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How Your Content Can Save Your Audience + How to Do It All Right

Learn how segmenting your content through the hero-hub-help framework can ensure that it speaks to your audience effectively at different stages of their customer journey.

Take a moment to think about why you started the business that you did.

Chances are, it was to help people. And it’s that very attitude of service that keeps customers virtually peeking their heads in the door, deciding to come in for a look around, and finally, sitting down for a spell.

In a nutshell, service to one’s customers and potential customers is what keeps interest in a business high. When it’s time to provide that kind of service on the internet, however, it can be hard to know where to start. How can you reach both potential and current customers where they are online?

Enter the hero-hub-help content strategy framework.

Few marketing strategies have endured like the hero-hub-help framework. Originally conceived of by Google with YouTube channels in mind, it has been the gold standard for capturing and priming audiences for conversion since its birth in 2014.

At its core, the hero-hub-help framework is simply a three-pronged approach for targeting one’s audience at different stages and in different ways; simply put, it’s a path toward reaching potential customers where they are, and nurturing current customers so that they remain your customers.

Here’s the basic gist of the three:

Hero content is “big tent” material: high value content meant to cast a wide net and make your brand known to the biggest audience possible; think of TV commercials, for example, and how they’re made to capture the attention of as many people as they can.

If you’re on any brand’s e-mail lists or receive industry updates from an organization, what then you’re seeing there is hub content. Done right, it “keeps the conversation going” and keeps potential and existing customers involved engaged, helping them to feel like they know and have a relationship with you.

Finally, help content (also called hygiene content) is what it sounds like: this is what your brand puts out there so that when people are looking for information on a subject that your product or service might be able to provide, they find it with you. It is by far the category with the most extensive amount of content. The intent is to position yourself as a reliable source of information so that you become the place to check first when your audience has a question that needs answering or a problem that needs solving.

Now that you’ve got the basic idea, let’s take a closer look at the three, always with this question in mind: how is your content reaching out to your audience?

The hero-hub-help content strategy framework will ensure that you both capture the attention of your intended audience and hold on to it. Let’s dive deeper for a closer look!

What is Hero Content?

In many ways, hero content is a gigantic net that’s cast to bring as many potential customers in as possible. It’s made to appeal to a wide array of people, letting even those who are not necessarily part of your target audience know who you are.

Examples of hero content could be viral videos or articles, white papers and case studies, or even e-books and brochures.

So, what are the characteristics of hero content?

First and foremost, hero content tends to appeal to people’s emotions, and often focuses on telling a story. Why?

Stories are the primary ways in which we understand and interact with the world. While a viewer or reader might not have a car or be interested in buying tires, for example, they will be able to identify with the feeling of having had a close call: you were in danger, in a situation that could have gone very badly, and then you were saved. Whew. Bullet dodged. Or maybe you’re not a huge fan of beer, but you know that feeling of a sudden surge of love and camaraderie for those moments with friends who’ve made your life feel more than worth living: “I love you, man.”

When we see or read stories, we can see ourselves. When we see ourselves in a story, they stick with us emotionally.

Another characteristic of hero content is that budgets for it are typically large, and its production can take quite a long time. Research, planning, and then more research tend to make up the bulk of the process in order to create the highest-value content possible. Think of how much money and thought goes into a 30-second spot for Coca Cola or Nike during the Super Bowl, for example.

Hero content is, in the end, icing: rich, showy, and the thing that everyone identifies first. But like icing, it can’t stand alone. Forgetting to put the cake underneath, as delicious as the icing may be, is akin to creating a beautiful party invitation and then forgetting to actually plan and host the party.

What is Hub Content?

If you receive any kind of email newsletter or promotional ads from a brand or organization that you frequent, or if you watch a weekly video that your favorite YouTube channel puts out, for example, then it likely falls into this category. One way to think about hub content is as a radio show that comes on once a week. It’s at the same time, in the same place, and people know what to expect when they tune in.

Hub content is consistent, predictable, and informative, and is the means through which you develop a relationship with your target audience. To continue with the above metaphor, hub content is like the filling of the cake: there’s more of it than of hero content, but a bit less of it than help content (we’ll get to that in a moment). Hub content keeps those who have shown interest in the brand in the loop by keeping them updated on news within the company or organization and new products or services on the horizon, and it’s aimed at current and likely customers.

Creating a Buyer Persona

To create successful content of any kind, but especially for hub content, it is imperative to know who your intended audience is. To do this, it’s necessary to create a buyer persona. As Neil Patel explains, creating a buyer persona helps marketers to “get into the mindset of their target audience. It gets them thinking about what appeals to them, what their needs and motivations are, and ultimately how to convert them into customers.”

If you already have an established business, then creating your buyer persona will be easy: quite simply, who are the people that most buy from you? From that information, you’ll create a fictional person who represents exactly your target audience. Now, narrow this down as much as you can. Demographic information is necessary, of course, but try to get more specific: On what do they spend their extra money? What bills do they typically have to pay? What are their desires, their fears? What to do they do when they get home from work?

If you don’t already have clients or are wanting to appeal to a new audience, then do your research. Who are the people that you want to reach?

Once you’ve done this, ask yourself what that buyer persona needs that your competitors aren’t giving to them…and then figure out how to give it to them yourself. Remember, this is where you and your current and potential customers really get to know each other.

When you have this clear, create your hub content – informative, evergreen, and engaging – just for that specific buyer persona, and especially designed for them.

What is Help Content?

At last, we’ve come to the cake!

Help content is what ensures that people find you when you’re on the lookout for the kind of information that you provide. Help content is where you give the people exactly what they need (remember, however, that nobody needs to be sold to, so keep the pitches in this type of content to a minimum).

Sherwin Williams, for example, might have a variety of videos and how-to guides on painting techniques or choosing the perfect color for your living room, or a weight loss guru might explain the strategies they use to avoid overeating or snacking between meals.

Help content should be the biggest chunk of content that exists for your brand, since it’s the content that’s most likely to get you found and discovered by those searching for what you have to offer. Help content is for being ready to say “Actually, I have exactly the information that you need!” when someone searches for answers in your business’ niche.

To create good help content, do your research. What are people searching for that you could possible help them with? What key words are they using? Find out, and then give them the answers. Use your brand’s voice and make it valuable. And remember, while you can reference the services and products you offer, don’t make it about those things, and don’t try to “go straight for sale,” a move about as successful as going for a make-out session ten minutes into a first date.

Let’s go back to Sherwin Williams as an example. It will produce videos using and making visible its own products. It might tell you what color paint they’re using, for example, and what kind of brush (which will of course be available in their catalogue). What it will not do, however, is tell you that you must use their products in order to successfully complete the project.

What to Do Now

While the puzzle pieces are likely fitting together for you at this point, you may be worried: how on earth will you find the time to create so much content – not to mention the amount of research necessary for it?

Enter the content agency with a team of content writers. Experienced in research and producing engaging content, these professionals also know exactly how to apply SEO best practices and make use of the available metric tools to refine and polish to produce hero, hub, and help content that gets in front of the people it’s meant to.

If you’re unsure of how to find the time to apply this framework on top of all the other ways you run your business, consider getting help. Your business will thank you.

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