Is your content targeting customers? I mean your real, specific customers? Targeting has always been important and, naturally, it revolves round what you say and write and show. However, in the ‘excitement’ of setting up and using the many shiny digital opportunities that exist, targeted content is often neglected. Generic, non-specific blogs and posts become the norm – and this simply isn’t good enough to target your customers.
These days, you can’t trade in complete silence, relying upon word of mouth and referrals. These sources will dry up – sometimes because you are no longer relevant but mostly because people don’t know you’re relevant!
Offline, your communication (at exhibitions, in flyers, face-2-face meetings, emails, etc) needs to engage otherwise it’s a waste of your time and money. Speak to people as individuals and avoid generic chatter. It’s you and why you matter to them that’s important.
So, assuming you’ve built your business based on meeting the real needs of real people, that’s where you start with your content.
And don’t just target customers
This is my equation: Customers + Prospects + Influencers = Audience. You have more opportunities for targeting customers if you embrace a broader group of people. Think in terms of Audience as well as Customers.
Of course your target is end users but the people who influence them will give you so much more to work with. I’m not talking about the Instagram Influencers paid to promote products. It’s the people in the background you should be targeting because they should be your biggest advocates – from your own employees, suppliers and partners, to the family and friends of your end users.
This broader audience, together with the marketplace and current ‘environment’, give you so many options to showcase your business in a different and engaging manner. You may have a finite number of services and products but how you describe and demonstrate them ensures an ever-expanding content bank.
Just as you segment your customers according to your commercial objectives, the content you communicate to them needs to dove-tail with their interests and challenges. So time to identify your customers (and their influencers).
Your know your customers inside out
You size people up every day based on what you know about them. Sometimes you have to make snap – but often spot-on – assessments. You do it at home, at the gym, in shops, at social gatherings… You’re skilled at accessing the exact level of information you need to achieve what you want. It won’t always work so you sharpen up your technique a bit. Sounds a bit cold and calculating? But it’s what we do as humans. We negotiate, cajole, encourage, influence, entice… and each time for a reason. If you’re customer-facing you do this at work too.
You know things instinctively about your customers – ways of using their objections to your advantage. You probably / should have this all documented somewhere. Frankly, it’s content gold dust for every time you communicate – and not just when you’re in front of a customer but before, when you need to generate those quality leads.
This is what you should be feeding your website, blogs, social media posts, email campaigns, etc. It’s at the core of targeting customers.
Profile your customers
So now make this gold dust a bit more more official – create customer profiles. Some organisations have teams of people creating data upon which operational and marketing decisions are made. You don’t need to pay this level of attention in order to start targeting customers and focusing your content in the right direction. But you do need to be a little forensic – and start to document your knowledge and use if wisely.
Your commercial priorities will relate directly to key customer segments associated with the products and services you want to push. This is your key to the strategy you use with your content. Experiences that will resonate with prospects and their influencers:
- Who’s getting more value from your products and services than your average user?
- Who are your super users?
- Why did they choose you?
This is how you build targeted content, not generic information that waves roughly in the direction of people who might be your customers.
Whether you are working in B2B or B2C environments, understanding the individual end user and the environment in which products and services are bought is key to targeting customers.
Are you talking to engineers, commercial managers, finance or procurement? Or are they parents, students, patients, leisure-seekers? Age, gender, ethnicity – it all helps you shape your content to their interests, challenges and needs. What kind of environment are they in – workshop, office, car, on-site, at home? And who do they listen to? Friends, colleagues…
They’re different people in different environments with different challenges and ways to access what you offer. Segment and prioritise so you can create content that reaches them all efficiently and effectively. You do it at the point of sale, so do it earlier, to engage and attract.
Stories and experiences
Targeting customers is influencing and persuading people with authentic stories. Scenarios that ring true because they are true. They’re about how your customers came across you, why and how they use your services and products. Stories that –
- Educate and widen understanding
- Reduce perceptions of risk
- Share expertise
- Explore ‘war’ stories
- Encourage involvement in future thinking and planning
- Demonstrate you care and are listening
Take a video production company, for example. An effective way of communicating with an audience, video also poses problems for people uncomfortable in front of the camera. Instead of ignoring such a ‘barrier to purchase’, the video producer could address this head on. Empathise with people and offer tangible solutions proven to work with even the most nervous. Persuasive case studies that help people make decisions they know they should be making.
Understanding your audience must include knowing where to find them – the right kind of channels to engage them in conversation. Online (website, social media, emailing) is clearly a priority. How do they search on Google and use social media? How does this help you integrate your digital channels with offline activity? The only way your content is going to be effective and efficient is if it’s used in the right way.
So many businesses are suspicious of social media. Maybe they’ve had a bad or expensive experience and have too few customers to show for it. Certain industries will have concerns over compliance and overcoming risk. For sure some channels seem to be more suitable for B2B than others. Twitter and LinkedIn, for example, are used extensively and successfully by businesses to promote their services, build relationships and share expertise.
B2B conversations can be less successful on networks such as Facebook or Instagram, however. Business people generally want specific issues-related information at specific times. Of course, specialist groups do exist around particular disciplines and some areas are very well served in this way – financial services, IT, legal services and marketing, for example.
Whichever platform is important to your audience, it takes research, commitment and relevant content to be successful. Relationships need to be built sometimes one connection at a time. Using social media to provide the right information to the right person at the right time can be a time consuming process. But it’s still critical.
If your audience relationship is B2C your channel choices are richer – and hungrier. Understanding your audience is still core to your success however – what to say and how is more successful if you’re strategic. Your resources are well used and your online presence is being built with a purpose – targeting customers.
Create content that your customers deserve
Targeting customers with the right content makes good commercial sense. Otherwise you aren’t telling your audience anything of value with an inherent call to action. People need content that chimes with them and where they are in the buying chain.
It’s worth remembering that if you’re trading in a difficult competitive market place think how your prospects feel trying to find what and who they want! So help them. Target them.
(Thanks and credit to Pablo for the image)