Content marketing is a great way to generate leads, win new customers, and establish a thought leadership within your field of expertise.
The problem is: all your efforts will only be successful if you address the readers you actually want to reach and then only if they also enjoy what they are reading.
But how can you find and delight the right audience?
The numbers prove it: according to a study by Ascend2, an overwhelming 89% of all companies using content marketing say it works.
Almost nine out of every ten companies stated that content marketing was either very successful or somewhat successful for achieving important objectives, such as:
- generating more leads,
- building trust,
- improving customer engagement,
- increasing website traffic, or
- increasing annual sales revenue
In order to reach these goals, you have to follow a strategy that makes sure you are on the right track and that you implement your content marketing efforts in an effective manner. Metrics like website traffic will only be relevant for your company’s success if the right people visit your landing pages.
You need a concise strategy to address and attract those people that will actually benefit your business.
Developing a content strategy can be a complex task. The first step, though, should always be to identify and define your buyer personas, i.e. those people who are, or might become, future customers of your company.
1. Who is it you want to reach?
A buyer persona as defined by the Buyer Persona Institute:
Built from the real words of real buyers, a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves.
So how do you identify your buyer personas?
As the definition suggests, the most accurate way of creating your buyer personas is through research. Start with analysing your current and historical customers: What are their demographic characteristics, their interests, and the challenges they face in their day-to-day activities? What might they be looking for to solve these problems?
If you don’t have any current or historical data yet, do some research on people who might be interested in your product or service. A good way of doing this is to analyse a similar site to yours, which will help you identify your potential audience.
You can try different tools when doing your research, like Google AdWords Display Planner or Google Analytics. They will give you a basic summary of demographic characteristics, interests, keywords, and topics a person interested in your product would look for.
The more data you have the better – try to find patterns among the different people you are analysing and use them as a base to create a prototype for each trend you identify.
If you are in the process of creating your buyer personas, have a look at our free Buyer Persona Templates (B2B Template / B2C Template), where we included all elements you should pay attention when putting yourself into your buyer persona’s shoes.
2. Knowing your buyer persona’s needs
Let’s face it: time is very scarce, both for us and most likely for your buyer personas. Before you start producing any content offers or blog articles, it is crucial for you to ask yourself the following question:
Why should anyone care about your content?
There are two types of content that will be successful, according to socially sorted: content that helps and content that inspires.
After having identified your buyer personas, make sure you fully understand their needs and challenges, which you can then address in your content offers.
Try taking their perspective: what does a typical day of your buyer persona look like? What challenges or questions might they encounter, and how can you help solving them? Are there any specific objections they have to products or services like your which you should want to address?
It might help doing surveys on your existing customers to gain more data on their needs, or do some online research to find out more about the characteristics of your buyer personas.
Make sure you both pay attention to the topics which might be interesting for your audience, as well as the format you choose to deliver the content, through.
The type of content you pick obviously depends heavily on the topic you are writing about. Nevertheless, the specific preferences of your buyer personas can have a significant impact on whether your content will be successful or not.
For some audiences, whitepapers and pieces of research might be the way to go, for others short videos or infographics can be the best solution. Try to find out which type of content is consumed most by your buyer personas to create an attractive mix of different topics and types of content.
3. Giving your audience the right content at the right time at the right place
It’s all about timing.
Providing the right content to the right audience will only work if you also deliver it at the right time.
I am not saying you have to have a piece of content for every moment in your buyer persona’s day – waking up with a lovely, light infographic, regaining power at 4pm with a cuppa and some great motivational videos and getting comfortable in front of a fire with an exciting whitepaper… just kidding.
Rather, I am referring to the right time in your buyer persona’s problem solving – and decision making – process.
The first stage your buyer persona goes through is the awareness stage.
Here, they are aware of having a problem or challenge, but they are not sure what it is or how they can solve it. At this specific point you want to address the challenges you have identified when analysing your buyer personas.
Let’s say your company sells tools and material for doing DIY at home. A potential piece of content for the awareness stage might tackle a problem like “leaking shower in bathroom”. You can then provide information on different causes for leakages in showers so your audience can identify the problem they are facing.
The second stage is the consideration stage.
Your buyer persona will ideally either have identified their problem through your awareness stage content offer or knows already which problem they have. At the consideration stage, you provide solutions to their specific problems.
This could be a how-to guide on how to fix joins to stop showers from leaking.
The third and final stage your potential buyer persona experiences is called the decision stage.
Here, they already have an idea about their problem and the solutions to solve it, but they still have to decide on a seller from whom to buy.
Accordingly, they might have found out that the reason for the leakage of their shower was loose tiles and have read a how-to guide on how to fix it. They now might need materials to perform this work and wonder which type of adhesive would be suitable for their case. You can then provide information on different adhesives you sell to help your buyer personas in their decision process.
When creating your content, you should make sure you provide at least one content offer for each stage of the buyer’s journey and buyer persona. That way, you address specific needs of your audience for each point in their decision process and provide them with the exact information they need at that time.
What about the right place?
After having put all that effort into creating this wonderful piece of content, you want to make sure it can be found.
One place you want to appear at is the first page of search results in Google.
This can be achieved through optimising your content for specific keywords your buyer personas might look for. You can use tools like the brand-new Moz Keyword Explorer or the AdWords Keyword Planner to collect ideas and get an overview over search volume and grades of difficulty for each keyword.
Try including long-tail keywords and questions your audience will probably look for as they are easier to rank for. A wonderful tool for this is answerthepublic.com. Just type in the keywords you want to rank for and it will give you popular questions people search for in search engines. In our example, this would be questions like “what tiles for shower floor” or “when to grout tiles”.
When writing your content, keep in mind that you should always optimise for your audience rather than search engines. User experience is still the most important factor when it comes to search engine rankings and it will help neither you nor your buyer personas if you spend more time on cluttering blog articles with hollow keywords rather than creating valuable content which your target audience will appreciate.
Another channel to market your content offers on is social media. Having done the buyer persona analysis, you should know which platforms they use and how you can reach them best. If your target audience is mostly in the B2B sector, you would probably focus on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook rather than spending too much time on Snapchat ans such like.
What should I take home from that?
So, what makes or breaks a content strategy?
It all comes down to attracting the right people to your content and giving them exactly what they need at a specific point of time in their buyer’s journey.
Don’t underestimate the importance of having a profound content marketing strategy – identifying and understanding your buyer personas should be your first priority. Make sure you address the right audience and then offer content which will be of real value for them – it doesn’t take more than that to create truly irresistible content.
Now you’ve got your content working hard at gaining you leads, make sure you know what to do them once you’ve got them! Download our free guide on how to effectively qualify your marketing leads.