First there is the tactical advice. These are things like best practices, optimization and anything else that deals with improvements at the micro-level.
Zooming out one step is strategic advice. These are the considerations that help to guide and organize our tactics. They deal more with things like how content marketing can be used to build your online presence and SEO.
Both of these are important and rely on each other, but there is a missing third category that is rarely considered when talking about content marketing success.
Beyond strategy and tactics, it is necessary to have a clear purpose that informs all of your content decisions. This purposeful element is a crucial component of any cohesive and effective content marketing effort.
Purpose Provides Direction
As I’ve gone over countless times, the organizations that create truly compelling brands are the ones that have a clear set of beliefs that fuel their decision-making.
In a few other articles I’ve argued the importance of starting with why, as highlighted by Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” methodology. It just so happens that the hierarchy of purpose then strategy then tactics aligns perfectly to the Golden Circle framework.
In much the same way that purpose driven organizations can shift nimbly between various products and processes, purpose-driven content efforts can embrace a varied and complicated set of strategies and still remain cogent. Not only do purpose-driven organizations tell powerful stories, but these stories tend to fit naturally together when they all fall along the same general lines.
Previously I mentioned how the online design-tool Canva has built a sophisticated yet coherent content strategy by being purpose driven. Despite the fact that their content mix is fairly diverse, the broad mix works. Since their message (we want to make design accessible) is so clear, their story remains consistent regardless of what strategic or tactical choices they make with their content.
Purpose Trickles Down
Often times you see companies or organizations that are just starting out with social or content marketing and they quickly get very frustrated by their lack of results. And this is not for lack of effort either.
Typically, the small business owner might have read up on all the tactical advice she could get her hands and maybe even started delving into strategic elements, yet is still struggling to make an impact with their efforts.
Even if you know that a 100-character tweet sent out on a Wednesday at 3:00 is ideal it still won’t mean that you have anything to actually fill those 100 characters with. And what ends up happening more often than not is that when in doubt businesses tend to simply promote themselves.
Content marketing is almost never good at purely promoting your product or service. You’ve got to earn that right to promote and typically the way you do that is by providing value based off of consumer insights.
Purpose is one of the most surefire ways to make sure that you consistently have great content that all aligns to a specific story.
In other words, purpose will fuel strategy which will then be improved via tactics.
Content is Great at Communicating Purpose
Not only is purpose great at inspiring content and aligning your efforts, but content itself (when approached this way) will clearly communicate your purpose and help build your audience around that cause or story.
In this sense, content and purpose are uniquely symbiotic with one another. Content helps communicate purpose and purpose helps drive content creation, strategy and implementation.
This exact sentiment is expressed powerfully by digital marketing legend Neil Patel.When I asked him for his thoughts on why purpose is crucial for content marketing, this is how he responded:
It is very important to have purpose behind your marketing efforts. If you can market your business based on helping other companies and individuals you are much more likely to be successful compared to if you just marketed based on monetary reasons.
For example, marketing by creating content that educates is a great way to help other people and generate signups at the same time.
The essence of Patel’s advice (a core idea that has proven itself in driving his own massive success) is that really great content marketing doesn’t just communicate a marketing message, it reinforces that key belief–the brand purpose– through the value the content itself delivers.
In other words, not only does purpose enhance content marketing, but great content marketing will in turn solidify your purpose and build your brand.