Content strategy is one of those fields that sounds suspect. Two words mashed together to connote the idea that creating content, whether it’s social or on-page or for a blog will help make you money and sell your brand. For most businesses, the primary goal is to increase conversions and make sales. The natural inclination is to only talk about yourself, to sell explicitly what you do or your product, and to rely on leads from those pieces moving into the next stage of a sales funnel.

That’s the opposite of trustworthy. Every drowning person wants to buy a life vest right now. It’s convincing the those who aren’t drowning yet why one might be handy that makes the difference.

Your content isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. It’s about what they care about.

I worked in media for two years, at two very different companies. What they had in common was the endless pursuit of the audience. Which pieces resonate? What matters? Who are they? We were in a constant cycle of reading comments, focusing on CTRs and emphasizing more of what worked in an engagement and traffic sense. When you’re a media company, that usually is ruled both by SEO and Social Media and means that you aren’t always providing the highest quality.

Like TV, books, and music what’s popular doesn’t always equate to what’s good. But it does equate to eyeballs, interested consumers, and larger audiences. The challenge in a situation like this is to present the best possible version of what interests your audience. Homing in on the pulls, the incentives, the nuggets that are the most interesting to your audience are what let your content sing. They’re what attract those customers who didn’t even know they needed the thing you’re selling. That’s what content strategy is about.

Sell feelings, not products.

If you’re a business that sells hiking boots, you shouldn’t just talk about boots. You should talk about Wild, about the outdoors, about being freed from your office and the spiritual/emotional impact the outdoors has on your life. You sell the idea of hiking, the experience of nature. You don’t talk about your boot too much. That’s what the product description is for.

Zooming out on your product or service lets you access the key to its sale. The purpose. Hiking is an easy one, but Asana’s productivity software relies on content that sells the idea of seamless teamwork and project management. Amazon sells ease. LinkedIn sells professional success. It’s less about their products, and more about the lifestyle the audience wants to lead, their passions, interests, and motivations.

Brands are inherently egocentric and selfish.

They’re out for themselves. Focused on making money for itself and sells itself. They’re less focused on awareness and perception. It isn’t putting its focus on getting people to want its product. The problem is, people don’t really want a thing. They want the feeling that thing gives them. This goes for everything from luxury cars to healthcare. Sell the experience and they will come.

So, how does content strategy help?

Your content strategy, conversion strategy, and paid strategy should all complement each other, but they shouldn’t be the same. Measurement gets tricky with content. Google’s assisted conversions and enhanced lead attribution can start to solve this issue, but you’re still constantly going to need to go back to the numbers to find out how things are going. Is your content engaging? Are people spending time on it? How many are spending time on it? What do people say about it? Focusing on the UX and engagement can supplement the analytical and quantitative data and help your brand thrive.

In short, focus on who your audience is. Their needs, wants, and feelings. Then focus on how you can help them. Make their world easier. Solve their problems without overly selling yourself. Be a partner, not a product. That’s the strategy that will stick.