Want to Win at Content Marketing? Put Your Audience First

A few weeks ago, I wrote my first post for Pace entitled, 8 Things I’ve Learned About Social Media and Content Marketing. This post provided a broad view of what I learned in my first month on the job, and it was clear to me that each of my points called for a second, more detailed glance. Today, I’m going to take a deeper dive into the first item on my list, “When Creating a Content Marketing Strategy, Put the Audience First.”

The goal of content marketing is to effectively address the needs of a target audience by providing them with useful, relevant content they will want to consume and share. To do this, brands must take themselves out of the equation and focus on thoroughly understanding their target audience, what matters most to them and what they aren’t getting from other brands. Then comes the fun part: figuring out how to create and deliver content to your brand’s audience that matters.

Rather than continue to fling ambiguous statements around for the remainder of this post, let’s talk about some real-world examples, shall we? Here are three brands that clearly understand their target audience and provide it with valuable content it’s eager to consume and share:

American Express Open Forum

Visit the American Express Open Forum and you’ll find a branded content hub geared towards business owners and entrepreneurial-minded folks. Despite the fact that American Express is one of the largest credit card companies in the world, you’ll be hard pressed to find a sales pitch.


Rather than pushing products and credit card applications, the Open Forum focuses on providing high quality content targeted at addressing the needs of small business owners. Members and non-members alike can take advantage of the free ideas, helpful business advice and expert answers to questions from site readers. In addition, the site provides value to their users by facilitating networking events and making it easy for members to connect with one another both on and offline.

Why it Works

By consistently providing business owners with useful, relevant content, The American Express Open Forum has earned the badge of one of the industry’s most trusted sources of information. This is no small feat for a financial institution, especially when you consider the large percentage of Millennials who choose not to own credit cards.

CMO.com by Adobe

One of my favorite sites to go to for marketing insights, expertise and all-around great industry-related articles is CMO.com by Adobe. “Adobe?” you say, “Well, how much of it is about their products?” Uh, none, actually. Yes, Adobe is a massive company with more products and services than you can count, but CMO.com isn’t about any of them. Instead, they focus on providing exclusive content that directly influences and interests their readers, defined as “CMOs and senior marketers.”


Click through the News section of the site and you’ll find timely industry articles and posts about trending topics – all of which tie back into the broader theme of providing readers with relevant information that matters to them. Sure, anyone can write an article about a trending topic, but it takes some serious insight to write about it in a way that relates to a specific audience like CMOs. This theme carries throughout the rest of the site and is presented in various types of content like slide shows, interviews and blog posts by industry thought leaders and marketing executives.

Why it Works

Sites geared to “the average marketer” are a dime a dozen. What’s the point of adding to the deafening chatter if you can produce something unique? Adobe understood this and identified a gap in the market for content targeted to top-level marketing executives. By maintaining a clearly-defined focus, CMO.com has built a devout readership that spans the globe – no product pitch required.

BufferApp Blog

Not familiar with BufferApp? Simply put, Buffer is an online social media management tool for publishing updates across various social channels. Yes, their tool is cool and all, but what makes this brand really special (in my own, very biased opinion) is their blog.


I am a loyal reader of the Buffer blog. And by loyal, I mean I read it every day because the content is that good. Buffer’s contributing writers cover everything from social media tips to blogging tricks and helpful ideas for getting past even the worst case of writer’s block. But unlike other social media and blogging-focused sites, the Buffer blog doesn’t just skim the top of a subject; they dive in deep to deliver information, analysis and targeted content that matters to marketing professionals and community managers like myself. Oh, and did I mention that they do all of this without suffocating readers with uninvited product pushes?

Unlike CMO.com, the Buffer blog is written with the creators, writers and digital marketers in mind – the ones who are in the proverbial trenches, pulling all-nighters to finish blog posts and content strategies and still finding time to live-tweet the Grammys from their personal Twitter account.

Why this Works

The Buffer blog has a lot less “going on” than a content hub like the American Express Open Forum, but this doesn’t decrease the value of its content to its audience. Need proof? Simply glance at the social shares for any of its posts; you’ll find that people aren’t just reading them; they’re actively sharing them with their social media networks. It’s one thing to create content a target audience wants to consume, but when they feel compelled to share it, that’s when you know you’re doing something right.

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What are your thoughts about putting the audience first in your content marketing strategy? Share them with me in the comment section below!

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