Content marketing and audience building can go hand-in-hand, but only if you take the right approach. To create strong, compelling content, you’ll need to keep your finger on the pulse of your audience – what they need, what stresses them out, and what makes them happy. And once you create content that speaks to your audience, it can become a valuable asset that pulls in more followers.
Producing the kind of content your audience needs and wants isn’t easy. In fact, many businesses and marketers never master it – about half of marketers in both the B2B and B2C realms say that creating engaging content is the main challenge they face.
The good news? If you can learn to tap into your audience’s needs, your content won’t just stand out – it will bring you a bigger following. Here’s how you can use targeted content to build your audience.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
Unless your business is brand new, you’ve probably already got an audience. Start by doing a little research on these people. The more you know about your blog readers, social media followers, and satisfied customers, the better you’ll be able to customize your content for them.
Gather information. Got data on your audience? Use it. Any information you can gather about your customers and leads, like email subscriber data, social media info, or data gleaned from analytics, can help you build a more accurate picture of who’s consuming your content and why. If you haven’t done so lately, take some time to sift through what you currently know about your audience, and make note of the patterns you find.
What if you don’t have much information on your audience? This is a problem that can really hold you back, so don’t just ignore it and hope for the best. There are a number of ways you can get to know your audience better. Try one or more of the following ideas:
- Create a downloadable or offer a discount in exchange for survey responses or email sign-ups.
- Ask leads and customers if they’d be willing to let you interview them. Offer a gift card, discount, or freebie as an incentive.
- Spy on your competitors. See who’s following them on social media and commenting on their blog posts. Chances are good that their audiences share similarities with yours.
- Use common sense to make educated guesses about your audience. Define the problem your product or service solves, and then think about who is most likely to need your solution. This shouldn’t take the place of actual customer data, but if your business is brand-new, it can get you started on the right track.
Create personas. If you’re doing inbound marketing, take the audience data you gathered and distill it into a few imaginary representations of your typical customers. You’ll probably want to create three to five of them to represent different facets of your audience. The more specific you are, the more helpful your personas will be when it’s time to create content.
If you’re doing account-based marketing, you can still use personas, but your approach should be a little different. You already know exactly which companies you’re targeting, so find out as much about these prospects as you can. Do some detective work on LinkedIn and other social media sites to gather information on major decision-makers at these target companies. Instead of using made-up personas, you’ll be tailoring your content towards these real people.
Step 2: Create Targeted Content
Once you know who you’re producing content for, you’re ready to get to work. Here’s how you can ensure your content makes an impact on your audience.
Solve problems and answer questions. Your audience is busy. They’re not going to bother clicking on your content unless they think there’s something in it for them. In other words, if you want your content to work for you, it needs to consistently provide value.
The best way to ensure you’re creating valuable content is to put yourself in a customer’s shoes. What problems are keeping them up at night? What questions do they have about your product or service? Write down all the questions and problems you can think of, and use the list as inspiration for your content. Each piece of content you create should help your audience in some concrete way.
Stop trying to appeal to everybody. Targeted content is, by definition, created to appeal to a specific audience. It’s easy to feel like you’ll get more mileage out of your content if you create it for the broadest possible audience, but that will actually just water it down and dilute its value. When in doubt, reference the audience personas you created in Step One. Create content for those personas, whether they’re business professionals, college kids, or seniors, and don’t worry about anybody else.
Focus on different segments of your target audience. If you’re doing inbound marketing, you’ve probably got more than one audience persona. Make sure you’re creating content that will appeal to all the different demographics of your audience. For instance, if you run a pet supply store, write blog posts geared towards both dog owners and cat owners. Likewise, make sure to vary your content to appeal to leads at different stages of your sales funnel.
Take a cue from the past. Once you’ve been doing it for a while, content creation doesn’t have to involve a lot of guesswork. Sift through your past data and notice which pieces were popular. If a particular topic, format, or length has been performing especially well for you, keep using it in the future. Just don’t let your actual content become formulaic. Every piece should provide some kind of fresh value instead of rehashing old information.
Step 3: Grow Your Following
By itself, creating content isn’t enough to grow your audience. You’ve also got to promote it. These tips can help you get your work in front of more people.
Promote your content. Your job isn’t finished after you hit the “Publish” button. To maximize the value of your content, you’ve got to spread the word about it. Social media is an ideal place to do this. Use Facebook, Twitter, and other popular platforms to announce your new blog post or video.
For even more exposure, see if you can get someone else – especially an influencer in your field – to give your content a shout-out. The best way to accomplish this? Interview or quote an influencer you look up to in your piece, and then get in touch with them once it’s published. If they like your work, they might be happy to share or retweet it.
Encourage social sharing. Your happy customers can be great advocates for your brand. Add social media buttons to your website to boost your social shares. Of course, this works best if you create highly shareable content in the first place.
Network. Networking is just as important online as it is in person. The more connections you can build, the more people will see your content. To network effectively, get involved in online communities related to your field. Be helpful and interested in what others have to say – don’t just try to sell your own product or service. Guest posting is another good way to build relationships and get more exposure.
Creating content is a must if you want to build an enthusiastic, loyal audience, but not just any kind of content will work. To keep people coming back, you’ve got to create customized content that addresses your audience’s pain points and goals. Knowing your audience, providing consistent value, and promoting your content appropriately will help you grow your audience along with your brand reputation.
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