People do not care about your product or service.
But you can change that.
What people do care about is their wants and needs and you have to prove to them that your offering is the best way of accomplishing these goals. It can be simple enough bring in traffic to your site with bland content that carelessly throws around keywords or by posting your articles on social media with a clickbait title. But what’s the point of getting users to your site if they aren’t taking action? Getting them to your website is easy, but getting them to buy your product, now that’s a whole new challenge.
Content marketing is the key to this problem, but the content needs to be TARGETED.
Solid, well-crafted content that will drive conversions should offer your consumer’s value and address a need or want. You may think that you already know what your customers desire, and you probably do at a high-level. If you sell vacuum cleaners, you know that people who purchase from you do so to keep their home clean. But writing articles on your website and posting on social media about how wonderful your vacuum cleaner is will not resonate with anyone. That’s not the content people want to see.
You want to create content that connects your brand with your consumer. We are living in a world where people are more brand loyal than ever, and creating a strong, trustworthy relationship will help you gain a customer for life. Patagonia has forever won the hearts of green consumers with their content (podcasts, blogs, videos) directed at fighting against harmful environmental practices. Red Bull has attracted a legion of loyal followers who love the energetic and daring face the brand puts on through their videos and contests.
So, how do you decipher what it is your consumers really want and need? Well, you’re going to need more than just a few demographic statistics on your target market. You’re going to have to put on your journalism cap and do some investigating. Follow along with these steps and you’ll be ready to take your content to the next level.
Audience persona, customer profile, marketing persona. There are many names for it, but its purpose is consistent across the board. The goal with creating an audience persona is to better understand what individuals make up your target marketing. More specifically, it is a tool designed to understand what their motivations are.
Here is an example of an audience persona from the viewpoint of a local coffee shop:
Name: Busy Bill
Gender: Male and Female
Who They Are: Full-time workers who frequent coffee shops that meet their needs of getting coffee quickly in the morning so they can get to work on time
How They Decide Where to Shop: Whatever option they perceive will get them their coffee the quickest
Products They Buy: To-go coffees, black or with cream
By creating thorough audience personas, you can write content that your audience actually wants to see. Without them, you’ll be guessing what content to write and you’ll end up with something that YOU want them to see. There is a big difference in the content your consumers want to see vs. what you want them to see. Ignoring your consumers needs and wants is a surefire way to be left in the dust when it comes to content marketing. Use audience personas!
How to Craft Your Personas
There are numerous ways you can dive into the life of your consumers. Keyword research can be used to see what issues are hot in your industry and what people are excited about or interested in. Pick some topics that are trending and, using tools like Google AdWords or simply Googling it yourself, find keywords and phrases that people may search for. Related keywords can also help, such as what you will find at the bottom of any Google search query under “searches related to…”
Social media monitoring can help you identify what is being said about your own brand, your competitors, and the industry as a whole. Web analytics, like Google analytics, can also help you in terms of breaking up and pulling different data on your customers based off of age, gender, region, etc.
Of course, these metrics alone can be difficult to ascertain some of the more deeper psychographics of your audience. That’s where face-to-face interviews come into play. Taking the time to actually talk directly with your consumers will help you gain a new perspective on the way your audience operates and their main motivations. Focus groups can be helpful, but you always run the risk of getting false answers from group thinking. Face-to-face is the way to go.
In his book, “Epic Content Marketing,” Joe Pulizzi talks about the five factors you should identify when conducting research for your audience personas:
(1) Priority initiatives: What are three or more of problems this person encounters in which they will spend the most time and money on trying to solve?
(2) Success factors: What factors do they evaluate for when determining whether a purchase was successful?
(3) Perceived barriers: What are the issues that arise when they decide to go with a different product?
(4) Buying process: What are the steps to their buying process?
(5) Criteria for buying: What factors do they consider when making their purchase?
Getting answers on these five questions will not only help you more accurately identify who your consumers are. Also, if you can get the answers from people who opted for a competitor’s product over your own, then you can address the issues they have.
When in doubt, find the answers to these three questions:
- Who are they are
- What is their need as it relates to the stories we will create
- Why do they care about us? Or, how can we make them care about us?
Different Personas, Different Content
Obviously, you’re going to have more than just one audience persona for your target market. However, there is such thing as too many personas. Too many consumer profiles can overwhelm your marketing strategies and can lead to confusing and conflicting content. Instead, identify only significant differences that warrant creating a second profile.
To help illustrate this point, let’s look at a simple example involving a company that sells vacuums vs. one that sells bikes. A vacuum company will mostly like not divide their content strategy by region, because the way and purpose for their use doesn’t exactly vary based on demographic. However, a bike company may alter their content by region, where content out west would put more emphasis on mountain biking, while out east, maybe road bikes. But, let’s say that through your research you see a rising trend in mountain biking interest out east. That would be the perfect time to alter your content to accommodate the needs and wants of your audience.
The best way to tackle your personas is too start small. Divide your audience into two or three categories and then work your way up from there.
Be a Leader, Not a Follower
You won’t be making an waves if you’re content marketing doesn’t break new ground. You should always be on the lookout for new consumer trends. Consumer preferences are always changing and if you’re the last to notice the latest trend, you’re in trouble. Think about Apple, which has been credited as a market research guru in that they know what their customers want even before the customers know. If you can catch a trend while it’s still in the infancy stages, you’re well on your way to some great content. So pay attention!
If you’re ever having trouble thinking of content, try these three brainstorming tips to get your brain flowing:
Google industry news: Find out the latest news around your industry and think about how these headlines will affect your consumers. Write content that addresses the news and what it means for your audience. Sure, you won’t be breaking the news, but you’ll be one of the first to comment on it.
Check out your competition: No, this doesn’t mean steal their content. But you do need to read up on your competition and find out what is working for them. Check out social media and see who is trending and why. Dive into their content and see if any ideas pop into your head.
Update old content: If you’re stuck in writer’s block, sometimes the best way to get some content out there is to find some of your older content and update it. Find newer statistics and information and who knows, maybe while you’re updating you’ll think of a new content idea. Be careful of keyword cannibalization however. Once you update the new content and repost it, it may be wise to delete the old post.
People subscribe to newsletters, sign up for post updates on social media, and check web content daily because they receive value in exchange for it. If you take time to carefully research your audience personas and really put in an effort to understand your consumers, creating value should be easy. Companies like GoPro, who understand their adrenaline fueled, weekend warrior customer base and have turned their brand into a full-fledged media company that promotes awesome content that their audience wants to see.
Or American Express, who created the OPEN Forum to address their consumers concerns and questions about their own finances and businesses, positioning themselves as a trustworthy industry leader that doesn’t just care about themselves, but their consumers as well. Users of their site who find articles like, “5 Things You Can Do to Help Manage Seasonality and Cash Flows” helpful are more likely to do businesses with American Express because they’ve had success with them through their Open Forum.
Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) is one of the finest examples of a company that understands how to use content marketing. With there “Expert Advice” page, REI was able to tap into the tentative outdoorsmen by appearing as a company that doesn’t just cater to hardcore outdoor enthusiasts and is willing to help them learn the ropes of camping, fishing, hiking, etc. REI’s “Ten Essentials” article for camping and hiking allows them to not only address the issue many first time campers have, which is what to bring, but also seamlessly lets them shop for said items.
All three examples illustrate companies who have fully embraced content marketing and have taken it to the next level by understanding their audience’s expectations, motivations, and of course, their needs and wants. If you want to excel at content marketing, you’re going to have to be willing to put in the work. As you can see, if you do this properly, big things will be heading your way.