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The Content-Strategy Conundrum: When, What and How to Generate Demand Are you using general content for a specific purpose? Often, that kind of generic approach doesn't work.

By Carlos Hidalgo Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Not all marketing content is created equal. Some content is designed to engage those at the top of the buying funnel, some to continue the conversation with the buyer and nurture leads in the middle buying stages. And some is for sales, to convert prospective clients into buyers.

Related: How a Ghostwriter Can Breathe Life Into Your Startup's Content Strategy

Each type of content is integral to the overall success of your demand-generation strategy. So, knowing what type of content to use -- and when and how to use it -- is the most important part of any successful content strategy. It's also a critical part of your overall demand process.

To be effective, marketers must create content that aligns with the buyer's buying cycle. The most effective way to do this to understand your buyers' purchase path and develop a content strategy to meet them where they are in their own buying process. And, chances are, they're all over the spectrum.

But the problem is, the majority of businesses (from entrepreneurial to enterprise) aren't differentiating their content types, and their messages simply aren't getting the exposure business leaders desire. In fact, according to a recent study, less than 30 percent of organizations whose content was examined aligned it to the various stages of the buyer's journey. And only 38 percent developed content specifically for nurturing leads.

This means that marketers are using general content for a specific purpose. And given how critical content relevance is today, a generic approach simply does not work. In fact you may be pouring money into generic content strategies that don't deliver the ROI you're after. So, before you heavily invest in a content strategy, understand what type of content is needed, where it would be most useful and how it can generate demand.

After all, just "having a strategy" won't translate to success if your messages aren't what your targets want -- and need -- to hear.

Three types of content to use in your demand generation strategy

1. 'Engage' content. Engagement content is purely educational, and all about your prospective buyers; it is meant to outline the issues they may be encountering, and the ways to solve them. So, identify your buyers' personas and use those demographics, plus their information-seeking habits, to define your messaging and techniques. Also, use engaging content at this initial stage, to identify what the buyer is looking for, before you hone in on more targeted messaging. Limited branding should be done at this stage.

Related: The 7 Factors That Make for Viral Content

2. 'Nurture' content. The nurturing stage is designed to continue the dialogue with buyers. It should still be about them and their pain points, but at this stage, you should use some branding and describe how your company could solve those buyers' business challenges, pointing to your particular branded solution. Focus on moving past the top-of-mind issues and into more specific solution categories that match your buyers' challenges and pain points.

3. 'Convert' content. When your prospects are ready to buy, it is imperative to enable those sales by employing relevant content that can help close the deal. Convert content is solution-specific, is heavily branded and lets you showcase how your company's products and solutions can meet your prospects' needs.

It's important to note that the need for unique and targeted content doesn't end with demand generation. Organizations need to consider content developed for branding, product marketing, promotional marketing, customer marketing and much more. Each of these purposes requires specific and unique content that your buyer will interact with at different times.

As marketers continue to look at ways to maximize their content and define their demand generation approach, it's imperative to understand the purpose of the content itself. Only then can the strategy be defined and the content properly developed.

There are many interactions buyers may have with your content before they move into a full-fledged buying cycle. Understanding the purposes of that content is the key to a robust content strategy.

Related: 5 Types of Evergreen Content for Your Website

Carlos Hidalgo is CEO and Principal of ANNUITAS, a demand-generation-strategy and change-management firm that helps enterprises transform their sales and leads and drive revenue. With more than 20 years of industry experience, Hidalgo is widely recognized for his expertise in strategic integrated marketing, change management, demand process, demand transformation and marketing automation.

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