Don’t waste your money: Know your audience for content marketing success
Who are you selling your products or services to? Can you picture a specific person, or at least describe who they are and what their daily life might look like?
If not, your marketing efforts may be in trouble.
Even the most customer-focused marketers can find themselves touting the specifications of what they’re trying to sell rather than acknowledging the customer’s need and how a solution will actually benefit them. It’s easy to do when you’re trying to get content out consistently but don’t have the time or resources to step back and plan, strategize, empathize.
The thing is, you could be wasting the time and resources you do have by pushing content that isn’t landing. How can you make the most of your marketing investment? By humanizing your audience.
Start with your audience to avoid throwing away money
If you’re not taking the time to actively dig into your audience – I mean, really dig into who they are, where they get their information, and what they care about – you’re wasting time and money every time you plan a marketing campaign or draft a new piece of content.
Companies spend an average of 11% of their company-wide budget on marketing, and top executives are starting to see the value of investing in it, but your messaging still has to prompt action. Whatever your objective for a piece of marketing is (and you’d better have one), you need to see some sort of progress toward that objective to consider the money spent an investment.
Putting time and resources into content that people are going to glaze over – at best – is a waste. How do you make the most of your marketing dollars? By understanding the people you’re marketing to and taking the time to connect with them.
So where does the audience come in? Hopefully, right from the start. Your products or services should be designed to meet your customers’ needs or solve a pain point. From there, your marketing connects the dots – from the customer to the solution. Not the other way around.
There’s a relatively popular practice that makes it easier to keep your customer in mind when developing messaging (and solutions). It reminds you that you’re talking to human beings with vibrant lives that don’t revolve around seeking out your brand, which can make a big difference in how you approach your marketing. That practice is to develop customer personas.
Personas are worth your time
Customer personas are one of those marketing elements that can come across as a little gimmicky. You hire a fancy marketing agency, they present a strategy that maybe seems a little unrealistic given your past experiences, and then they introduce you to your audience:
“Meet Kelly. She’s a 42-year-old mother of two, lives in the suburbs, and works full-time as a mid-level associate in a large company. She takes her kids to soccer practice, serves on the PTA, watches This is Us religiously, and is always down for a glass of chardonnay.”
Accompanying the description is a picture of “Kelly.”
I’m paying for this? You think. How on earth does this relate to blog content and social media posts?!
If your marketers actually use the customer personas – and they’re backed in actual research rather than gut feeling – it can make all the difference in the world. (Note: You probably also want to go a bit more in-depth than this example. ;))
As cheesy as customer personas may seem, they do one very important thing: they HUMANIZE your audience. If you can look at Kelly’s smiling face and think about the long day she had at the office, followed by two kids’ soccer practices, and you can empathize with her desire to sit down on the couch with a glass of wine and the latest installment of the Pearson family’s modern-day soap opera, you might think twice about writing a social media post full of brand speak and industry jargon. Does Kelly really care about your innovative new service that’s going to empower her to turn the page and start fresh? Probably not.
If you knew Kelly personally, how would you tell her about the new product you’re trying to sell her?
Customer personas can be powerful, but they have to be used, and they have to be based on something other than your intuition or assumptions. Saying that you know who your audience is without either confirming or learning about them could leave you scratching your head, wondering why your content isn’t resonating and why conversion rates are so low.
There are many ways to learn more about your audience. Some include:
- Turn to social media. Which channels do they use? (If you’re in B2B, stick to the channels your clients use professionally to avoid crossing over into “creepy” territory.) Search key terms for your industry or solution to see what kinds of conversations your audience is having and what struggles they’re sharing.
- Ask the people who interact directly. Check in with your sales and customer service teams to see what they’re hearing.
- Issue surveys, host focus groups, or hold interviews. If you have the means and the time, these research practices can get you some of the most thorough and specific information about your audience.
- Consider what the media is covering. The media can be especially helpful in the B2B space. Industry publications can offer insights into what’s important to the people reading those publications.
Getting to know your ideal customers takes time, but understanding who you’re talking to can lead to a much more effective messaging strategy.
Don’t forget about the people behind B2B
If you work in B2B (business-to-business) and don’t think the individual people on the receiving end of your marketing efforts matter – well, you’re probably not even reading this far. But maybe you’re just curious, or maybe you need help convincing someone else that B2B marketing is still talking to people and not companies.
While you don’t need to dig into quite the same details to build your personas, it’s still worth considering that human beings have pain points in their work and might have different goals depending on their role within an organization.
When marketing your product or service to another business, consider:
- Who will receive your messaging?
- Who will make the purchasing decision (keep in mind this might not be the same person)?
- What role does your audience play within the organization, and what goals might they have – both for their role and for their own career (i.e., can you help them look good? improve efficiencies? save them time, money, stress? automate a task they despise?)?
- What other competing responsibilities do they have, and who else might be targeting them with marketing messages?
- What time of year is it? (Are you trying to market to an account during peak tax season? Maybe rethink that.)
- What organizational priorities are they competing against? Maybe your target within an organization is sold, but they have to make their case to the CFO against other departments. How can you help them?
You might be tempted to flood your B2B marketing with industry lingo as a way to connect with your audience or establish your credibility as a knowledgeable source, but people connect better when their needs are met and when messaging is easy to follow. It’s more important to know your audience than to know your jargon.
The Bottom Line
Marketing is about connecting the dots between your audience and your solution. Without understanding what your prospective customer needs or worries about, how can you communicate the value your product or service can provide them? If you want to approach your content marketing strategically, you need to understand your audience from their perspective, not just from your gut feeling or ideal scenario.
If you’re ready to implement connection marketing and reach the right people with the right messaging, it’s time we chat.