Top 5 Things You Need to Know When Doing a Content Needs Assessment

by Dana Detrick-Clark

Top 5 Things You Need to Know When Doing a Content Needs Assessment

We’re constantly bombarded with messages about how we should be writing more blog posts, producing more video, or in general, jumping into the deeper end of the content pool. I’ve had clients recently come to me with their hands thrown in the air, with no clue where to begin a development plan for these assets they’re convinced they so desperately need.

What I stress to my clients, as well as put into practice in my own frequent Content Needs Assessments, are five very basic pieces of information that help to define direction. Ask yourself these simple questions, and you will start to see a clear path to the content development you need.

1. Who?

Who are your current clients? Who are the ideal clients that you’d like to be reaching? There may be some crossover with these two, or maybe not. Remember though, this isn’t about “Who are your competitors?” or “Who are you?”. Your client or prospect should always be the person you are creating for.

When I’m creating a Content Needs Assessment, I drill deep into this. There may be a current client base that is very broad, which I call the Wide Net. For a doctor that’s a general practitioner, their Wide Net may be the metropolitan area they live in, with a large range of other demographic and psychographic variables. But their more precise Small Net, which may be a fraction of their clientele or even a focus they’d like to move toward predominantly specializing in, may involve preventative care for those at high risk for certain cancers, or fertility support for middle aged women.

If you aren’t sure who your clients really are, you may choose to start by developing Buyer Personas with me, which goes even deeper than this.

2. What?

What content assets do you currently have? What are your past and current goals? Are these assets effective at accomplishing any of them? Again, notice it’s not
What pretty things do you want to see on your website?”, or “What do your competitors have on their sites?”.

For our doctor’s digital marketing, he may have a very general website that his Wide Net patients visit, with basic hours of operation and maybe a list of insurance providers he accepts for payment. There may be stock photographs of families being cared for, or a picture taken with a cellphone of the outside of his office. He may have a Facebook page with pictures or short videos of his staff. For the Small Net, there may be a few blog posts about “What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer,” that he may have written himself or contracted a freelancer to write, or maybe he’s got a fertility calculator app he had developed that can be downloaded.

Knowing what you already have will present opportunity for it to be put to better use and improve its ROI. Or, if it no longer fits into your marketing plan, it can be cleared away to make room for more targeted content.

3. When?

When did you begin your current content marketing strategy? Knowing the life of your content and the attention span of your audience will help plan for future campaigns. If you find a piece of content is performing poorly despite a wide reach, it may have not had enough time to germinate, or just needs some tweaking. If the performance is less than expected after a long time, but reach is low, it may need promotion, or different distribution channels.

For our doctor, he may have had his Twitter account for a year, but he’s not consistently used it, so he’s not drawing new Wide Net followers or retweets from the few things he has shared there. That highly targeted blog post about breast cancer may still be relevant to his Small Net, but since it was shared once a year ago and only a few family and community members on his Facebook page saw it, it’s not had the opportunity to attract the exact patient it most needs to help.

That’s the beauty of inbound marketing: when all of these elements come together, the magic happens! There may be a season of sowing where you’re developing content and your reach is only gradually expanding, but you can see it’s hitting the right audience. When the reaping starts, and the expansion takes off, the shelf-life of that content, and its value, is so much longer than what traditional marketing can provide. They don’t call it “evergreen” (sustainable, long-lasting) content for no reason!

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4. Where?

Where are you currently distributing your content? Where are your clients? Do these two things match?

Our doctor may be consistently tweeting links to his blog posts on Twitter, but his Wide Net is predominantly on Facebook. He could be positioning himself as the logical resource for high quality LinkedIn posts on fertility that build trust with his Small Net (while drawing them to more content like a comprehensive white paper they receive after signing up for his mailing list). Instead, he’s focusing on keeping his profile general, his network honed to a small group of colleagues, and he’s not using the posting opportunities at all.

In general, we use what is easy, but “easy” is not always what is relevant. Sometimes it’s a matter of doing the research to find what other channels our clients, once we clearly identify who they are, are using.

5. Why?

This is where I go even deeper into what motivates the Who groups in my Content Needs Assessments. Why is this their biggest pain? Why do they need to learn about the solution you can provide for them? Why is your solution the best one? Notice it is not “Why are your competitors doing this or that?” or “Why is this the content you feel like creating?”. While observing industry standards and case studies will factor in the final assessment I provide, they’re never the big Why.

Calling back to our doctor, for their Wide Net, the convenience the location provides in relation to their homes may give them comfort that no matter what is wrong, they won’t have to go far for help. Socio-economic issues may play into the reason why traveling to a different doctor may not be a better choice. For the Small Net, his specialized knowledge will make a huge impact on their lives, or in the case of cancer, maybe even their survival. If you’re a doctor who can meet that need, your number one priority should be getting in front of those specific patients with evidence-filled content that put you top of mind for their care.

You absolutely can’t make a decision about content without knowing Why you’re creating these assets, for these specific clients or prospects.

Final Thoughts

Content marketing provides the perfect presentation of the biggest benefit you can give clients and prospects, in a way that will emotionally move them to make the decision to choose you. Not knowing your client or prospect’s Who, What, When, Where, and Why can squander that opportunity to reach them, and waste a ton of money on useless content doing it. Use these steps as a guide to get you on the right path of knowing your client or prospect inside and out, and using the content you create to really drive home that you are the right source for the solution to their pain.

If you’re ready to outsource this task to a qualified inbound marketer, sign up for Dana’s seven-point assessment or contact her to learn more.

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Dana Detrick-Clark has made it her mission to help creatives and small businesses like you broaden their reach in less time and with less effort. How does she do that? By providing premium content, creative consulting, and marketing confidence. Contact her today at

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