September 8, 2016
Probably the single best idea that any content marketer has ever had was to base his or her content on the audience.
When you figure this out it changes the way you see your content. It even changes the way you see marketing as a whole.
Consider, for a moment, what we’ve been taught as marketers for all of our professional lives.
• That the consumer is the person we’re selling to.
• That wide strategies are best because we play a numbers game.
When you start focusing your content on your audience or your industry, your marketing changes and so does your view of the audience.
What’s the Aim of Developing Content?
Now don’t get me wrong. Some content marketers excel at developing wide strategies. They are great at getting a touchpoint that appeals to many different people. These things don’t work for every industry type or audience, however. At one point, the aim of developing content was based around expanding your audience. It was thought that new leads were better than dealing with the audience you already had. Now, as we understand the importance of customer loyalty more and more, it becomes clear that this strategy doesn’t make any sense in the 21st Century.
Customizing content seeks to deal with helping you figure out what sort of content best appeals to your target demographic. For this to be successful as a marketing tactic we must first explore what makes up your ideal customer. How much do you know about your audience or industry?
Customizing Content: Get to Know your Readers
What we do as content marketers is commercialize the business of communication. We are able to spread ideas and messages far and wide by clever use of language. When we do this, however, we need to invest the time and effort into figuring out if our content will appeal to the people who read it. By figuring out if our content will appeal to our readers, we can determine if it’s worth producing. If it isn’t then we can adjust our topic to be one that resonates with our readers more. But how do we define our readers? Who are these people we’re writing for?
Identifying the Audience
Do you know the people you’re writing for personally? If you do then you’re head and shoulders above the rest of us content creators. We don’t know the people we’re writing for. We create content that caters to a specific type of audience, this is true — but the individual makeup of that audience varies. The things they have in common might be just the single industry that we’re creating content for. Identifying our audience gives us a chance to explore what other things make up the likes and dislikes of our audience and the topics that appeal to them the most. Once we’ve figured that out, we then move on to how we deliver this content to the people who want it.
Analyzing the Audience
To truly appeal to an audience, we must first analyze what sort of content that audience enjoys consuming. For example, it’s unlikely that we’d appeal to an industry of visual arts and filmmakers by doing content that is built around static, cartoony images. The novelty might get a laugh out of them but they won’t take your content seriously. What we are trying to do is bridge the gap between what we know and what our audience knows. Analyzing the audience allows us to gauge the level of interaction we can use and to what depth the audience already knows what we’re talking about.
Breaking it down too much might seem condescending but being too complex can leave your audience more confused than informed. Content marketing is equal parts what you say and how you say it. Having a topic simply allows you a starting point; from there it’s a matter of following what your audience enjoys and building your content to appeal to it. The end result is content that is both interesting and engaging to your audience.
Understanding Market Research
In the last decade or so, it has become the norm to see small entrepreneurs and businesses utilizing market research before putting out a product. Before the 2000s, market research was something that large companies would do. In fact if you didn’t have a few million dollars for a research budget, you had to shelve the idea of market research. The Internet turned this around for small businesses. Free research tools like Google Analytics make it much easier for smaller companies to get their hands dirty with market data analysis. And boy, did they get busy doing that.
Most small businesses today do some form of market research before they put out their product. This could be something as simple as keyword research to determine what keywords they can compete with on their website down to A/B site testing to see which landing page appeals to customers more. What is surprising is that the results from these individual market researchers have helped them to understand their audience so much more and be able to develop content that suits their target demographic.
Targeted Content: Content Marketing’s Elusive Dream
Every content marketer dreams of being able to create content that is targeted to his or her main audience. If you could directly target the people who want your products, then theoretically the products would sell themselves. Targeting your content to your audience gives you the chance to direct your content to the relevant audience that would appreciate what you have to say.
Writing for a targeted audience is a lot easier than writing to attract a targeted audience. The difference lies in the fact that when you write for a targeted audience, your audience already is interested in what you have to say. When you write to attract an audience, you get to determine what you write and how you put it to make people more interested in it. Writing for a target audience is a lot easier than trying to bring an audience to your page. But the truly skilled content marketing professionals know how to bring the readers to their content.
On Engaging Content and Attracting Users
We spoke before about customer loyalty. More and more companies are realizing that loyal customers is a lot better than simply acquiring customers through paid advertising. Loyal customers stem from creating engaging content that attracts people to your site. The number one way to develop content that is engaging is to customize that content around what your audience enjoys consuming.
The world today has almost done away with the idea of individualism so that when marketing addresses a person directly, the audience tends to enjoy it more. People in general are fans of being the center of attention. One simply has to look at how many products exist today that serve to customize a user’s surroundings to fit with what they want. From the phone that user has to the shoes that they wear tell a story and brand a message about that user’s personality.
Your marketing message has to do the same thing that these brands do when they create a persona for their product. Lifestyle marketing is something that is accepted as part of a valid sales strategy for product brands. What your content should do is to try to focus on your user personally. Nothing about content marketing can be imagined as a one-size-fits-all solution. When you’re busy developing a marketing strategy that tries to cover all the bases your audience is listening to someone else’s message that’s tailored to their personal needs.
Targeting your Content Production: Identify your Content’s Purpose
What is your content trying to achieve? Is it there to create sales? Generate leads? Direct customers to subscribe to a mailing list? Defining the purpose of your content allows you to have a clear understanding of what you’re creating and why you’re creating it. This, in turn, allows you to develop content that is in line with what your overall content strategy is. Each piece of content you create should do something to complete the goal of the strategy, whatever that may be.
The content you produce should come with the idea that it brings value to your consumers’ lives. The hallmark of good content is content that either teaches the reader something new, is a new point of view on what the reader already knows or gives them perspective on something that they may or may not already know.
In short, the hallmark of good content is content that brings value to the reader’s life. Your content needs to be able to do that in fulfill its goal.
Develop Quality Content
The mantra of “quality over quantity” is something that each and every content marketer should know and follow. Beginner content marketers tend to make the mistake of thinking more is better, especially when it comes to content creation. Instead of developing targeted, hard-hitting content for their audience, they are content to conjure up a lot of medium- to low-quality posts in the event that their widely cast net will snag something of value.
That’s not how you target your content and gain customer following. It might get you a lot of views but the majority of those views will be by people who have no interest in what you are presenting to them. The consumers that do want your product might be attracted, but based on the quality of your content your consumers might just look elsewhere. High-quality content is the most effective way to generate leads and attract new readers through content marketing. That’s why when you develop targeted content you must ensure that the content you create is something you can be proud of.
Follow Up On Your Efforts
For any sort of content strategy to work, it must know how to evaluate itself. When it comes to creating a targeted content strategy, you need to see what is working and what isn’t. The most effective way of doing this is by utilizing content analytics tools. Even Google Analytics can give you a wealth of insight into how a particular piece of content or post on your blog is doing when compared to others.
The numbers for key performance indicators such as number of new visitors and number of returning visitors gives you insight into which posts are performing well and which are suffering for attention. The ones that naturally attract users are the ones that you should focus on because they contain elements that your audience wants to see. Use them as a draft to create more content along those lines.
Looking at your own posts can give a lot of insight, but looking at the posts of competitors can be just as interesting. Competitor research is an accepted way of evolving your marketing strategy around what works for your competitor. This doesn’t mean copying one of their well performing posts per verbatim, since that is likely to penalize you far more than it helps thanks to SEO restrictions on duplicated content. Using the popular posts that they have as a draft you can develop your own content around what works for them.
Information is Ammunition
Knowing what your audience wants puts you in a unique position. It gives you the ability to cater your posts and your content around what they like, making it more likely that they will come back to visit your blog at a later date. That is what you’re looking for. Developing targeted content is important to fulfill the needs of your content marketing strategy. Understanding what your audience wants comes from understanding what the metrics say about what they’re most interested in. The more you know, the easier it is to hit your target and keep your audience involved in the content you create.
Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.