Clearly defining your audience makes all the difference when you’re creating content. If you’re writing a piece about social media management tools, how do you frame it correctly? The answer, of course, all depends on who you’re writing for.
Any of the following are reasonable approaches or working titles:
· The basics of social media management software
· Advanced social media management software hacks for entrepreneurs
· An introduction to social media management tools for analysts
· The top 5 free social media management tools
· Social media management tools for a 30 minutes a day social media plan for administrative assistants
What’s the major factor that defines whether what you write is hitting the target?
Why audience matters
Creating a content strategy without a clear understanding of your audience is a bit like setting a boat adrift without navigational tools. You’re out there and you’re taking action, but you’re not working toward a specific goal. These are the situations that marketers dread: huge amounts of time and money, without a clear potential for good ROI.
Let’s start with goals. It’s easy to think about goals in terms of SEO and content strategy in different ways.
“I want to rank at the top of Google for the keyword “fishing in Franklin MA.”
“I want to get 40 hot leads a month through inbound marketing.”
“I want to double my link profile 100% each month through guest blogging.”
What these goals don’t articulate though, the truth lying right beneath the surface and driving every content effort, is a desire to reach people. Specific people, that your brand will resonate with and who will take action to buy, use, and promote your products and services. Beginning every campaign with a strong understanding of your audience is one of the best ways to ensure your success. Here’s a step by step process to help you do that.
1. Who Are They?
Every solid audience profile starts with a fundamental understanding of who your audience is. Demographic profiles are limited in their potential to uncover motivations and buying patterns. But they’re a great launch point for any discussion. For example, consider the following five people:
· A single male in his early twenties renting an apartment in NYC and making more than $100,000 a year
· A married mother of four in Wisconsin that is a stay-at-home parent and has a total family income of less than $40,000 per year
· A divorced father of two residing in Alaska, on a farm, with a net worth of several million dollars
· A couple in their thirties with no children, living in Boston, coping with unemployment
· A retired couple in their seventies in Texas with fourteen grandchildren and fixed retirement incomes
Each of these vignettes contains only a few details of the people’s lives, but you begin to form a picture. It’s true that in the first example, a huge amount of variation is possible. Your prospect could be an investment banker working a hundred hours a week, a novelist that found early success with a book and is struggling with creativity on his next project, or an architect with a passion for urban environments. These other details hang on that scaffolding and give it context. It’s the context that helps you sell.
Still, without a fundamental understanding of where your prospect is coming from and how she lives her life, digging deeper into her needs and motivations is going to be a challenge. Always build your audience profiles on a solid demographic base.
2. What’s Their Most Pressing Issue, Problem, or Desire?
Every person on that list has something that keeps them awake at night. It might be a persistent problem — such as an inability to get an entrepreneurial venture off the ground, find the willpower to be healthy, or sustain a healthy relationship. It might be a momentary issue such as insomnia, the need to hire a great personal assistant, or a desire to figure out how to deal with a difficult client.
Whatever the issue — whether longstanding or short-term — it’s the entrée into the discussion and your invitation into their lives. If you understand this from two perspectives, you’ll be much better equipped to be everything from create powerful content.
· Understanding the predominant problem that has brought your previous customers to your door — especially your best and most profitable customers — helps you recognize that motivation in others. Your pattern recognition for the people that comprise your best customers will improve dramatically. It also helps you create content that attracts more of those prospects.
· More broadly understanding what is driving people to seek out products and services like yours will expand your arsenal of topics, approaches, and more.
As you develop your audience profile, do your best to articulate what drives them in terms that they themselves would use. This permeates every level of a successful marketing effort.
3. Where Do They Get Their Info?
Choosing the channels that you use to deploy your messaging is absolutely critical. There are multiple motivations for publishing or sharing content in a particular place.
· The brand name will lend you credibility with a wider audience.
· Your website will benefit from their high rank and relevant topical approach.
· Your potential customers or existing customers read or watch the publication.
Let’s focus on the last one: writing great content that achieves our goal of connecting us with the right people requires…..publication where those people spend time. So how much do you know about your audience’s content consumption habits?
For example, do they read blogs? Are they email newsletter subscribers? Do they religiously download podcasts to listen to while they work out?
If they do read blogs or newspapers or other publications, which ones do they spend time on? If they’re looking for reviews on products similar to yours, who do they trust? As you move down this line of inquiry, a whole litany of questions will open up for you. Before you move to the next step in your process, be sure that you can answer how your prospects get their information in a holistic and meaningful way.
4. What Benefit of Your Product Solves Their Problem?
You’ve probably heard about the need to focus on benefits over features. In other words, don’t tell me what it does — tell me what it does for me (or rather, tell your customers what it does for them). If you’ve done your detective work earlier on, you’ll be able to articulate the problem that you’re addressing and the benefits that your product or service offers.
I’d encourage you to take this one step further. Know which benefits are the most important, and speak directly to your audience.
For example, if you consider the SEO space, there are a number of problems it solves for businesses and a number of benefits that it provides. Someone hiring an SEO agency wants to build their online presence. A better presence generates more traffic to your site. But what does that traffic mean in terms of benefits?
It could mean more leads for your sales team, more customers buying your product, more people reading your content, more people sharing your ideas. Any of these are valid benefits. But more leads and customers is very compelling to a small business in growth mode. More people being exposed to and sharing their messaging is going to speak to non-profit leaders.
5. What Sets Off Their BS Detector?
We live in a world of skeptics. It’s easy to understand why: we’re bombarded with advertisements and brand messages wherever we go. Online, on TV, on the sidewalk. These invasive sales pitches are filled with claims that are hard to verify. It many cases, advertisements are filled with outright lies.
So how do we, as content creators, ensure that we don’t ever run afoul of our prospects’ highly developed BS detectors? I have a few ideas on this topic.
First, always act with integrity. If your brand is known for being honest, ethical, and delivering value, you’ll become a trusted source. It can take years to build trust and seconds to lose it forever. So this should be your guiding star in content creation.
Second, you need to understand the dynamics of your market well enough to be able to identify the standard bad claims. In our SEO example above, you sometimes see crazy claims about getting to the top of Google for one of the most competitive terms out there in under 30 days. In weight loss promotions, extreme weight loss at rapid speeds is the normal promotion. Take the time to understand these factors, and create a list of the terms, claims, and other “bad triggers” you’ll never use in your content.
Finally, back up your claims with proof. Legendary copywriter Gary Bencivenga always stresses the power of proof. Proof can be in the form of numbers, outside studies, testimonials, endorsements from trusted sources, and many more. Take the time to figure out what would back up your content and spend the time to work it in. The more proof you can show that your brand and products deliver, the more your content will deliver qualified and eager leads.
6. Who Do They Trust?
One last note that’s often overlooked when building audience profiles: who do your readers, viewers, or customers trust?
I hope, in part, that it’s you by this point! But it could be specific experts in your space, celebrities, industry players, or brands. As much as possible, use that information to your advantage. For example, if your financial customers love the Wall Street Journal, it’s time to pitch them a blog or work on becoming a source in one of their stories.
The more connected you are with trusted brands, the more that trust and belief in expertise is transferred to you.
Getting to know your audience in real depth takes time. Creating buyer profiles that your writers and teams can refer back to is a significant effort, and the output isn’t content that can be shared with customers. But it’s well worth the time to develop this expertise. It will improve everything from your product development to your sales, and you’ll see unparalleled returns from your SEO and content marketing investments.