Knowing Your Audience

We talk about content all the time. Everyone knows that they need to be generating content, but often organizations struggle to decide what that content actually should be. In a survey of web users, Content Science found that 65% of users reported that the content they find is hit or miss or unreliable. Clearly, businesses are missing the mark.

Last week, we spoke on the dangers of writing about what you’re interested in, rather than what your audience is interested in. This is probably the first and greatest danger most content marketing campaigns fall into, and it is lethal. Some don’t even try asking what their customers are interested in. Needless to say, these campaigns have failed before they’ve even begun.

Instead, we need a way to figure out what sort of content ideas have a chance of appealing to our audience. At BIG, we’ve had success using personas. These are common in marketing, but they really work well for content. A persona aims to look at your target market from a number of different directions. Basic demographics are included – age range, education levels, gender balance, etc. – but also psychographics. What sorts of interests does this person have, what keeps them up at night, what sort of data is available on their personality?

By collecting all the information you can about a specific market group (think back to our post about identifying micro-segments for help here), you can create a reference resource. Then you can interrogate it, trying to see what will really motivate these people to read your content.


Defining and Redefining

The biggest pushback we get regarding this approach is that leaders do not want to limit their market.  “We serve everyone”, is a common retort.  We assure them that just because they carve out a niche does not mean that they cannot carve out another.  We are merely recommending customizing a tailored message for a group of people that you are trying to reach.  Afterall, if you generalize enough in an attempt to reach everyone, your message will resonate with no one.

For instance, when we were re-starting our blog, we went through and created personas for what was then our primary market – quality directors and managers at major biomedical companies. Without going into excessive detail, we identified that they tended to be older and male, but more informatively that they tended to be very detailed, technical personalities and hyper focused on not only operational efficiency but radically low defect tolerances as well.

With these insights, and countless others, we were able to tailor content that appeals specifically to this group. If you look back at some of our earliest blog posts, you’ll see exactly that. We wrote about quality and safety issues. These necessarily tied in to some of the work we’ve done – different consulting projects and partnerships, but first and foremost they were to appeal to our customers. By answering their questions and concerns, we reliably create the sort of content they will come back for.

However, as we have been building our team and expanding through diversification of offerings, we have identified additional personas that represent our newest segment.  This will be apparent with some of our latest blog posts, that don’t necessarily reach out to our original market.  Have we neglected them?  No.  We continue to service and engage our most mature customer base through current projects, webinars, and other events.


Seek and Find

Finding the information for these personas can be somewhat challenging, especially if you’re doing it with the right level of detail. Academic sources and databases can be good for psychological and personality data. Usually there are a few studies done on the different types of people drawn to different careers, even if you have to go broader than your actual target audience for this.

We can also find important data from government sources. Career profiles and all kinds of information about the individuals in that career can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Third party resources are useful sometimes. For instance, some market research firms will publish their data online in restricted access for free.

Another resource that is too important to overlook – current practitioners. While not as quantifiable as survey data, the sorts of insights you can get from this are unparalleled. The information you need is out there, you just have to know where to look and get a little creative.

Customer research and personas are what it will take to raise your content game to the next level. If these can be used correctly, you will create engaging content that your readers need to read, because it helps them. All that you’ll need after that is a way to get that content out there to your audience. Even the best, most targeted writing is no good if no one ever reads it.

For this reason, next week we will be discussing how to get this content out there. There are so many decisions to be made – which platforms? How often? What day of the week/time of the day? Should it be promoted or all organic? These sorts of questions take lots of experimentation and struggle on the part of companies. BIG has been tinkering with them for some time now, but needless to say we don’t have all the answers. We hope to create the sort of discussion that will lend insights to everyone!

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