If you’re confused about how to best integrate content marketing into your business strategy, heed Vonnegut’s advice, for all great writing and marketing begins in the same place: with an understanding of whom you’re writing to.
As a business, you want to create and distribute content that’s truly useful and of value. You want to continue to improve your products based on customer feedback. You don’t want your hard work to be for naught.
To get there, you have to determine who you’re writing to—your target audience. Here are five steps to get you started:
1. Create consumer personas
This step might seem unnecessary or tiresome, but it’ll be of great help in the long run. Make time to sit down with your team and discuss these questions:
How old is our ideal customer? What is their level of education? Employment status? What are their daily responsibilities, routines? What do they read? Most importantly, what troubles them? As we talked about in our last post, your job is to provide a solution to a problem—healing in lieu of pain. What pains your customer?
If you can, interview existing customers or speak with customer-facing colleagues. Send customer satisfaction surveys and offer product discounts in return. Then create 5-10 consumer personas—general sketches that offer an understanding of who you’ll be targeting with your content, what kind of content they’ll find most useful, and what issues they’re up against that you can help remedy.
It’ll be time well spent. These personas will be useful not only for content marketing, but sales, new hire training, and more.
2. See who’s talking about you
First, we’re assuming you’re on social media. If not, today’s the day. Mobile usage continues to climb, as do mobile purchases. Did you know mobile users spend the majority of their time on 5 specific apps? One is Facebook. This is important to know when it comes to content distribution and advertising.
Now, see what consumers, fans, followers, and random folks are saying about you. Utilize a program like Tweetdeck to track your mentions on Twitter, make use of Facebook’s Page Insights, or check out Sprout Social‘s powerful social media management and analytics platform.
Who’s liking your posts, sharing them, commenting on them? Who’s clicking through? Reading your blog? Mentioning you on Facebook and Twitter? You’re one step closer to understanding your target audience.
3. Start a blog, then monitor it
- Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links. (Source: Hubspot)
- 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs. (Source: BlogHer)
- 92% of companies who blog multiple times per day have acquired a customer from their blog. (Source: HubSpot)
- 90% of consumers find custom content useful, 78% believe that companies behind content are interested in building good relationships. (Source: TMG Custom Media)
It’s official: there’s no reason not to blog. So now: what to blog about?
Content Marketing Institute offers a great editorial strategy for new and seasoned bloggers. Also consider where your information is shared most readily. On Twitter? LinkedIn? This, combined with the consumer personas, will tell you a lot about what kind of content you should be writing. (And don’t forget to use search engine optimized titles.)
The rest is simple: Using Google Analytics, take a look at which posts perform well and which perform poorly. Over time, you’ll gain greater insight into what content helps your consumer most.
4. Don’t just sit back—ask!
You know the old saying, “When you assume, you make an…”? Who you conceive of to be your target audience must be rooted in truth and feedback. So don’t just bombard your customers with content—reach out and ask what they think.
A great way is to conduct a survey of your blog readers (or your e-newsletter subscribers, social media fans, etc.). Ask what they think about topics related to your industry. What do they want to read about on your blog? What interests them? What troubles them? This firsthand information will add new layers to the consumer personas you created.
Make sure to share these insights with your readers—then get to work on answering their unanswered questions!
5. Be active and responsive
This works in tandem with #4. When it comes to understanding your audience, it’s not enough to make assumptions. You need to be inquisitive, honest, vulnerable, and open to suggestions. You need to speak to consumers face to face, one on one.
Make sure you respond to any Facebook comments, tweets, mentions, or likes you receive. Engage with your followers and fans—in person, too. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn about potential customers, competitors, and the market by attending events related to your industry. So don’t turn away every invite you receive; it just might be an opportunity for growth.
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