Want to build authority and create a brand that customers admire and trust?
Then you need content.
Don’t get me wrong: we love paid ads here at Tier 11. Ads can do wonderful things for your business.
But to really take the leap and build your business into a brand that carries weight in your industry, you need content, too.
And not just any content. You need what we call pillar content.
“Pillar” refers to the fact that this is your content foundation. It’s the load-bearing content that supports and holds up all the other content you’ll create around it.
Creating that kind of content might sound daunting, but never fear. In this article we’re going to share 5 steps you can follow to create pillar content that effectively communicates the core values and benefits that your company stands for.
Step 1 – Plant Your Flag Around a Big Idea
To create your pillar content, the first thing you need to do is to figure out the big idea of your business. To do this, you need to plant a flag. To take a stand on an important issue.
Let’s start with a few examples.
Allbirds: “Making clothing sustainable.”
Google: “Organizing the world’s information to make it accessible and useful.”
Nike: “Bringing inspiration and innovation to every athlete.”
Milk Street: “Cooking can be fun and easy.”
If you don’t know what your big idea is, it’s critical to get together as an organization and decide:
What do we believe in? What do we stand for?
What larger movement can you get behind?
Here’s a hint: if you stumble across a big idea that feels just a little bit scary, you’re probably on the right track.
Your big idea probably should be at least a little bit polarizing. Some people won’t agree with it, and might even be repelled by it—but that’s OK. These aren’t the people you want to attract, anyway.
What really matters is that the people in your target market will identify with your big idea. They more they can rally behind your big idea, the more likely it is that they’ll consume your content, buy your products, and one day advocate for your brand.
So that’s one value of planting your flag around a big idea: it helps you attract the right kind of people to your business.
While we’re talking about big ideas, here are 2 caveats to keep in mind:
Your big idea doesn’t have to be life-changing.
A big idea doesn’t necessarily have to be earth-shattering. If you’re starting a toothbrush company, for example, your big idea probably isn’t going to involve curing cancer or ending world hunger.
It might just be something like: “Brushing your teeth can be fun!”
And that’s perfectly fine! In the context of a toothbrush, that IS a big idea.
See the Milk Street example above for a good example of this.
Your big idea can (and probably should) change over time.
Your big idea is liable to get a little rusty over time. This is true because the world changes, and the things people care about change with it.
Similarly, markets mature over time. Generally this takes the form of people becoming more aware and educated about the products and solutions you sell. Which means that over time, your big idea will need to evolve so that you’re still standing behind an idea people still care about.
Take weight-loss supplements as an example.
In the very early days of diet pills, you could position your product around a simple message like, “Take this pill, and lose weight!”
It was a new idea that resonated with people.
But as the market became savvier, that was no longer enough. People became more skeptical of such claims. So weight-loss products had to evolve in a way that fit that growing awareness.
Today, weight-loss supplements are much more scientific. They reference antioxidants, metabolism, and published studies.
The good news here is that your big idea doesn’t have to be final. Plant your flag in the best place you can find right now, and when you find a better place later on, go ahead and move it.
Just make sure you stand for something that you believe in and that your market cares about.
Because there are so many marketing messages competing for people’s attention that if your company doesn’t have a big idea behind it…you’ll have a hard time standing out.
Step 2 – Identify Your Audience
Congratulations—you’ve figured out your big idea. But don’t start writing that blog post, shooting that video, or recording that podcast just yet. There’s a bit more prep work to do first.
The next thing you need to do is identify your audience. In other words: figure out who you’re speaking TO.
This is no small step, so don’t overlook it. The same big idea could look very different, depending on who you’re sharing it with.
If your big idea is “custom-made suits you can order from home,” for example, your content would look very different for an audience of middle-aged professionals compared to an audience of young men shopping for groomsmen suits for their wedding.
Now, in many cases you’ll have more than 1 avatar. If you sell a health supplement, for example, your avatars could include health enthusiasts, athletes, personal trainers, and dieters. There’s overlap between them, but they also have their differences.
If you’re just getting started, I’d advise keeping your list of audiences fairly small so you don’t run the risk of diluting your message. You can always expand this over time as you learn more about your customers.
And keep in mind: your audience definition doesn’t have to be perfect. You can always revisit and refine this later. But if you spend some time to get it as accurate as you can now, you’ll thank yourself for it down the road.
Step 3 – Find Out Where Your Audience Lives
Now that you’ve figured out who your audience is, you need to actually find where they hang out online. Otherwise, you risk building your content foundation in a place where your ideal customers will never see it.
That would be like opening a swimsuit store in Antarctica.
So dig through all the data and information you have about your audience, and match that against the popular platforms online.
If your audience is professionals, your platform is probably LinkedIn. If it’s moms, your best bet might be Pinterest. If they’re constantly on the go, a podcast might be the best format; if they’re working from home, video could be better.
You get the idea. Do a little research and find out where your audience hangs out. Think of it like finding the right beach for your swimsuit store.
One final note: this, too, is something that can (and probably will) change over time—especially as new social media networks emerge and their popularity shifts. For proof of this, consider the fact that thirty years ago, the best way to reach your audience might have been at a bookstore or through the mail.
Step 4 – Research the Content That Excels on That Platform
Once you have a platform in mind, start digging into that platform specifically. What kind of content excels there?
Written articles? Long-form audio interviews? Entertaining short-form videos?
Trust us, you don’t want to spend hours writing blog posts only to discover that your audience would rather watch a video.
Dig into this more specifically, if you can. If you’ve decided on Facebook as your platform and videos as your format, what kind of videos perform best? Short vs long, rambling vs to-the-point, entertaining vs purely educational, etc.
The more you can glean about what types of content other companies have found successful, the faster you’ll find success yourself.
Step 5 – Create Your Pillar Content
Now you’ve got everything you need to finally begin creating your pillar content.
You’ll want to spend significant time on this. Remember, this is going to serve as the foundation of your content for years to come. It’s not a quick blog post you’re trying to get out the door as fast as possible.
This content should communicate your big idea in a way that’s compelling for your specific audience. It should plant your flag in the ground. Last but not least, it should help nurture new visitors by educating them on what you’re all about and what makes your product or service different from your competitors.
Then once it’s complete, you’ll want to make this content highly visible on your website. You can link to it from your menu and from other blog posts. You might even be able to effectively drive cold traffic to this content as a way to generate awareness and warm audiences.
Whatever you do, make sure to revisit this content every now and then to make sure it still reflects what you stand for as a company, what makes you different from your competitors, who your audience is, and what they care about.
If you make sure those things are always true, you can’t go far wrong.
How Our Big Idea Has Shifted at Tier 11
For an example of how a big idea can shift over time, take us here at Tier 11.
In the early days of our company, our big idea was around Facebook and Instagram advertising specifically. If you had to put it into words, it might have been something like this:
Advertising on Facebook and Instagram is powerful, but hard to do. Let us do it for you and we’ll deliver better results than you could do on your own.
For the first few years, that made perfect sense for us. But over time, the market matured. More and more people are comfortable with Facebook ads today than they used to be. Fewer companies feel the need to outsource their paid advertising.
Digital marketing in general continues to become savvier and more sophisticated, and we’ve evolved along with it.
As a result, our big idea at Tier 11 has changed as well.
We no longer focus exclusively on running Facebook and Instagram ads. Instead, we have now planted our flag around a more holistic view of business and marketing that also involves optimizing sales funnels, clarifying KPIs, directing creative strategy, and more.
We call it Customer Acquisition Amplification™ (CaAMP™).
By taking a big-picture view of your company, we can align your marketing in a way that brings you more results than you could achieve through paids ads alone.
To find out if you’re a good fit for our CaAMP™ process, book a free strategy session with us. In this no-pressure call, we’ll just learn more about your business and your goals and provide some strategic insights you can use in your business (regardless of whether we work together or not).