By Andrea Fryrear published November 4, 2016

Your 2017 Content Marketing Goal: Give the People What They Want


Content marketing is kind of like a Swiss Army knife: It can do almost anything if you set it up the right way.

Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the results of our recent survey of B2C content marketers. Their responses about which organizational goals they planned to reach through their content marketing in the next 12 months ranged far and wide.

From brand awareness to an increase in their email subscribers to nurtured leads, content marketers are putting their work to a wide variety of uses.


But regardless of the business objectives for your content in 2017, the content experts during a B2C roundtable discussion at Content Marketing World identified one overarching goal that should inform each and every piece of content — it should be centered on your audience.

Each and every piece of content should be centered on your audience, @andreafryrear. #cmworld Click To Tweet

Whether you strive to increase leads or retain customers, your content needs to give the audience what it wants.

Hyland’s, Monster, and Cleveland Clinic all shared stories of amazing business results that their content produced. In every case the work succeeded because it started with the audience.

Their topics range from pickleball to cupping so there’s sure to be an idea here for just about any niche. Led by Deborah Holstein, vice president of marketing for Hightail, the B2C roundtable featured Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping; Margaret Magnarelli, senior director of marketing and managing editor for content, Monster; Thao Le, vice president of marketing at Hyland’s; Amanda Todorovich, director of content marketing, Cleveland Clinic; and Michael Weiss, vice president of marketing, Creative Circle.

You can hear Amanda, Thao, and Margaret share their full stories in the video.

Monster combines format and function

Margaret told us that in the past six months, Monster has begun to focus heavily on video as a huge part of their “wow” content — one of three pillars that make up the content marketing strategy. Wow pieces are designed to entertain and engage job seekers, with a particular focus on driving social sharing.

The initiative began from a straightforward focus on the audience and what it wants to know about. Job seekers still seek to know how best to structure their resume and how to succeed in an interview, but Monster opted for less-traditional content formats to cover the same important information. Margaret and her team have been able to dramatically improve engagement with their content.

For example, Monster’s content team did a play off BuzzFeed’s Tasty recipe videos, including all of the key ingredients for a successful resume.

Compared to print, Margaret says the videos have gotten a lot more engagement (160,000 organic views and 43,000 paid views since July), but the videos weren’t created as one-off novelties. They include meaty information that Monster knows will help job seekers but are packaged in a creative way that makes the material seem new and enticing.

Monster’s director of social media, Patrick Gillooly, describes it this way:

Our strategy is to blend a great message (the content) with the right audience. In terms of our organic activation, we focus on how we can best place a video in front of the largest audience and let the content do its work . . . For a recent video about cold offices, for example, we targeted 20- to 40-year-old women, who would both enjoy and relate to the content, but also be very likely to share it among their similarly minded network.

Hyland’s pivots with pickleball

Resumes and interviews are common content fodder for a site like Monster, but pickleball isn’t necessarily a topic you’d expect to see a homeopathic medicine company specializing in. But, according to Thao, engaging consistently with this audience around the topic has paid huge dividends for Hyland’s.

While this niche audience of pickleball-playing seniors was a great customer fit for Hyland’s Leg Cramp product, the company’s content team didn’t just start talking at the players. Before Hyland’s made a single video, it had people from the Pickleball Association come teach the employees how to play, and they spent time at Pickleball events engaging with the players.

Hyland’s launched a hyper-niche content platform called Pickleball Channel in March of 2014. In the spirit of data-driven marketing, Thao and Hyland’s senior brand manager tested a lot of content ideas, ultimately using email open rates and click rates to guide their decisions.

Hyland’s has since garnered over 30,000 passionate followers and 1.2 million views.

Hyland’s uses email open rates and click rates to guide its #content decisions @PickleballUSA. #cmworld Click To Tweet

Almost two years after the platform’s launch, the content team stays connected to the audience by getting out into the community and talking to players. Data has helped them pivot to find a valuable niche audience, but it’s these connections that make sure Hyland’s continues to produce pickleball content that drives engagement.

As Thao says, it’s “being immersed in a community, human-to-human, person-to-person” that makes Hyland’s content marketing successful.

Cleveland Clinic investigates cupping content

Amanda echoes Thao’s comments. “Content marketing is all about relationships,” she says. Cleveland Clinic has worked for years to craft a relationship with its blog readers, so when Amanda’s team saw the swimmers with those crazy red marks on their backs during the Summer Olympics, they knew their health-conscious audience would be intrigued.

#Contentmarketing is all about relationships says @amandatodo @ClevelandClinic. #cmworld Click To Tweet

The marks came from a technique called “cupping,” and the content team at Cleveland Clinic leapt into action to take advantage of this trending topic.

There were crazy videos all over the internet, but Amanda and her team leveraged their institution’s knowledge of the science behind it, offering a research-driven perspective that they knew would interest their audience. Even though “we were in a sea of cupping videos … ours did really well because we provided that value,” Amanda says.

Of course, educating their audience from a factual perspective wasn’t a one-time foray for Cleveland Clinic. The team consistently produces content designed to keep its audience healthy, even though the organization sells health-care services. Other hospitals use their blogs to focus on topics around high-margin services like surgeries.

The Cleveland Clinic’s audience-centric approach is what brings 4 million visitors to its blog every month, making it one of the most popular health-related destinations on the web.

Audience is everything

It doesn’t matter which tool you’re pulling from your content marketing Swiss Army knife, it needs to be used to build something useful for your audience. From videos to a highly niche content platform to tried-and-true blog articles, content marketers succeed when we turn our focus outward.

As Margaret, Thao, and Amanda’s success stories remind us, it also doesn’t matter who makes up your audience. Active seniors interested in improving their pickleball chops, job seekers bored with the same old resume-building advice, or health-conscious readers — each audience looks for content that matters to them.

5 Secrets to Award-Winning Content

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Andrea Fryrear

Andrea is the president and lead trainer at AgileSherpas, a training, education, and consulting company designed to help marketing teams transform their work from frantic to fantastic. Her most recent book, Death of a Marketer, chronicles marketing’s troubled past and the steps it must take to claim a more Agile future. She geeks out on all things agile and content on Twitter.

Other posts by Andrea Fryrear

  • Don Purdum

    Hi Andrea,

    I love this quote in your article by Patrick Gillooly:

    “Our strategy is to blend a great message (the content) with the right audience…”

    The challenge is that we’ve been trained both subtlety and overtly to communicate the “what”, which translates to features and benefits of a product or service.

    The truth is, most people already understand the “What”.

    It’s our job to understand the “why” of the audience and then relevantly communicate it through an a compelling piece of content.

    I teach my clients how to create that relevant content for one person who has one problem, need, want or desire… in one piece of content.

    As you said, make it about them to the degree that they say to themselves, “OMG, how did they know…?”

    If you connect how they feel with their “why”, it’s a great content experience that leads to a much more robust sales funnel.

    Thanks for sharing your insights Andrea!

    ~ Don Purdum

    • afryrear

      Hi Don,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. I love your what/why distinction — it’s another great way to help push people beyond the Wikipedia-style content that reads like a book report. Better content = better experiences = better business results – everybody wins!

  • Jamila James

    Thanks for writing the awesome post about content marketing. You rightly mentioned that audience is everything in content marketing. We need to provide helpful content when we use it as a marketing platform.

    • afryrear

      So true! Thanks for reading, Jamila!

      • Jamila James

        You’re welcome!

  • Jennee Rasavong

    Hi Andrea,

    Awesome post and great examples to share!

    To echo Don’s comment, we so often focus on the ‘what’ and tend to skim over the ‘why’.

    Data never lies and your success stories prove just that! It’s time to begin from the audience point of view and look at the cold hard facts instead of constantly trying to create content that we think/feel our audience wants to consume.

    Off to share this now 🙂


    • afryrear

      Thanks Jennee, for both reading and sharing! Most of us start out focused on the audience, but it’s easy to lose sight of that goal over time. I love that these innovators in our field are giving us such good reminders of why audience-centric content succeeds


    Hi there Andrea,

    You really set on the table what we need to do for content marketing future.


    • afryrear

      Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • kimberly.wilson

    It’s been 1 year since I finally resigned from my last job and I never felt this good… I started doing work from comfort of my home, for this company I found on-line, several hours daily, and I make much more than i did on my office job… Last pay-check i got was for 9000 dollars… The best thing about this gig is the more free time i got for my loved ones… SECURE83.COM

  • dixie.ovalle

    One year ago I decided to quit my office work and it was a best decision i made in my life… I started working from comfort of my home, for a company I discovered on-line, few hours a day, and I make much more than i did on my previous job… My last month pay-check was for Nine thousand dollars… Amazing thing about this job is the more free time i got with my family… KORTA.NU/MDe

  • Angela Higbee

    So true! I personally love all the different hats that content marketers wear, and the strategic planning it takes to craft a content plan that supports lead gen, customer retention, conversions, etc. Great post, CMI! Keep ’em coming! <3

    • afryrear

      I love the variety too, Angela — no danger of content marketing ever getting dull, and strategy is the only way to make all the pieces work together.

  • Aleksandra Vasilieva

    Hi Andrea!
    Thank you for putting all key ideas into one article! It’s vital to keep in mind that by writing useful content we don’t waste both: our time and time of our audience. Waiting for new articles 🙂

  • marylou.olsen

    It’s been 1 yr since I decided to quit my old job and I never felt so good in my life… I started doing work at home, over a site I stumbled upon online, few hrs every day, and my income now is much bigger then it was on my office job… Payment i got for last month was for 9000 bucks… Great thing about it is the more free time i got for my kids… KORTA.NU/MDe

  • linda.masters

    1 yr ago I decided to leave my old job and I never felt so good in my life… I started doing a job from comfort of my house, over a website I found online, for a few hours each day, and my income now is much bigger then it was on my last job… My pay-check for last month was for Nine thousand bucks… Awesome thing about this work is that now i have more free time to spend with my family… CHILP.IT/8d93f4b

  • Ameer Ahmad

    Giving what people want will make them happy. And providing tools and something that can catch their attention will make your marketing successful. It is not just giving what they want but also giving them interesting things based on what they want in order to win their attention.