You’ve completed your company profile and defined your goals. Sales and Marketing departments are poised with product and/or service information, you have a carefully designed website and you’re ready to get out there and market!

But who do you market to in order to get the best response to your content marketing efforts? Do you have a clearly defined picture of your customers and potential customers?

For a content marketing strategy to be truly effective, you have to reach the right people–the people who are interested in your specific products and services. This is not necessarily the whole world.

Before you can begin creating content that will influence your target audience and drive behavior, you need to know who you are speaking to, what they need to hear and where they will hear it.

Step One – Analyze current customer base

Take a deep look at your existing customers to see what patterns emerge. Where do the lifestyles intersect, what commonalities do they share that drive these customers to you? Is your customer base predominately:

  • male or female
  • young or mature age
  • home-based or travelers
  • frugal or spenders
  • practical or luxury buyers
  • local or online buyers
  • sports enthusiasts
  • families or singles
  • impulse or planned purchasers

… and the list goes on. If you sell something like baby products, chances are you’ll have a large percentage of young families, but if you have a wide range of products, you’ll have to drill down a bit more to define your different buyer groups or customer personas.

Step Two – Survey your customer base

Go directly to the source. Ask your customers why they buy from you. Aside from what may be the obvious (such as staples), find out why they use your product instead of a competitor’s.

  • Cost
  • Product quality or performance
  • Availability
  • Company culture (such as a “green” company)
  • Quality of life
  • Meets needs (what specific needs?)
  • Solves problems
  • Unique product or service
  • Status

A survey can take the form of an email or online website survey, encouraging response by offering a benefit such as a coupon or special offer. A direct mail piece can be a returnable survey or a teaser to direct them to your website to respond. If you have a store front, take live surveys of customers who come in to shop. Facebook and Twitter are good sites to engage with your customers and generate conversations about what you want to know (as well as what they want to tell you—which you also want to know!).

Step Three – Find your customers online and be in that space

How do your customers find you online? Do you get traffic from a company Facebook page? Do conversations evolve on Twitter … pins proliferate on Pinterest? Finding out exactly where your customers hang out online should be a vital part of your survey. You need to know where your customers and potential customers are so you can be there, too, and not waste time and resources where you won’t be connecting.

Where your customers spend time online will help determine the platforms and media you use in your content marketing strategy. You may find that you have more than one “typical” audience or customer and this will necessitate various types of content: a blog for the readers, YouTube for the video connoisseurs, Tweets for the extremely busy, mobile access for those on the go, etc.

Step Four – Build your personas or customer profiles

By now you will have the information necessary to create a clear picture of your target audience or audiences. Just as the term “soccer mom” brings to mind a specific picture or character, you need to define and name your ideal customers. A buyer persona is essentially a profile that describes your ideal customer, down to lifestyle choices, desires, questions and needs, so you want to get personal. Write it down, give it life. If you think of each persona as an actual person, it will be easier to connect on an emotional level and care about your customers as more than just a bottom line. Whatever your products or services, you’ll be glad to make life easier, better, safer, or sweeter for real people.

  • Dave, the young family man who needs your time-saving widgets always orders online
  • Marilyn, the single mom who loves your economical, high-quality products likes to zip into your local store to grab what she needs
  • Melvin, the busy executive who manages life on a laptop while on yet another flight
  • Karen, student and part-time waitress who uses her phone for everything

Step Five – Create customized content

Knowing your customer personas enables content to be created to meet the targeted needs of each profile. Different social media platforms allow your messages to be tailored to fit that audience; not all products or services may be offered the same way or even across all your networks. By knowing who frequents the different online sites, you’ll be able to post content that will speak directly to the needs of each persona.

Join the Conversation:

  • What does your typical customer look like? Do you have more than one customer persona?
  • How does having a defined target audience facilitate content creation?
  • How many social platforms do you broadcast to and what types of content do you use?

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