Attracting an audience is a key principle of content marketing. But you have to know what kind of information is going to resonate with your customers and prospects to find and keep the people you want. Too often content marketers operate on a basis of blind faith – or blissful ignorance – when it comes to creating relevant information for a target audience.
Journalists, on the other hand, resist making assumptions at all costs. They know to keep readers and viewers, they have to build trust or they’ll lose audience share. One way to do that is to make sure they’re doing the legwork on a story to make it interesting – not to them but to the people tuning in. Combine that with the requirement to be factually correct and you get a quality in journalism often missing in marketing.
Here are ways to take the guesswork out of what your audience wants and boost the value of every piece you create:
Talk to your sales people
Too often, sales and marketing work in silos without enough interaction between the two. Your sales team has the best knowledge about what challenges your customers are facing and what’s preventing them from making purchasing decisions. They’ll know a lot about your current customers and quite often have a treasure trove of information about people they want as customers. It might not occur to them the way to handle a sales objection is through a well-crafted piece of content.
Tip: Make a regular appointment with people on your sales team to find out what they’re hearing when they’re talking to people that might not know your brand. If possible, go out on a sales call. You might never need another brainstorming session again.
Listen to more about the conflict between sales and marketing:
Attend events in your industry
Next time you’re planning on how to spend your training budget, consider attending an event put on by your industry. Marketers often attend marketing conferences and training to improve their craft. There’s a problem with that – it’s a whole lot of marketers marketing to marketers. You come away fired up about marketing but likely come home with no further knowledge about your own audience.
Tip: Dedicate some of your training budget to attend an industry conference every year. If you’re marketing to engineers, you need to be talking to engineers. If your audience consists of dairy farmers, you need to know what’s keeping them awake at night. The networking events are a great way to meet your audience face to face.
Conduct a survey
It seems obvious but sending out a digital survey or poll can lend surprising insight about what your audience wants, where they want it and how often. There are a lot of online survey tools like SurveyMonkey and Typeform and they all provide a good level of reporting. In addition, you can do quick polls on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. If you’re feeling really creative, create a quiz to give your customers an interesting experience while collecting valuable insight into what they’re thinking and feeling.
Tip: Next time you’re debating about content types, social channels or publishing frequency, why not poll your audience and see what they think? Maybe they’d prefer newsletters less frequently. Maybe they want longer blog posts or more video. Ask your current subscribers about their wants and needs and let that guide your editorial.
Hang out in forums
As more brands embrace social media as part of their normal business communications, its usefulness as a listening post has diminished. Three or four years ago, hanging out on Twitter would allow you to tap into the heartbeat of any topic, but now – not so much. If people feel like a brand is lurking around for insight, they’ll clam up. Forums are a great way to gain specific insight about trends, gripes, and what’s keeping the interest of a specific group.
Tip: If you haven’t discovered Reddit, get busy. Type any topic into the Reddit search engine and be prepared to lose hours poring over in-depth discussions. BoardReader is another good place to find a variety of candid conversations on all sorts of topics.
Spend time with customer support
Your sales team knows what new and potential customers want, but don’t forget about your existing customers. One of the best applications for content marketing is customer loyalty. Find the people in your organisation who are responsible for customer support and tap into another vein of content marketing gold. Your current customers, especially long-term customers, will often be very candid about gaps of knowledge or what they think you can do better.
Tip: Spend an hour manning the phones, review customer support transcripts or have a chat with your support team. Organising a quarterly forum consisting of a cross-section of your customers is a great way to receive regular insight into what they’re thinking and what they need.
What this means for content marketers
If you want to create truly great content, you have to understand your audience. Even the most detailed buyer personas are based on hypothesis. Spending time with your audience, either directly or regularly interviewing someone in your organisation who does, is essential to delivering useful, compelling content. Asking questions and listening to complaints should be a regular part of every content marketer’s job.
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Investigative brand journalism
This kind of behaviour is second nature to journalists who tend to be naturally curious. They also often have a strong undercurrent of cynicism and aren’t easily swayed until they’ve uncovered proof. Content marketers who put themselves through the same rigour are in a prime position to create content their audience can’t wait to read or view. It’s a great way to get out of broadcast mode and into an audience-building focus.
If you want help identifying audience needs, give us a call. Our content marketing strategies are focused on growing your audience.