“Let’s create uninspired, irrelevant or self-serving content”– said no marketer ever. And yet, that’s exactly what we deliver at times. Why? Could be too little time to fill too many content holes. Too many ‘cooks’ in the content kitchen. We’re often trying to keep many internal stakeholders happy and, in the process, lose sight of what’s most important to the customer. As reported in a recent CMI & Marketing Profs study, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago, even those who say they are least effective (58%) and those without any type of strategy (56%) – a dangerous combination.

Finding topics that strike the right balance between speaking to the customer’s needs and pain points and presenting your own points of difference in an authentic way is an ongoing challenge. But it’s pivotal to a solid content strategy. Applying a disciplined topic modeling process can help.

From the Outside In.

Topic modeling takes an ‘outside in’ approach to identifying emerging or trending topics that resonate with target audiences and align with the brand’s agenda. Yes, it taps your internal experts and existing resources, like market research, focus groups, personas, marketing plans, and performance reports, for insights. But it also goes well beyond the four walls to see what’s getting traction in the media, on social channels and on conference agendas aimed at your targets. Look at what competitors are talking about. What are some of the influential voices in the space saying? Taken together, these external data points tend to be good markers for what’s top of mind with customers.

What emerges from the analysis are ‘hot topics’ that need further exploration and filtering. Which of these topics provide the best platform to tell your story, the best context for showcasing your domain expertise? Consider:

  • Is the topic ownable or is it already a crowded space?
  • Can we add a fresh point-of-view or new information to the conversation?
  • Are there internal experts that can be a credible voice of the brand on this subject? And are there influencers who can supplement, reinforce or amplify that POV?
  • Is there a timing factor – when there may be a natural ground swell of interest in the topic?

Armed with new insights, go back to your internal team to validate and refine your core topics. These then become a foundational element to your content roadmap that spells out for each topic –the type of content to produce, in what format, targeting which persona, when and how it’ll be distributed and promoted.

Once the program’s in play, monitor the conversation on an ongoing basis. How is it shifting and with it, your perspective? Adopting a dynamic approach to topic modeling helps keep your content relevant and your target audience informed and engaged.

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.