At its core, content marketing is about helping your customers solve problems.
Unfortunately, far too many marketers get stuck trying to be everything for everyone.
The logic of course is understandable: the more people you can appeal to, the more customers you will reach.
But not all problems are created equal – and what might appeal to one customer group may very well turn off another.
In other words, by trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll often end up pleasing to no one.
Here are a few practical solutions to help your business focus its message:
1) Map Out Your Audience
Content marketing success depends on having a concrete idea of who you want to talk to.
In particular you should identify:
Who they are: Try and build out a picture of the group you want to reach. In addition to demographic information (age, gender, location, etc.), you should also understand their psychographics as well. This refers to the way individuals in your audience see themselves – his or her identity, lifestyle and attitudes.
Where you can find them – Figure out which communications channels are going to be most effective. A lot of content marketers try and put material out through every channel possible – often while missing the fact the intended audience might not be present everywhere.
For example, if I want to target twenty-something males for a sports company, I could probably do great on Twitter, which is popular with that demographic. On the other hand, I would likely be wasting my time by trying to reach them on Pinterest, a platform whose users are much more likely to be female.
What drives them emotionally – Since emotions are a key factor in most buying decisions, it’s crucial to know how your audience feels about their problems and possible solutions you might have to offer. Spend time to understand how factors like doubt, fear, pride, and self-esteem play into the decision making process of your customers.
2) Listen To What Your Audience is Saying
It’s easy to assume that you understand all the problems your customers face. But without actually writing it down in some way, you run the risk of missing (or forgetting) key observations.
A good way to start this process is by finding a place where you can listen to what your customers are saying.
One of my favorites is the website Alltop.
This site allows you to look up blogs on almost any topic. You can even create your own custom feeds to stay up to date on the ones you like most. It’s a great place to find not only thought leaders, but all kinds of discussions involving the members of your customer community.
Other great options include social media, conferences, or even a few old-fashioned one-on-one conversations.
Whatever the platform, you’ll want to pay special attention to mapping the problems your customers face.
I like to create short “fact file” memos for each problem I identify. These include a description of the problem, how it fits into the customers overall world, and a ranking of how much of a priority solving the problem is for them.
In addition to a broader understanding of your customers, going through this exercise will also help you find specific problems to focus in on when you create content (see below).
3) Focus In On A Specific Customer Problem
The last thing you want is to force potential new customers to dig around for (or guess) what it is you want to do for them. By concentrating on a specific challenge your customers face, you’ll bring clarity to the value of your business.
To do this, take the fact files you’ve assembled and figure out the problem that makes the most sense for your business to take on.
This means finding a good balance between identifying a problem that matters to your customers, and a realistic assessment of your business’ capabilities.
You don’t want to be taking on something just because it’s important, only to find out you can’t actually offer a solution.
Having a specific problem to focus on will give you a compass for guiding your message.
In other words, if what you are thinking of putting out doesn’t address the specific problem, you’re probably better off discarding the idea in favor of something that does.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to stay focused on one problem forever.
It’s just a lot easier to get really good at doing one thing and then expand, rather than the other way around.