Getting ahead in the retail content game: A conversation with a SmartBrief publisher

Content has become a major buzzword in today’s consumer environment, and everyone from retailers to retail solution providers are taking notice. But it can be intimidating to craft a content strategy. How do you know what kind of content to create? How do you know what channels to send it through and to what audience? How do you ensure that your content strategy actually achieves the goals you set?

SmartBrief set out to answer these questions and more in a new report. Ahead of the report, Dena Malouf, SmartBrief’s group publisher for retail, sat down to talk about why having an effective content strategy is important, where retail companies looking to build out their content strategies should start and some of the most important questions to ask when working with media partners on content:

What does it take for retailers and retail solution providers to ensure they have an effective marketing strategy?
The short answer – content. Content is clearly not going anywhere, and in fact, content is how you’re going to make meaningful connections with your customers. The reality is that the world is getting more complex and people are turning to content more than ever before. However, people are distracted, and they’re overwhelmed and often bombarded with content from every angle. So the trick is actually getting their attention. But how?

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet. But smart organizations create good content, find publishing partners they can trust and diversify their content strategies enough so they catch people when and how they want to consume content.

Where should companies start when formulating their own content strategies?
A smart practice is to connect the dots between your content, marketing, sales and your position in the market. Where do you stand in the market? Are there others who are doing the same thing? Are people aware of the consequences that come with the problem your company solves? The answers to these questions should be part of the story you tell – and they should be central to your content strategy.

Another smart practice is to work with publishers on creating content. They understand the voice of your audience, and they also know how to keep your brand safe. When you do choose a publisher or media partner, take the time to soak up all of the knowledge they have on engaging audiences. At SmartBrief, our teams are always eager to walk through best practices and make recommendations. You would be surprised at how often the importance of leveraging publishing partners is lost in the process.

Once an organization decides to invest in content, how can they go about choosing the right topics?
Choosing topics for your content can seem like a daunting task, but there are so many great overarching topics to cover in the retail industry. For example, it’s hard to go wrong with holiday-related content – there is always a demand for it. But so many solution providers take the wrong approach by waiting until the holiday season actually kicks off to tackle their holiday-related messaging. At that point, it’s almost always too late to send a message that will have an impact on a retailer’s holiday bottom line. A better strategy is to start talking about the holidays before they happen – perhaps around October – and provide content that will be helpful to retailers preparing for the holiday season. Content covering useful, tactical solutions or benchmarking data are good examples.

Another good example of engaging content is something covering customer segmentation – specifically millennials and Gen Z. The end product is always interesting and tends to perform well.

Use your blog as a tool to help determine what kind of content you should be focusing on. It’s not enough for a topic to simply be applicable to your audience – it also has to be engaging. And a blog is a great way to test that because blog posts are a low-risk commitment, in terms of content.

Questions I wish more people asked when working with SmartBrief on content…

  1. What kind of content or creative works best for our specific audiences?
  2. Based on the most-clicked stories from SmartBrief’s newsletters, what are some of the big trends we’re seeing in the industry? How can we utilize them in our clients’ content strategies?
  3. What is the most underappreciated content format and distribution method?
  4. What are some of the usable content-related insights SmartBrief can provide from our work publishing newsletters to targeted audiences every day?
  5. How does SmartBrief create its own content strategy? What do we do for demand gen and thought leadership?

Continue reading about how to leverage a content strategy to effectively engage customers in our latest report.  Download the report here