The famous chef Anthony Bourdain once said, “Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone.” He couldn’t have been more right. Think about the blandest, most uninspired meals you’ve had, like the overcooked, under-seasoned Thanksgiving turkey (hey, it’s about that time, right?) Those are meals meant to please a wide array of tastes, but in the process, everyone leaves the meal vaguely remembering the dry, unappetizing turkey. Instead, they remember the relative who brought their favorite dessert or side dish.

It’s like that with content marketing. Don’t let your white papers, case studies, or other content be a turkey. It’s impossible to please everyone with a single piece. For example, if you sell cloud-based ERP software, some companies will be looking for information on how they should migrate from their legacy systems. Others will be searching for information on baked-in business analytics. Still others will be just dipping their toes in the cloud waters and want to know about security. And you can’t possibly fit all that into a readable, interesting white paper, particularly for top of the funnel content.

[tweetthis]Don’t let your white papers, case studies, or other content be a turkey. via @cparizo[/tweetthis]

One of the biggest things that last week’s MarketingProfs Content Rules workshop reinforced is that content has to be tailored to the audience. That doesn’t mean creating fancy personas, like Jim the programmer who likes wakeboarding and craft beer. It means figuring out what types of content buyers will want to read in each stage of their journey, then writing or creating content that speaks to them.

Here’s an example: Barb is the director of IT at a midsize oil and gas company. She’s been hearing “cloud-based ERP” for a while, and she’s clearly been hearing the complaints of users. Accounting can’t easily access orders. There are too many siloed systems. At this stage, Barb wants to learn more about cloud ERP systems. What’s the most valuable piece of content you could provide her? Is it:

a)      A slick, shiny data sheet all about your cool cloud-based ERP system?

b)      A white paper that discusses common problems with siloed legacy applications and how to solve them?

c)       A case study featuring another midsize oil and gas company that found success with your cloud-based ERP software?

If you answered b, you are correct. Barb is at the top of your funnel. She’s aware there is a problem, and she’s vaguely aware that something cloud-based might be the answer. She needs something educational, and a problem/solution white paper is a great piece to start a conversation with her. Further down, she may be researching different solutions, and she’ll greatly appreciate a case study or a data sheet that details what your ERP software can do for her company. But for now, she’s in the educational phase.

That’s not to say white papers can’t be geared toward customers further in the funnel, by the way. But if you’re creating content at the top of the funnel, it needs to be educational, just like if you’re creating content for the bottom of the funnel, it needs to be about selling the product. Companies that try to get away with one white paper or just a couple of pieces of content often find that they’re pleasing absolutely no one – other than the bean counters that only budgeted for a little bit of marketing.

Really, you can’t please everyone, especially with bland content that ends up being dry, tasteless filler. Tailor your content to specific people in their various stages of the buying process, and you’ll have a better chance of converting prospects into customers.