In content marketing, there is one thing—and only one thing—that matters: your audience. If no one is reading the content you’re spending all the time storyboarding, crafting, dressing up with pictures, promoting across social media, then it’s not worth a whole lot of anything.
In marketing, experts spend a lot of time thinking about demographics. When it comes to buyers (or prospects, or leads, or whatever your company calls them), a lot of time is spent thinking through complex marketing personas based on some basic data: age, ethnicity, education level, income, location, pain points. That’s great information to have when setting out on a new content marketing initiative, but in order to be effective, you’ve got to go deeper and think of those personas as real people with their own stories.
How well do you know your audience? Your customers? The people who aren’t just reading your blog, but buying from you. Who are they, and what do they want? What’s their story?
Here’s the thing about content marketing: it can be pure literature, the next American novel, but you have to get it in front of people. Analytics can tell you a lot. Facebook, for example, is one of the best tools available as far as figuring out demographics on your audience. People who like your business will have other likes, and that knowledge can go a long way in telling you who they are, what they do, and where they come from.
The Problem with Data
All of that info you can mine from social media, it’s great. But it’s also limiting. Too often, businesses start to look at their customers as numbers, or thinking of them as all the same. This generic audience all wants the same thing, all across the board. This simply isn’t true. A good, diverse audience will be looking for a lot of different things from you, and not all of these will be easy to pinpoint.
After you have your demographic info, by all means build those personas—but take it as far as building characters. Who are the people reading your audience? Is there a fair mix of single and married? Where do they come from? What are their other interests? What do they do for a living?
Divide your audience up into buckets, based on interests related to your business. Then, start building. Name them, give them backstories. Get into their heads as much as possible. Figure out what they want. Once you have these personas developed, you can start to build a content strategy that helps you address their needs, and speak to the things they care most about. (Note: this is how things get shared organically. People think, “Hey, I relate to this article and find it really helpful. I know that other people like me will as well.” Then they hit share. It’s not sorcery.)
In the end, you’ll feel less like you’re doing market research and more like you’re developing characters for a novel. That means you’re doing it right.
Try, Try Again
Boy, do people hate hearing this. But it’s a fact of content marketing that’s the simple truth. Not every piece of content you write will be a home run, nor will every article you publish be the hot new topic that everyone shares across the internet. In fact, many of them probably won’t be. It’s the law of averages. You know how much stuff is on the internet these days?
As you’re producing content, be flexible with your strategy and your editorial calendar. If the posts you’re writing aren’t getting the kind of traffic you’re looking for, figure out why, and adjust as necessary. Are you not speaking their language? Or using language that’s too above their heads? Remember who you’re speaking to, and craft your message to them.
As you learn, use the analytics from your blog (or whatever platform you’re using) to glean information that can help you build better content.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Way too many businesses are afraid to interact with their customers and clients in the simplest way: by talking to them about what they’d like to see as far as content. It’s not a sign of weakness—it’s a sign that you care about them beyond simply selling to them. You want to provide them with information they believe will be valuable, but you have to know what they want before you can give it to them. Make the jump and make the ask. I promise you’ll get honest answers.