In Japan, the symbolic Maneki Neko (“beckoning cat”) is believed to attract good fortune and success for businesses.

Providing great content via your company’s blog is an important way to attract online visitors to your company’s website, which is one key to business success in today’s world. Having valuable content is also an important way to entice visitors to stay longer on your site, to learn more about your company, to educate (and entertain) them, to establish your company as an authority on industry topics, and to encourage readers to share your content .

Having worked with companies of all sizes across a variety of industries, I’ve found one key issue that often impedes a successful content marketing strategy.

What is it? It’s that content produced by companies is often focused on what the company wants to communicate out and not what the prospects want (or need) to learn about.

Companies can’t generate genuine reader interest and produce good (or great) content until they fundamentally change their perspective from internally-focused to customer-focused.

In addition, companies need to align with the target market’s preferences in terms of types of content and how it’s delivered.

Not sure if your content is Customer-focused enough? Here’s a quick checklist to get you started:

1) Does Your Content Address Your Prospect’s Pain Points?

No, introducing version 3.0 of your product and all of its features doesn’t count. Do you directly address your prospect’s pain points with an article like one of the following?

– How to Write a Living Will That Works (without breaking the bank)
– 5 Ways Doctors Can Market on Social Media (and tools to use)
– Step-by-step Instructions for Ceating an Explainer Video for Your Software Product
– 4 Resources For Finding the Right Retirement Home for Mom/Dad

2) Is Your Content More Interesting to Employees Than Readers?

If employees will be more interested in the content than 99% of your website visitors, then you’re probably too internally-focused.

Example of content that will not compel shares or interest from readers: Posts about your company BBQ, your company’s move to a new building, a customer case study with just summary information of the project, or the introduction of a new employee.

Example of content focused on you that may be interesting: How wine is made (with pictures or video), thought leadership from your CEO or VP of Marketing that presents a unique point of view about trends in the industry, or your products being used in a unique way (e.g. Lowes doing Vine videos of tools exploding like fireworks for the 4th of July (via the Content Marketing Institute)).

3) Does Your Educational Content Just Tease?

When helping your readers in a specific area, do you provide enough information to move forward? You don’t have to teach everything (or cannibalize your products or services), but readers want to get enough detail to be able to do at least one new thing. In addition, telling people what to do, but not telling them the tools needed or where to get them can be just as frustrating. Ask yourself, is your article teasing or is there enough to move forward in one area?

4) Does It Require Advanced Industry Knowledge?

If your audience includes newbies or people just learning about your industry, extremely advanced topics or industry lingo may severely limit your audience. If your target audience is very advanced users, then these posts on advanced topics focused on industry insiders may be just what you need. Understand the audience that you’re trying to address and make sure your content matches their level of understanding.

5) Is Your Content Easy To Digest? (Think Like a Magazine Editor)

If your content contains big blocks of dry text without any headers, bullets, pictures, graphics or video, then it’s about as interesting as the old school textbooks that were designed to pass information without any muss, fuss or frills. People like content that includes pictures, graphs, charts, graphics, video, bullet points, lists, and bite-sized content mixed with occasionally longer pieces. Think of magazines like Inc., Wired, Popular Mechanics or People Magazine and how they deliver content. Think of your blog as the part of your website that’s more like a magazine than a textbook, press release or product brochure. If you don’t, you’re probably turning off potential readers.

So, Is Your Content Customer-Focused?

Is your content internally-focused or is it focused on what your prospects and customers find valuable? Are you delivering it in a way that appeals to your audience? Is your content waving them goodbye or beckoning them?

Let me know in the comments and feel free to share your favorite ways that companies either attract or repel readers.