“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” – Zig Ziglar
I love this old saying by Zig Ziglar. Not just because it’s packed with truth and life-lessons but also because it brilliantly sums up a classic content marketing mistake — moving without a target.
I’ve had several clients that appeared to have great marketing execution – in other words, they produced a lot of “stuff” (whitepapers, email campaigns, articles, etc). But when digging deeper to understand their lack of results, as it turns out, they invest most of their energies into creating content for everyone rather than for a specific and well-defined target audience.
Know Thy Customer Or Waste Thy Money
Not knowing your customers can be a costly mistake. According to a recent survey, $958 million is wasted on ineffective marketing every year by B2B companies.
Of course, you know that not everyone will buy what you are selling. Then why would you want to create content that you don’t know for sure will attract the right kind of buyers? For instance, if you’re a company selling software to large enterprises and your content is mostly getting views from consumers or small business owners, what value is that piece of content bringing to your business? Zero. Nada. Zilch.
I might sound like a broken record when I say that you have to have a deep understanding of who your audience is and where they are on their way down the path to purchase before you can put together a healthy marketing plan, but it’s something that bears repeating. No matter how many times. Why? Because knowing your target audience is the basic formula for any successful marketing program. Without a target to aim for, you’ll be shooting in the dark and worse, won’t even know if it’s a hit or a miss.
Now that you know your content marketing amounts to nothing if you’re not paying attention to targeting, let’s discuss some ways you can remedy that situation.
Aim for the Dead Center of the Target – The Buyer Personas
To create targeted content that hits the bull’s eye, the first step is to define WHO you are trying to reach. The most successful tool to help with this is to create buyer personas. But buyer personas are not based on your average demographic data. A recent B2B marketers’ report by Cintell found that companies having comprehensive buyer personas based on the buyers’ motivations, pain points, and specific roles in the buying process tend to generate more annual revenue as compared to companies that simply use demographic data in their buyer personas. I have discussed in one of my previous articles how you can create effective buyer personas.
Understand Where Your Buyer is in Their Journey
Giving your target audience what they want, both in terms of the information they need and when they need it helps producing engaging content. For example, depending on where your audience is seated in the buying cycle, they may need content that:
- Creates awareness by helping them understand what your company does and how you can address their pain-points and solve the particular problems they face.
- Informs them about the products or services you sell, which can solve their problems.
- Differentiates you from your competitors based on your knowledge, expertise, and high-quality products and services, helping them make an informed decision.
- Encourages your prospect to take action by providing everything he or she needs to confidently purchase your products and services.
When you plan your content around these specific goals, it’s better targeted to meet those goals, and ultimately create value for your audience.
Know What Content Formats Your Audience is Interested In
You may be tempted to create a compelling white paper because you’ve heard it serves as an excellent marketing tool for B2B customers. But consider this: In a global survey of 500 business executives and 500 marketers, The Economist Group asked respondents which content formats were the most helpful for a business-related matter and they found—
- Seventy-one percent (71%) said articles
- Fifty-one percent (51%) said research reports
- Twenty-seven percent (27%) said briefing papers
- Nineteen percent (19%) said newsletters
- Eight percent (8%) said events
- Eighty-five percent (85%) said they prefer text content to video or audio
Your target customer could fall into any of those categories. The point is, you could waste precious hours and manpower creating a white paper if your target audience prefers shorter pieces like articles or non-textual content like videos and podcasts.
When You Go Without a Plan, You Plan to Fail
Lastly, you need a plan to reach your target audience. Latest stats suggest that only 28% of B2B content marketers have a documented editorial plan for their target audience. But I think the situation is far worse. For one, plenty of B2B businesses are still going by the attitude of “doing something is better than doing nothing” — they make it a point to religiously churn out something in the name of content marketing. That explains why the Internet is flooded with content that seems stale, irrelevant, and unfocused.
Don’t fall into this trap. Stay focused and keep asking the question – “will this help my customer?” If the answer is no, don’t produce it.
To sum it up, if you’ve been wandering the content marketing landscape aimlessly, you’ve already poured a lot of effort and investment down the drain. It’s time to get serious about defining and aiming for the bullseye so that you create a win-win situation for both your organization and the customers it serves.