If I were to ask you to name the movie that contains the lyrics, “Let’s start at the very beginning / a very good place to start,” I believe that most people would know exactly what movie I was asking about. Naturally, the answer is The Sound of Music. Seriously, I gave it away in the title. You may ask yourself, why am I reading an article about The Sound of Music? Let’s focus on content marketing, and it will become clear.

Everything we do in marketing deals with content. Whether it is read, heard, or seen, our core goals should start with the content and how it relates to the message you are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to assume what the “beginning” is in content marketing. Is it the message? Is it the deliverable? Is it a goal? These are all relevant requirements in achieving your objectives; these are all part of the beginning. To make it easy, I’d like to focus on the core elements as part of the beginning.

Who is your audience? Your marketing usually starts with a clear understanding of what your strategy is and what you are trying to achieve. However, most people are so involved in trying to solve the problem that they forget the audience. You must understand who they are, what their challenges are, and why they would want to pay attention to your message.

Where does your audience go? I love it when someone says that you should use an advertising medium just because it is popular. Unfortunately, this can lead to wasted time and effort as well as lots of money. Whether it is a trade show, printed marketing piece, or digital marketing solution, the beginning consideration is to understand where your audience goes for information. If it is social, which social network do they use? If it is a trade show, what trade show do they attend? I can’t answer this, but I would bet that your audience would be happy to tell you.

Whom does your audience trust? Fake news? I don’t want to get political here, but I can tell you that the words “fake news” have been used more in the past year than any other time that I can remember. This buzzword has crossed over to marketing and is now associated with advertising initiatives. Are social influencers now the latest voices of trust or just a way to get a higher ranking in exposure metrics? The best marketing tools to use will constantly change, so be flexible and listen to your customers and react based on their actions. Digital has continuously changing tools, and while you cannot be everywhere, promote that these trusted sites are where you engage with your audience.

It’s So Easy to Forget

The abovementioned topics are the core of essential marketing. We should never forget them and always keep them at the top of mind. But I have seen many examples in which marketing is focused on the company’s needs. Customers are vocal, and they have no problem using social media (and other methods of communication) to voice their distrust, ridicule, or even joke about a company’s perceived issues. When that is the case, you have not only lost a marketing opportunity, but you have also created a PR challenge that can be much worse.

‘When You Read, You Begin With A-B-C’

What exactly are the ABC’s in marketing? I don’t believe there is a specific beginning pattern. I can only end by encouraging you to take a step back and drill down the aforementioned essentials. I have simple reminders on my desk (and even as task reminders in Outlook) to take a fresh look at our marketing initiatives and question at the beginning. If you tried the same, I think you could have a unique revelation. You have the potential to save your company a lot of time, money, and frustration—and you may be able to forgive me for having you sing or hum “Do-Re-Mi” for the rest of the day.