to evaluate potential solutions, they need more detailed information on what solutions are available, how they work, and how to compare them.
Later still, as they seek answers to any remaining questions and move toward making a purchase, they look for very specific, detailed information.
Even at that late stage, they might be asked to produce a business case justifying the purchase, for which more general market and value creation information could be helpful.
How efficiently they progress through these stages will depend on how easily they can find relevant, helpful information.
If you organize your content appropriately, prospects will find each of the information types they need, on the channels they prefer, with minimal effort.
The longer and harder they must search, the less likely they are to associate positive emotions with your content—even if the material itself is beautiful, comprehensive, and helpful.
Content marketing managers must strike a balance between detailed and high-level content—both in their overall content library and in terms of what their team is producing on a month-to-month basis.
A simple but not particularly helpful answer is that you need a bit of both.
A better—but harder to implement—answer is that you need to publish whatever ratio of detailed to high-level content a prospect needs to move through their buyer’s journey with minimal friction.
I think of your content library as a wooden bridge across which a buyer must journey to get from awareness to purchase (and on to becoming a loyal, repeat customer and advocate for your brand.)
As I described in this post on using a gap analysis to focus your B2B content marketing efforts, if your content bridge has too many missing pieces, the prospect will turnaround and seek a different bridge elsewhere.
If your content production is skewed too heavily toward generalities and overviews, sections of the bridge that require more detailed information will be rickety and may cause prospects to stall out or turnaround.
Similarly, if you devote too much time (and copy) to detailed information without providing enough contextual material, prospects will struggle to cross sections of the bridge that depend on the higher-level stuff.
Figuring out the right mixture of pieces from which to build a satisfactory bridge is one of the key reasons I recommend buyer’s journey mapping to my clients.
By understand what your prospects are needing, wanting, feeling, and believing at each stage of their journey, you can develop a content wish list for helping them complete that journey efficiently—one that describes both what content should be produced and where it should be published.
Using the gap analysis approach mentioned earlier, you can then prioritize and produce content to fill the most important gaps, complete the bridge, and allow your prospects to finish their journey.
Your content bridge will be shaky at first, and not all prospects will trust it enough to cross it. Over time, however, you’ll keep producing content that fills gaps and strengthens areas of weakness.
If you persevere with consistently publishing relevant, helpful content, you’ll eventually construct a robust library—including both detailed and high-level content—that meets prospects’ needs at every stage.
Crossing your content bridge will be such a seamless experience, prospects might not even notice it’s happening—automatically following you from post to e-book to webpage as they learn, evaluate, choose, and purchase your solution.
Like a real-world bridge, though, regular maintenance will be required.
Some content begins to show its age quite quickly. For example, lists of the year’s top solutions or articles about the latest features in your software.
Any content that relies on technical information will become obsolete as soon as the technology itself has moved on. If you operate in a fast-moving sector, this can happen within a matter of months.
Invest time and effort to ensure that your content library remains up to date, so that prospects can cross your content bridge just as effortlessly in the future.
Once you’ve developed a solid content library based on the outputs from buyer’s journey mapping, begin refreshing the analysis on a quarterly basis—or more frequently if significant new information is collected about the market or your target audience.
By keeping your journey maps, content wish-list, and content library evergreen, you’ll earn the trust and business of prospects who find just the right content at just the right time.
Not too detailed and not too high level. Not too soon and not too late.
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Image credits: Adobe Stock