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If you haven’t heard the beehive buzz around content marketing yet, you will soon.

According to the Content Marketing Institute: “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Most effective when integrated into an overarching marketing strategy, content marketing focuses on changing or enhancing customer and consumer behavior through owned media (vs. paid or earned media). This can include videos, photos, websites, microsites, online communities, forums, social media, blogs, emails, newsletters, publications, collateral, mobile apps, podcasts, white papers, e-books, infographics and more.

Amidst all this “content is king” hype, one thing’s for certain – content marketing is growing in leaps and bounds. According to a recent study by IMN published by eMarketer, the number of U.S. companies with formal content marketing strategies in place leaped from 28 percent in 2012 to 49 percent in 2013. Driven by the public’s escalating desire to consume a diversity of content on a daily basis, it’s safe to say this trend will continue its uphill spiral in 2014.

161362 One fundamental problem facing the development of an effective content marketing strategy is failure to identity target audience segments, key messaging and desired results during the planning process. Unfortunately, this glaring misstep makes it difficult to create content that will attract the right customers and consumers, and meet primary business objectives such as lead generation and sales conversion.

images When developing a content marketing strategy, you should always define target audience segments and messaging to align with your primary business objectives and bottom line. Audience segmentation is about relevance – educating consumers and moving existing and potential customers through individual sales channels. Ultimately, if you can’t engage your target customers and consumers with relevant content that provides value and a clear call to action, your content marketing strategy (or lack thereof) will prove ineffective.

A few key questions as food for thought: Does your organization have an effective content marketing strategy in place? Does the strategy engage your target audience segments? Does it align with your primary business objectives?

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