As we’ve preached here, here, here and likely a dozen other times, understanding your audience, their goals and the obstacles that stand in their way is essential intelligence that organizations need in order to create relevant content. Not only will this exercise help you create better content, which most marketers believe is the key element to a successful content marketing program, it also has the potential to drive revenue and conversions.
But how do you ensure that your audience intelligence — the prospect and customer insights on which your organization is basing its marketing decisions — is actually correct? It’s likely that sales or account management have informed perspectives on the audience…and they should; after all, they’re the people on the front lines interacting with your targets on a daily basis. While more often than not, you can trust those front-line folks to give you clear-cut intelligence, the fact is, you can’t always blindly rely on them. How do you know, for example, whether the information they are providing isn’t being biased by personal relationships, preferences, prejudices or simply misinformation, for whatever reason?
The only way to truly know your audience is to talk to them yourself.
When we suggest this to clients, their first response is, well, let’s just say, not always receptive to the idea. Most organizations are hesitant to inconvenience their customers, especially with such probing questions. And of course they would not want to subject a prospect to any additional work before signing on the dotted line. But given the critical nature of this information, it’s worth asking: how can you convince senior leadership that going straight to the source is in your best interests?
The only way to truly know your audience is to talk to them yourself. Click To TweetFirst, we remind decision makers of the constantly evolving nature of their ideal clients and prospects. That top priority from two months ago may no longer be so important, and that hot industry market trend may have faded into obscurity. That’s why we recommend that organizations evaluate their audience priorities on at least an annual basis, making sure that marketing activities align with business goals and are driving results. For instance, let’s say you’ve introduced an existing product to a new audience, but you’re using the same tools you’ve used previously with existing customers. While marketing analytics and insights can tell you a piece of the story, you might not understand why this audience is behaving differently. All you know is that they’re not responding in the same way as previous audiences had done. Talking to this new audience about their process and preferences can help uncover the why and open the door to new opportunities for increased engagement.
Once we’ve created the case for learning more about customers, then we shift the discussion to why customers are the best source for this type of information. Having gone through this exercise before, I’ve found that the following information is often the most elusive to internal sources.
- Audience Challenges — most account and sales teams understand the goals of their audience because it’s likely your organization is providing a solution that solves that need. The challenge is understanding the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving that goal. While each prospect or client is unique, organizations can typically identify audience trends through 3-4 interviews with ideal current clients.
- Media Consumption — what news sites do they visit? Which social platforms do they actively engage with? Sometimes this can be hard to tell through a simple social or Google search — due to privacy settings. And because we’re talking about business contacts, social engagement is sometimes restricted to LinkedIn, even if that might not be the best or preferred platform for meaningful engagement with your audience. Talking to your audience will help you to create a multi-channel approach, making it more likely to reach your intended audience.
- What they want from you — while its not necessarily something we seek out directly in a customer interview, talking directly with customers will likely reveal content ideas that will help your audience and keep your organization top of mind. I’ve found that some of our best content ideas have come from clients talking about a challenge and combining that with our understanding of a client’s product or expertise.
While it can be an uphill battle at times, convincing your organization of the benefit of directly engaging customers has a clear-cut payoff. Your content will be more relevant and might actually answer your customers’ questions, positioning your organization as an industry resource (possibly even an expert) and driving awareness when it comes time for them to find a service provider.