Written by Paula Toole
There is no denying that content marketing is here to stay. The Content Marketing Institute estimates that 80% of B2B marketers have some form of content marketing strategy in place, driven by a multitude of factors.
Engagement remains the number one reason to employ a strategy, followed by lead nurturing, lead generation and brand awareness, but how exactly these goals are achieved remains a mystery to many.
Too often, companies will express their enthusiasm for a particular product after seeing an effective example. “We want a video!” “Let’s do an infographic!” are familiar cries among businesses looking to showcase their product offering, but there is danger in creating content without first establishing who it is aimed at.
Put simply, it is impossible to create an effective piece of content unless it is clear from the outset who it is aimed at.
Content marketing is more than simply creating and publishing a piece of content – it should be seen as more of a mixing pot, where a rich combination of ingredients combine to form the finished article.
Idea generation, production, social sharing and analysis all play a key role in the strategy, but the first ingredient must always be the audience.
Again, this is not as simple as it sounds. Every business knows what its existing customer base is – their likes, dislikes, preferences and tendencies. But surely the point of any marketing campaign is to pull in new customers, with different preferences, traits and behaviour?
Too often, content strategies will focus on keeping existing customers happy, and while advocacy is an essential rung on the customer journey, awareness is by far the most important in bringing new eyes to the product or services on offer.
This is why audience research needs to look at a number of factors other than who is currently using the product or service:
The list is endless, but asking these questions before embarking on any content marketing campaign will give the strategy a robust foundation.
Creating buyer personas is integral to this; not only does it present those developing the strategy with figureheads to base it around, it also offers the ability to splinter the content plan into distinct target audiences.
According to Curata, the top 3 drivers of blog content strategy are personas, audience demographics and the buying stage, with 52% of marketers now supporting between two and four buyer personas with dedicated content.
This figure will only increase as businesses realise that persona creation provides a solid reference point in the strategy and presents a compact means of identifying the current or future customer base and developing content around it.
So, once the personas are created, is it simply a case of creating content around them, sitting back, and watch new customers from different demographics flock to the business? Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
As with every other part of the strategy, personas require constant updates and amendments to keep them relevant. The world of content is constantly changing, and as global users alter their tastes and demands, it is vital that audience profiling reflects this.
Analysing the performance of your content, adapting your approach, refining your delivery and constantly seeking feedback is the only way to stay ahead of the curve, but it all breaks down to establishing who your audience is in the first place.
The pioneering Pan-Africanist writer and historian John Henrik Clarke once said: “A good teacher, like a good entertainer, first must hold his audience’s attention. Then, he can teach his lesson.”
The same is true in content marketing; establish your audience, work out what they like, and then deliver it.