Do your clients secretly hate the content you produce for their brands? Or worse, do you secretly hate the content you're producing for your own brand?
According to a recent survey from Chief Marketing Officer Council and Content ROI Center, only 12 percent of marketers are satisfied with their branded content.
The survey of 200 marketing leaders across the United States asserted that somewhat surprisingly, even though content marketing is hot, marketers continue to struggle with creating customized, authoritative and engaging content.
Worse, while 90 percent report having a content strategy, only two percent are actually satisfied with their strategy. The biggest problem: a lack of alignment between strategies and audience needs.
“Any business that drives their marketing strategy with a blind, blanket approach, assuming all customer requirements are the same is either extremely naïve or is operating a very small, specific niche,” says Simon Brisk, the Commercial Director & Co-Founder of Click Intelligence LTD.
As a fellow digital marketing consultant, I know Brisk is absolutely correct in his assessment. I see every day the challenges CMOs face when it comes to creating content that is aligned with their audiences. It doesn’t matter whether I’m working with a solopreneur or a major Fortune 500 company: audience needs must drive content strategy; otherwise, the content will never resonate.
CMOs know that custom content creation is basically content marketing 101 these days. But with nearly half of all CMOs (48 percent) expressing doubt that their content is adequately customized to meet their target audiences’ needs, they’re struggling to achieve this basic alignment.
Related Article: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy...That Actually Works
1. Create Buyer Personas for Target Customers and Influencers
In an age where competition has never been so strong, understanding who your client base is and the specific needs they face is essential. Regardless of the size of your business, it’s never possible to know and understand each individual customer, therefore having fictitious ‘buying personas’ allows an organization to base decisions and strategies on specific viewpoints on a large scale.
These same rules apply to marketing and content creation. “Buyer personas are essential as they allow you to relate to the customer and create bespoke, yet considered content, based on your understanding of their needs,” says Brisk. When creating buyer personas, think beyond the end customer and include influencers, such as industry experts, business partners, existing customers and brand evangelists.
2. Identify How Buyer Personas Consume and Share Content
It’s not enough to just base topic ideas off the needs and interests of your buyer personas; you also need to format this content so it matches how these personas consume and share content.
- What formats, tones, sources and lengths do these personas prefer (e.g., short-form blog posts, long-form white papers, infographics, video tutorials, etc.)?
- Where online do these personas spend most of their time (e.g., social media, blogs, etc.)?
- How can you best reach these target audience with your content (e.g., organic social media distribution, paid social advertising, paid search ads, etc.)?
When it comes to sorting out social media content distribution, keep these general rules of thumb in mind:
- Twitter is best for targeting specific networks
- LinkedIn is best for targeting via career/industry
- Facebook is best for targeting via interest or demographic.
Related Article: Content Marketing: 5 Tips for Better Brand Content
3. Select Content Types That Align Your Business’s Needs With Your Buyer Personas’ Needs
Let’s say your goal is to increase brand awareness within specific verticals. Based on your buyer persona research, you know a large segment of your customers are searching for general, actionable information with your industry.
Your solution: create how-to video tutorial or case studies that address the persona’s specific knowledge need while also building brand awareness.
If your goal were lead generation rather than brand awareness, you’d need a means for capturing information via a lead generation form. By offering content that a lead simply can’t resist (e.g., white papers, toolkits, guides, webinars, etc.), they’ll be motivated to exchange their information (e.g., email address) for access.
Bottom line: Aligning content with audience needs may be content marketing 101, but doing so still takes a concerted effort and clear strategy. Start by identifying buyer personas for both target customers and decision-making influencers.
Next, identify how and where these personas consumer and share content; these are the networks your business needs to be active on.
Finally, be sure your content strategy aligns with both your company’s long-term growth goals and the needs/wants of your buyer personas. Once you’ve got these steps situated, it’s time to create a content execution plan and calendar.