You keep hearing that phrase. And it’s not going away. You know the one: relevant content.

That’s the new source of marketing success — the gravitational force that will draw prospects into your orbit. The question is: What type of content is relevant to today’s prospects and customers?

Let me offer five types of content — what I call elements of insight — that I believe can be not only relevant, but compelling and actionable.  Among them:

  • Frameworks of the Future. This is content that provides clarity, context and foresight. It gives
    our audience a sense of what lies ahead — though it establishes context for prognostication by
    drawing on what has happened in the past and what is happening in the present. In an increasingly complex and confusing world, our prospects are hungry for a sense of what comes next. They want models that make sense, frameworks that cut through the noise. The more predictable we can make the future, the lower the risk and the higher the perceived value. If they have confidence in our forecasts, they’ll have courage to take the appropriate action. Answer the questions: What comes next and how can I profit from that knowledge?
  • Findings from the Field. Our prospects want proof. They want evidence. They want a track record. The findings we offer are evidence that our perspective or point of view carries weight. So where do we get the proof? It probably lies in customer success stories. Rich and vivid case studies can make the abstract real — providing prospects with something memorable and shareable. But findings need not simply be anecdotal or qualitative. Evidence also can come in more quantitative and measurable forms. Surveys and statistics can go a long way in terms of establishing credibility — whether they are drawn from a third party or generated in-house. Answer the questions: What’s happening in the real world and why should I believe?
  • Winning and Worst Practices. Everyone wants to know the lessons learned. What went right? What went wrong? In fact, stories of spectacular failure and crushing defeat are likely to go much farther in terms of engaging audiences and establishing credibility. The point is, our prospects need to know what is the right path to take if they were to take the advice that we are offering. They want to learn from those who have gone before. If we can make that insight available to them, then we become a valued advisor. Answer the questions: What is the right path to success and how can I avoid unnecessary missteps?
  • Tips, Tricks and Tools. Yet another valuable source of content is anything that helps the prospect in a rapid, actionable and tangible fashion. Some advice has immediate applicability in given situations. Tips and tricks can address a specific challenge — one that others have faced previously. Tools, meanwhile, might be spreadsheets that help one tally up an ROI and develop a business case. Or perhaps, it’s a needs assessment or a buyer’s guide — a checklist that enables a prospect (or decision team) to diligently engage in a decision. Answer the questions: How can I make a more  successful decision and how can I implement this solution more successfully?
  • Demonstrations and Visualizations. Visual explanations have great power. As software companies have long understood, there’s tremendous value in a well constructed demo. (There’s also the potential to bore your prospects to death with a poorly constructed one.) The point is that our prospects want visuals and demonstrations — hopefully, ones that they can navigate and play with at their own pace — that vividly explain the concepts we are presenting or the value we are projecting. I expect to see more and more smart work in this regard as companies seek to accelerate the customer learning process and make difficult concepts easier to grasp. Answer the questions: How does this work and how can you help me understand it?

Once you’ve created this “source content,” you then can package it in
many forms (white papers, case studies, presentations, blogs, newsletters, marketing pieces, conversational
guides, etc.) and then merchandise it in many channels (search engines,
direct marketing, public relations, sales engagement, etc.)
. Make it once; market it many times. There are all sorts of opportunities to generate business value from this content.

Just remember: Conversations are critical these days. Markets, as they say, are conversations. But you have to hold up your end of the conversation. You have to have something to say — and, perhaps more importantly, something to ask. If you weren’t engaged enough in your area of expertise to dive in and create valuable content in the first place, you may not be curious enough to ask the right questions. And if you don’t ask the right questions, you’ll never get to the right answers.