Last week, we introduced a 7-part blog series designed to take practical steps for building a content strategy in one week. We outlined what a content strategy is, discussed why it’s so important for small businesses, and applied step one by stating our purpose and goals.
Before we move on to day 2, let’s take a moment to review the importance of a content strategy.
If done right, your content marketing strategy aligns closely with your business goals and drives intrigue from potential customers to produce interest that leads to loyal customers who trust your brand. And it has been proven to generate three times as many leads as outbound marketing, drive six times higher conversions, and result in an 8-fold boost in web traffic.
What companies tend to forget when developing a content marketing strategy is that it also allows you to get to know your customers in a profound way. By identifying successful content along the customer journey, you can create better audience segments and improve personalization. This is why we’ve chosen to focus day 2 on getting to know your audience.
It’s so easy to assume we know everything there is to know about the people we’re trying to reach. Take the popular iceberg model, for instance. When you see an iceberg, the majority of its breadth lies beneath the surface. Upon first glance, each person in your audience is like the tip of the iceberg. You might notice people of different ages, races, ethnicities, and genders, but those are only surface characteristics. It’s up to you to dive deeper and learn about their interests, their goals, their needs, what keeps them up at night, etc.
To help you prepare for this deep dive, we’ve outlined four helpful steps in getting started with developing audience segments.
Set aside a day with your team to peek through customer records. Take note of elements like:
This is a useful exercise to identify notable patterns. You might be surprised by what you discover about your current client base.
This step can be handled in two different ways:
After connecting your website to Google Analytics, look at what the data might be trying to tell you. Focus on the audience factors, like location and common links being clicked.
The same applies for social media analytics — although these analytics are more likely to provide user interest information, which might yield more helpful insights. Look for patterns and note them down. Are there commonalities within your current clients? Are you seeing a surge in unique demographics? Talk with your team about your observations.
As you gather information about your own client base, look into who’s interacting with your competition. Is the competition reaching the same target groups? Are they reaching people you haven’t targeted yet, but should? What can you learn from their efforts that might better set you apart? Have your team dedicate a few hours to research local and national competitors to gain new perspective.
Set aside a few days to talk with varying target groups. Choose to meet with a long-term client, a short-term client, an individual whose business you’ve been unsuccessful in acquiring, or an individual who has expressed great interest and wants to learn more. Also, seek to diversify by interviewing different genders, people of different races, businesses with varying hierarchy (CEO vs. a sales rep), or individuals who know nothing whatsoever about your company.
Ask open-ended questions that will force these individuals to give you useful feedback. Keep it personal, but appropriate. Your list might include questions like:
It’s always fun to switch things up from the normal dinner date. Try getting to know your clients better by having them come and tour your office space on an individual basis or as a group. Hosting a group event might provide the right context to spark interesting conversations between your clients and allowing you to listen and learn.
Another idea might be to include them on planning discussions around new products or services. Their insight into development might reveal issues you weren’t aware of or needs that need to be addressed.
After you’ve spent some time researching and speaking with your client base, it’s time to review and list out their pain points and goals.
Have your team look over their notes from client feedback and discussion and answer the following questions:
While pain points identify issues that need to be solved, goals are positive milestones for your clients. They give them something to work toward, not against.
Again, have your team list out client goals. While their goals might not directly relate to services/products your company has to offer, it will give you information on how to position any future content.
After your team has identified your target group’s pain points and goals, it’s time to marry them with the benefits you can provide.
Ask the question, “How can we help?” It’s important to keep your focus on the benefits you provide and not just the features your service/product offers. List out common pain points and goals on one half of a whiteboard and then list out the benefits your company provides on the other side. Match them up and note them down.
Remember, you can’t solve all their issues or goals. Stick to what your company does best.
Your last and biggest step should now be building out your different audience segments. With all your information in hand, it’s time to fill in your audience persona chart — used to drive messaging, understand customer motivations, and position your product or service in a way that resonates with your segments and drives personalized content.
The practice of filtering through your data might yield as few as 1-2 segments or as many as 20-30. As long as the data accurately supports these segments, you can build many as you see fit.
Set aside a few hours to break out your research into audience background, demographic, identifiers, goals, pain points, how you can help, and the proposed service or products. The chart below describes how each section might be populated:
Persona Title — Should accurately describe the type of person this is along with a memorable title.
Background — What might their job be? Typical career path? Family life?
Demographics — What is their gender? Age? Income? Location?
Identifiers — Should list their typical demeanor and communication preferences.
Goals — Should list common goals.
Pain Points — What are the primary challenges they face on a regular basis
How We Can Help — How will we overcome their challenges and accomplish their goals?
Proposed Service/Solution — What are the products or services that will provide the benefits they seek?
Possible Objections — Why wouldn’t they want to purchase this product/service?
When designing your audience segments, be careful not to just list characteristics. It’s easy to fall into the habit of listing out facts and forgetting to address aspirations and areas for improvement. You might also consider adding blocks for “communication channels used by this segment” or “common language used by this segment” so as not to use the same marketing tactics across the board.
Building a content strategy centered around audience segments will ensure you are accurately tailoring messaging to their specific needs and desires. By doing your research, having meaningful discussions with new and old clients, identifying their motivations, and developing strong audience segments, you can be sure to have a content strategy that will cultivate trust and set you apart as leaders that care.
Stay tuned as we focus our attention next week on choosing your content management mediums.