Key to Effective Content Marketing? Give’em What They Don’t Know They Want

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My kids, like almost every kid I have ever met, have wanted a lot of things (although they never really want for anything). From toys to games to going places with friends, they are always asking for things. And those things sort of make them happy, at least for a little bit. Maybe “quiet” is a better description.

But eventually it’s more of the same. They have so much, that more becomes just, more. It’s not different and it doesn’t hold their interest. And it’s not long after that the chorus of “I’m bored” starts. It is however a great feeling as a parent when you give something to your kids that they didn’t ask for that becomes their favorite. Sometimes it something as a simple as a puzzle that challenges them to problem solve and experience satisfaction in completing a task. Other times it isn’t an item, but rather an experience like spending the day at the zoo where they discover something for the first time. They gain insight and create memories. They didn’t know they wanted either really, but it enabled them to explore and imagine in ways that held their attention.


Similarly, I think a lot of businesses and marketers have taken the “more is better” approach without considering what the audience really needs. Does anybody really need another whitepaper, e-book or webinar? No, in fact at the most basic level, that’s not what they ever wanted. What they wanted was an answer to their question, to learn something, or some entertainment possibly.

Instead, the same ideas are poured into a familiar content vessel and shipped off to the audience without consideration for what they really need. It could be that what they wanted was a forum to engage with other customers. Maybe even a 140 character tweet would resolve their issue. Maybe they do want an e-book. Whatever, it’s pretty certain that they don’t want generic content that they’ve seen before. They want to be spoken to like an individual. In fact, it could be that they don’t know what they want.

Steve Jobs famously said “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” That only works when you’ve combined ideas with insights you have about your audience. Mr. Jobs and Apple have that, and for that reason you can hand any Apple product to someone and they’ll figure out how to use it. But it’s work. A lot of companies won’t take the time to get that understanding.

When you truly understand your audience and their problem, you can deliver solutions that truly meet their needs, even if it’s not what they say they want. That’s when you build the ultimate credibility and trust with those around you.


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.
2 Responses to "Key to Effective Content Marketing? Give’em What They Don’t Know They Want"
  1.' Mike Marks says:

    Great post! A related approach: Solve an important problem the customer didn’t know they had. Marketing does this by providing a commercial insight – a solution to a previously unrecognized problem that is uniquely solved by your solution. A fundamental way to differentiate yourself from the competition.

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