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The 7S's of Content Marketing

Strategy, Segment, Simple, Succinct, Scannable, Steak & Sizzle, Social Media

The challenges marketers face today are multifold.

  • How you do create content is such a way that it not only addresses an individual's informational need but also reaches the masses?
  • How you present content so that your target audience does not loose interest?
  • What language, style and marketing vehicle will you adopt to reach your prospects and customers?
  • How will you connect employees, vendors, partners, and customers and help them make better, faster decisions?
  • How will you build competitive strength and boost customer satisfaction?
  • How can you leverage technology investments and improve training offering to grow your customer's success?

These are just few of the questions faced by content marketers today. Using frameworks to tackle these questions is one way sure shot way of ensuring you are headed down the right path. I wrote about The 4P's of Content Marketing and The 6C's of Content Marketing to give you frameworks to brainstorm your marketing questions.

Let us take a look at the 7 Ss of Content Marketing. Strategy, Segment, Simple, Succinct, Scannable, Steak and Sizzle and Social Media

You can divide up these 7 S's of Content Marketing into 3 categories.

2 Essentials of Content Marketing

  • Strategy - Do you have a Content Marketing Strategy?
  • Segment - How do you use Content to engage with different Market Segments?

4 Essentials of Content

  • Simple - Is your Content Simple?
  • Succinct - Is your Content Succinct?
  • Scannable - Is your Content Scannable?
  • Steak and Sizzle - Does your Content have both Steak and Sizzle?

1 Bonus must-have for Content Marketing

  • Social Media - Is Social Media part of your Content Marketing Plan?

ClickDocuments: 7 S's of Content Marketing


“Strategy 101 is about choices: You can't be all things to all people.” - Michael Porter

Identify the goals for why you want to create and market content. For examples, your goals might be to grow your business by educating your prospects and training your customers. Once you have identified your goals, you can deliver a consistent message that your target audience will find relevant and valuable. If you don't have a strategy then content creation will end up as haphazard tasks - a press release here to combat the news your competitor throw at you and a quickly concocted FAQ there to answer the questions your customers have been asking. Take a step back and look at your content marketing strategy. Investing this time upfront will help you pick the right tactics to grow your business.

Rohit Bhargava gives a useful checklist of questions you should ask yourself in his blog post How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy. Also read Valeria Maltoni's Top Ten Reasons Why Your Content Marketing Strategy Fails.

Key questions to ask about your Content Marketing Strategy

  • What goals do you want to achieve by creating and marketing content?
  • How do you measure the progress you make on your content marketing goals?


“A market segment is a community with a shared worldview.” - Seth Godin

Marketing 101 teaches you to do segmentation, targeting and positioning. You need to know your different types target audience and how they consume content. Have a good understanding of your target market segments.This will in turn lead to providing relevant, compelling information to convert prospects to customers, driving greater engagement with your content and also encourage repeat sales through cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

Key questions to ask about your Market Segments

  • Who are the different types of target audience in your various market segments?
  • How do you use different types of content to engage with different market segments?


"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” - Albert Einstein

Keep your content simple but do not over simplify in a way that it doesn't meet the goal of creating it. Charles Mingus said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.” Getting to simplicity is indeed a complicated road. Invest time upfront to simplify your content. Your target audience needs to understand and take action based on your content. To make it easy on them, you have to think and rethink about how best to present content. The more buzz words you use in your content, the greater the chance of confusing or losing your reader.

Read Guerrilla Guide: Keeping marketing simple for ideas on how to keep marketing simple. See this simple example of a 2 minute video - Simplicity of Twitter.

Key questions to ask to keep your Content Simple

  • Is your marketing message simple enough for your prospect to understand and convince his colleagues who will make the buying decision with him?
  • Is your content simple enough to stand out amongst all the other content that prospects have to wade through?


"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." - Mark Twain

Ensure that your content conveys what you want to say in a crystal clear fashion. Content should be crisp to retain reader’s interest. Good writing is defined by its clarity. When writing content, do multiple revisions until a crisp and polished final version emerges. Choose the right marketing vehicles to get the content to reach your target audience. For example, instead of writing a 100 page training document, record a training video. If you are recording a training video to educate your customer about a complicated product think about how you can divide it up into smaller chunks.

Key questions to ask to keep your Content Succinct

  • What is the marketing vehicle that will get your message across crisply to your prospects and customers?
  • How do you retain and foster the interest level of your target audience by keeping your content crisp?


“Most people read online by scanning the page for individual words or phrases, headings and other visual cues.” - Darren Rowse

Your customers and prospects are bombarded with information in this digital age. Ensure that your content is scannable quickly so that your target audience will benefit from the huge investment you have already made to create and market your content. Use lists and bullet points to make it easy for your readers to digest your content. Leverage a variety of media options available to get your message across to your readers. Photos and video are a great way to enrich your customer's and prospect's experience. Offer checklists for your prospects instead of a sales brochure. For example, create a checklist of '10 Things to Consider when purchasing your server' for your prospects.

Read Darren Rowse's Scannable Content, Daniel Scocco's How to Write Scannable Content: A 6-Step Approach and Five ways to make a scannable Web page.

Key questions to ask to keep your Content Scannable

  • Is it possible for your customers and prospects to quickly look over your content?
  • Can your customers and prospects get the main points and identify what is the call-for-action in your content?

Steak & Sizzle

"Sell with Sizzle, Sustain with Steak.” - Erik J. Barzeski

One of the common expressions in marketing is "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." It implies that the goal of a marketing message is to excite the customer. Today customers and prospects are very information savvy. You can't just "WoW" them with sizzle. In order to persuade them with your content, you need both steak and sizzle. Steak/Substance is the meat of the content and the message that you are trying to get across. Sizzle is the structure and style that constitute the packaging of your content. It doesn't matter how good your content is. You need to dress it up so it sounds, feels and looks appealing to your target audience. Include visuals in your presentation so it is appealing to the eye. Your website should have an uncluttered look. Your marketing videos should be short and informative as opposed to long and sounding pitchy.

Key questions to ask about Steak and Sizzle for your Content

  • What is the steak i.e., message you want your customer and prospects to get from your content?
  • How do you sizzle up your content to attract and retain your target audience's attention?

Social Media

“Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” - David Alston

This list of S's of Content Marketing will not be complete without mentioning Social Media Marketing. Marketing is not just a 'push mode' one way street activity any more. Don't brush aside Social Media as just another useless hype. There are lots of resources to give you a jumpstart. Find out which types of social media you need to use to reach your target audience. Leverage social media tools to listen, converse, collect information, build and grow your business.

Chris Brogan's blog Community and Social Media Business Strategy and Guy Kawaski's The Art of Creating a Community are two great resources for insights on how to build communities. The Top 50 Social Media Blogs Of The Year and Alltop's Social Media Category are also useful lists to explore ideas on social media.

Key questions to ask about Social Media for your Content Marketing

  • Where is your target audience going to for their informational needs to listen, converse and collect information?
  • Which social media tools should you leverage to reach your customers and prospects?
Over to you…

What questions do you ask when creating your Content Marketing Strategy?

More Stories By Ambal Balakrishnan

Ambal has robust 17+ years experience working at and partnering with high-profile technology companies in both B2B and B2C marketplaces building scalable, reliable, high performance products (both hardware and software) for business with multi-billion dollar in annual revenue. She has done various roles that includes engineering, program management, business development, strategy and marketing for premium and fast growing product divisions at Cisco, Telecordia (prior name Bell Labs) and strategic marketing consulting firm ClickDocuments. At Cisco, she focused on world wide marketing and positioning of Cisco's Cloud & Data Center switching business. She brings both strong engineering & marketing skills with verticals experience from many different industries. Ambal received her Masters in Computer Science from Purdue University and an MBA in Marketing, Strategy and Entrepreneurship from Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Ambal is an avid reader and hiker. Her hiking pursuits have taken her to several mountains including Mt. Whitney at 14,500 feet (which she managed to climb in 1 day). Ambal lives in Austin, TX with her family of 3 boys (that includes her husband!) and a border-collie+lab mix dog named Rainbow.

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