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Content Marketing: Know Your Audience

As much as I want to jump ahead and talk about finding and creating great content, we need to start with the first step in your content marketing plan -- defining your prospect. Large companies can afford to spend big dollars on market research to define their target markets precisely. Most of us don't have those resources or the time, but with a little reflection and analysis, you can make an educated choice.

Build a Profile of Your Ideal Customer
Start by looking at the most profitable deals you have closed in the past six months or year. List the industries, size of the companies, roles of the people involved in the buying decision, and key problems that you solved. Look for patterns in each area, and you might see:

  • Two deals closed that came from referrals through an old customer, all the same industry.
  • A trend of department managers investigating software without the involvement of IT.
  • More projects requiring support of remote workers.

Focusing your message doesn't have to be limited to an industry vertical. You may find that your best target is HR directors in Duluth working for companies with 50 to 500 employees. You're looking for common challenges for a group that you can define.

Learn More About Your Defined Target 
Once you have a clear picture of the market that you want to pursue, do your research to get to know them better. Industry and professional association Web sites can provide a wealth of information about the challenges the group faces and may provide an outlet for your content. Look for opportunities to expand your service offering as you do your research.

While you are on those industry or functional sites, pay attention to the way content is delivered to the audience. Check the Web sites of other vendors that serve the market. Are white papers or videos common? Are there multiple blogs that serve the community? The more you can learn about your target "community," the better you can serve their interests and get their attention.

Give Your Target Life
Once you and your team can visualize your audience, writing and creating content will be much easier. Your message will be stronger and it will be easier for your contributors to imagine who they are "talking" to when they write. This approach can really help technical people write more conversationally and at a level that mere mortals can understand.

Have some fun and give your target a name. Your target definition might look like:

  • Tracy Trainor: HR director of a service company with $50 to $500 million in sales.
  • Common challenge: Provide certification training to employees spread across regions.
  • Common motivator: Compensation/advancement tied to number/types of certifications held by employees across regions/organizations.
  • Sources of information: Society for Human Resource Management, regional HR organizations.

Your message will stay clear and focused when your target is defined and clearly communicated to your team. Building marketing content takes time, so the more you can do to make the process easy, the more successful you will be. Meanwhile, tell me how you have identified a niche for content marketing so we can share the knowledge.

This is the second installment in our series on content marketing. In Part 1, we discussed how to come up with a basic content marketing plan. Next week, we'll talk about how to build content that educates and motivates your prospects to take action.

Posted by Barb Levisay on February 22, 2011