What Is a Content Pillar

What is a content pillar

A content pillar is a large piece of content that can be broken into smaller, bite-sized pieces of content. This allows you to focus on a single topic or theme, but at the same time, meet the needs of every department in your organization.

Sample Content Pillar

Examples of content pillars include eBooks, reports, and guides. You then repurpose this big content into individual blog posts, infographics, videos, emails, social media updates, and more.

The Need for Content Pillars

A content pillar approach is both an efficient and effective way to create and distribute content. It benefits your entire organization, not just your marketing department.

Imagine a potential customer browsing your website. She is very inclined to buy one of your products and called your hotline to confirm some specs. The customer representative then said something different from what she read on the website. She got turned off and decided not to buy any more.

This situation is not uncommon, even in big companies.

Most of the time, this happens because the people in-charge of the phone (sales) have a different piece of content that came from another part of the organization (product team). The content on the website is also different because it’s handled by different people as well (marketing).

The product team updates the product, they updated their technical specifications, both marketing and sales didn’t get the updated notification. Another scenario is marketing receives the specs, tried to reword it so the public can easily understand its benefits, but understood the features in a different way.

Multiple departments creating and handling their own versions leads to content chaos.

Creating a mash-up of content from experts and other teams without a unifying theme or approach results in a disjointed customer experience.

The solution to content chaos is to have every department involved in the content creation process. They should buy-in the idea that content is everyone’s shared responsibility.

Why? Because of the customer.

The customer only sees one entity — your organization.

The customer doesn’t make any distinction across the different “departments’ content” — sales brochure, fact sheets, website, calling cards, press releases, social media, flyers.

That leaves you with the only effective approach to solving content chaos — a content pillar.

Remember to involve the other departments when planning content campaigns. That way, everyone has a centralized content resource — avoiding different messages conveyed to customers.

Have you used content pillars in your digital marketing?

Let me know in the comments below!

5 Stages of Awareness You’re Probably Not Aware Of

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Creating content that your target audience will love reading is one of the prerequisites in modern digital marketing. People go through the 5 stages of awareness — and you’re probably not even aware of it!

The problem is, content creation doesn’t come naturally for most digital marketers.


Because most courses in college are teaching old school techniques — where the more interruption you create, aka wow factor, the better you are. But that type of marketing doesn’t work anymore.

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I’m sure you noticed how a lot of organizations are now shifting their spend on more storytelling through articles and videos. Remember the Jollibee and McDonald’s commercial series? Or for big international brands, you have the likes of Nike and Adidas who continually show the struggles and perseverance of athletes but never mention their own products.

Then again, those are huge brands with huge budgets.

But what about us working for ourselves? What about the small businesses? How can we start creating content that people will want to read? How do we get started?

5 Stages of Awareness: A Different Perspective

The easiest way to start creating content is to start with your customer’s FAQs.

I also shared my workflow earlier this year about getting started with video content in less than 30 minutes.

If you’re looking for more ideas on content creation, the next thing you do is to change your perspective — instead of looking inside-out, start looking at your organization from the outside.

I’m sure you already know this — the best perspective to look at your organization is from your customer’s eyes. No matter what your industry or product/service offering, your customers go through the different stages of awareness.

Let’s take a closer look at the 5 levels of customer awareness. This is another way to look at the buyer’s journey.

Stage 1: Unaware

People at this stage are not necessarily in need of anything at this point. Looking at this differently, people are unaware of and don’t care about you. They don’t know you. And most importantly, people at this stage won’t buy from you.

Imagine you are a local pet shop who just opened last week. As you can imagine, there are a lot of people who don’t know you: your relatives, your neighbors, and definitely a whole lot of pet parents. They are all part of this group. Obviously, they don’t know you so it’s practically impossible for them to buy from you at this point.

Stage 2: Pain Aware or Problem Aware

These are people who are aware of their problem but not any solutions.

What that means for our pet shop is this group are those who realized they needed something for their pet. Of course, this can change since the pet store offers a lot of things and there’s a lot of challenges a pet parent might have. For example, one day they can suddenly realize they don’t have enough dog food. Another day, they might decide on getting a large dog, so that means a different dog food, a bigger harness, etc.

The point remains is that at this stage, they became aware that they have a problem (that is related to what you can solve — in this case — as a pet shop).

Stage 3: Solution Aware

People at this level of awareness know solutions exist for their pain but don’t know about yours.

Assume you are the sole distributor of this Super Awesome Dog Food Brand. Obviously, no one else knows about that brand, only you.

People at this stage know they need “food” for their dog. But obviously, there are a whole lot of alternatives out there.

  • Other dog food brands
  • Raw meat diet
  • Human food

Stage 4: Product Aware

People know you offer solutions they may need but they have yet to choose your product.

At this stage, people have narrowed down their options. From our example, since you are carrying the Super Awesome Dog Food Brand, you are inclined to your target audience buying dog food, rather than other the alternatives like feeding raw meat.

But don’t forget, within the dog food category, there are still a lot of other options — Pedigree, Royal Canin, Holistic, etc. You’re simply one of their options.

Stage 5: Most Aware

Visitors know and trust your brand.

People at this stage are fully aware of you, your brand, and what you have to offer.

Putting It All Together: How the 5 Levels of Customer Awareness Works

Using this framework, you’ll immediately notice that there are a lot more people who don’t know you and your products.

If you map them out using circles, you’ll get an image that looks something like this.

5 Stages of Awareness – Graphical Representation

Here’s what you learned in this article:

  • People go through different stages of awareness.
    • Stage 1 refers to people who don’t know anything about you
    • Stage 2 refers to people who became aware of their problems/needs/challenges that you can solve with your products/services
    • Stage 3 refers to people who became aware of potential solutions to their problems/needs/challenges but haven’t chosen on a particular one yet
    • Stage 4 refers to people who have narrowed down their options to a specific category/option to solve their problems/needs/challenges.
    • Stage 5 refers to people who know you and trust you.
  • There are specific content that is more effective at certain stages.

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So, what are you going to do next

If you’re having a hard time creating content for your organization, you’re probably looking at your market too narrowly.

For example, you might only be focused on creating content ABOUT your product (Stage 4). You’re missing out on stages 1 to 3 — with each circle representing a bigger audience than the previous one.

  • What types of content can you create to attract those who don’t know you?
  • What can you share with people who are exploring their options related to what you’re selling?
  • How do you develop trust with these people?

These are the questions you should be asking yourself.

Another application of the stages of awareness is fine-tuning the messaging and targeting of your campaigns. For example, when you use a stage 4 or stage 5 content to target people who are at stage 1, don’t expect that campaign to meet your objectives.

Both content and context aren’t aligned.

I’ll share more examples about this in future posts. In the meantime, let me know in the comments what you think. Are you focused on creating stage 4 and stage 5 content? How can you think differently about creating stage 1-3 content? Are you using bottom-of-the-funnel content to target top-of-the-funnel audiences?

What Is Content

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Content in digital marketing is any information that is seen, heard, or a combination of the two.

Some examples of content that are seen are articles, infographics, and emails. For content that is heard, these are your podcasts and music. Finally, videos fall under content that is both seen and heard.

Content is king in today’s digital world. Without it, it’s almost impossible to stand out, be noticed, and succeed. If you want to win in digital marketing, start creating content.

3 Categories of Content

1) Seen

Content that is seen can be further broken down into two subcategories:

  1. Written
  2. Visual

Written content is the most common. These are your articles, e-books, and white papers.

Visual content is the ones you don’t normally read or if they have text, there’s not much on it. Some popular examples are simple photos, memes, gifs, and infographics.

2) Heard

Content that is heard is quickly becoming popular nowadays. These would be your music, podcasts, and the “assistants” (like Siri, Alexa, and Google). A traditional form of content that falls under this category is radio.

It’s quickly becoming popular because it allows you to do something else while listening to it.

3) Combination

Lastly, the content that uses both visual and auditory elements are your videos. These can be a simple explainer video to elaborate online courses.

Most marketers claim that video is the type of content that has the highest ROI. Approximately one-third of online activity is spent watching videos.

That’s also the reason why I jumped on this bandwagon and started creating video content.

So, What Are You Going to Do Now

Among all these different types of content, how many are you using in your marketing?

Like I said over and over, if you are not found online, you do not exist. Without content, it is impossible to stand out and get noticed.

Start creating content today!

Commandment 8: Content is King

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One of the fundamental beliefs held by many marketers (business owners and salespeople as well) is that they can control how their customers buy. This is not an effective approach to digital marketing.

The fact is, the only thing you can control is your own behavior. People who fail to ask the question, “what’s different now?” and act upon that answer is bound to fail.

I’m writing this now in 2017. The important word there is 2017.

People’s buying behavior has changed. Before there was internet, the only way consumers get to know about a certain product or service is through an ad or buy stepping in a store and talking to someone. The company has, in some way, control over the buying experience because it has the information the customer needs.

But that is no longer the case. Today, by the time people “talk” to a person in your company, they are already 81% through the buying cycle. They have already done their research beforehand.

As a result, people consume content more than ever and content that matters to them. With the proliferation of tools and on-demand services like RSS aggregators, social media, and device notifications, plus with the internet being more accessible (though the quality of the internet here in the Philippines is an entirely different conversation), you and your company have to be present where your buyers are searching for these information.

In addition, Google and Facebook are continuously developing their algorithms to only show content that is relevant to the searcher. This is the reason why you don’t see updates in your timeline chronologically.

Think about the last time you bought your laptop or phone. You’ve already read reviews, asked your friends, and read a ton of articles. Then, when you get to the store, you ask a few questions about warranties, compatibilities, and other things that you already read about. You’re simply confirming what you already know about.

In this scenario, you’re pretty much sold already. The person you’re talking to doesn’t need to hard-sell. In fact, if they become to nosy and push you too hard, you probably won’t buy. Or, put it differently, you probably won’t buy from them. You’re still interested in the product — just not from this company.

The problem here is that most marketers behave as if they still control the buying experience. Hard selling is one of the biggest problems marketers do today.

Has any of these situations ever happened to you?

  1. Received SMS messages from an unknown number about a condominium
  2. Received an email from a company telling you about their sale this weekend
  3. Received a message on LinkedIn telling you about an exceptional opportunity

As a consumer, i.e. on the receiving end of these messages, we get irritated about these so much. But on the other end, why do we keep sending these kinds of messages?

And in case you’re wondering when I receive this kinds of messages, the numbers get blocked (so they can never message me again) and the emails marked as spam. As a marketer, I am disgusted by these people who regard this as marketing. There’s this one popular hardware store who keeps on sending mass email about their sale. First, I never signed up for this so the first and second time they sent that to me, I replied asking to remove me from their mailing list. No response. So, I just made a filter in my email to automatically move their message to spam. The other problem is that they are sending this email via BCC method — an email practice that is very unprofessional and, IMO, borders on unethical.

People consume content now more than ever. Good content for that matter. Sending unsolicited messages is not only bad content. It is also ineffective. And we don’t want that.

So, why do we, as marketers, spend so much time sending these unwanted messages instead of creating content that people will find relevant and helpful?

The answers, as what other marketers I interviewed said, primarily falls under two categories: (1) they don’t know where to start and (2) pressure to bring in results.

By the end of this article, I hope I’ll be able to address the first category. For the second one, there really is no single way to answer that. One thing I do know is that you need to change something. Because you already aren’t bringing in results. And as what they say, doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

Summarizing what you read so far, consumers behave differently now than when there was no internet. Organizations no longer control the buying cycle. Consumers read and research (content) before even getting in touch with you. Now, if you are not present in that research, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities.

Ok, so where do you start?

Create Content Your Audience Wants and Needs

Before anything else, I just wanted to make it clear — content that your audience wants and needs — NOT what you think they need or want. The content is for your audience, not for you. Have this mindset when creating content and you’re already halfway there.

Another note here is that you need a platform to create content. In most cases, this is a blog.

If this is the first-time you’re doing this, then this might be a problem. But there are tons of resources out there for starting a company blog. Feel free to speak with your IT (if you have one) for help on how to get started. If you have full control over these kinds of things, one of the popular ones out there is WordPress. It’s what this site is on.

1) List Your Top 10-20 FAQs

List the frequently asked questions you get and the corresponding answers to them. This is one of the quick wins I always start out with. It’s easy and simple. In a matter of minutes, you can have months worth of content.

Some general guidance on these is to create short answers (1 to 2 sentences) and long answers to these FAQs. Use the short answer when you get asked on social media, via phone, etc. Then, the long answers should be present in your blog.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Download this Google Spreadsheet (or make a copy of your own) then delete the entries or duplicate the sheet so you retain the sample and have a clean one
  2. List down your FAQs
  3. If you know the answer (which you should), write it down in the short answer column.
  4. Finish the rest of the administrative details in other columns

Lastly, if you don’t have content for any of these, write them. Try to aim for at least 300 hundred words. Focus on the answer and going straight to the point. Perhaps adding an example to better explain the situation.

Then, what you do with those 300-word articles is to publish or schedule them once a week. If you have 10 FAQs, that’s 10 articles. And if you use the schedule I suggested, that’s 3 months worth of content. This gives you enough time to brainstorm and create longer and more in-depth content.

Make your life easier by collaborating with the different departments who engages with customers. Marketing, sales, operations, customer service, etc. Work with them to list down the questions and answers.

Pro Tip: the short answers are used by both marketing and sales when asked via email and/or social media. This ensures you have a standard response and not have marketing say X then sales say Y. Then, after creating and publishing the actual article (long answer), use that as an additional reference when you reply via email or social media.

On a side note, the template I shared is exactly what I used at Full Suite. We have a weekly (yes, weekly) 30-minute run-through of the document. What happens is throughout the week, people from marketing, sales, and operations place questions there. If they know answer, they plug in the short answers as well. During the call, we go through each new item one-by-one. This keeps us all stay aligned and have one common response to customers. That’s it. Then, marketing is left with the task to create content for these and schedule them in the content calendar.

2) Identify Problems You Are Trying to Solve

As a company, you usually have 3-5 of these. If you’re solving a lot, then it’s either you’re a really big company or you don’t have focus.

Once you have these problems, create content from 3 different angles:

    1. High-level solution to the problem
      Answer the question straight to the point. Don’t mention any products / services. Remember, you are most likely just one of the solutions out there. Here’s an example: The problem is “how to file income tax”. The right answer to that question (problem) is to fill-out this form through eBIRForms, print the form and confirmation email, pay the amount to the bank (if applicable), then keep the records. The bank will forward the tax returns to the BIR. That’s it. Of course, you explain in detail, but there’s no mention of any product or service. It just answers the problem.
    2. Present different solutions to solving the problem
      In this angle, you now look at options / alternatives to solving the problem. Using the same example above, you can write about 3 ways to file income taxes: (1) do it yourself, (2) do it yourself but using a system or software, (3) hire an accountant or a company to do it for you. You can lay out the pros and cons for each, etc.
    3. How do YOU solve the problem. Finally, create content for how YOU solve the problem. If you’re an accounting firm, then answer how do you file income taxes. Include your process, how long it takes, the amount, etc. I don’t need to elaborate on this as it’s the type of content you probably know best to do.

Pro Tip: Do this for every type of content. This is actually an application of the buyer’s journey in your content creation.

Reminders for Creating Content

    1. Don’t worry about SEO. Look, SEO doesn’t matter that much if you don’t have content. At this point, having content matters more. So focus on that. SEO can be roughly divided into 90-10 split. 90% are outside your control while 10% is within your control. That external aspect relies on the quality of your content, while the internal deals with how your content is structured technically. This 10% is what I covered in commandment 5 for effective digital marketing. So focus on creating content your customers would want to read.
    2. Categorize content based on the stage they are in. Use both your judgment and facts. I already touched on this topic above. Remember this: there are a number of ways to discuss any topic. You just need to find an angle. No matter the industry. Don’t make it an excuse that you are in a boring industry. As long as you are solving other people’s problems, there will always be content to make.
    3. Just write. I cannot stress this enough. You might say after reading all these is that it’s good in theory but not for you because you are not a writer. Look, it’s 2017 now. These are the basic qualities of effective marketers. Content is something that would not go away. If you want to continue in this field, you either adapt or die. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s just the way it is. At the end of the day, unless you execute, knowing all these won’t matter. You don’t even need to write yourself. But you need to create content. You can hire other people to do so. But if you don’t do it, you’ll be left behind.

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