When you start shaping a content marketing strategy, your objective should always be two-fold. The first part entails drawing potential consumers to the initial stages of the marketing funnel, and the second is to ensure that prospects’ attribute top-of-mind preference to your company as they proceed throughout the subsequent stages, and reach the decision-making point. In attempting to achieve both, you should never underestimate the importance of understanding who your audience is.
During a recent Oktopost customer-hosted webinar, Adam Robinson, Director of Marketing at Cerasis, spoke about the importance of adopting a holistic approach to pinpointing your target consumers, and generating the right content to keep them actively engaged. Intelligent content marketing comprises several steps which are outlined below, including identifying who the decision-makers are, compiling lists of industry-related keywords and influencers, and leveraging social media.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
- Which Decision-Makers Matter?
In most cases, a B2B target audience can be divided into two categories: primary – those who hold executive positions, and secondary – those who influence the executive decision-makers. There could also be tertiary decision-makers or influencers, such as administrative or executive assistants, whose responsibility it is to gather information and present it to executive-level staff. The tertiary group often carries out the ‘vetting process’ before any data reaches the secondary, or even the primary individuals. Within the sales cycle, it is vital to understand which category (and which ‘titles’) are responsible for making the specific decisions that are relevant to your company’s business goals.
The most direct way to conduct this research is to speak with your sales staff or customer service department, and ask which ‘job titles’ they typically communicate with. This type of strategy can help you differentiate between the ‘gate keepers’ (the account managers or assistants who research, compile and collect the information), and the actual ‘contract signers’ (the upper-management that usually makes the final decision in the buying process).
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Once you’ve determined which category is most relevant, try to identify several factors – such as age-range, geographic region and job title, which will help you understand the unique kind of information this group is looking for, and where they tend to search for it. This will enable you to decide what the ideal channels for communicating your content are – in terms of social networks, news sources, blogs and online forums. Likewise, knowing who your audience is will ensure that you adopt the target-appropriate language, tone and writing style that appeals most to your prospects.
- Outline Broad Keyword Categories
Another valuable strategy is to compile a list of buzzwords and keywords that are strongly related to the industry professionals you seek to engage. Think of the different verticals that your company operates in, and create tailored content that integrates relevant industry terms that will resonate with your target audience. These keywords should serve as your guide when you post messages across social communities, create original marketing content, or share interesting links or articles.
This list of keywords should also include names of influencers and thought-leaders that potential prospects view as highly credible. Establishing key relationships with these experts can prove valuable in the future, particularly for guest blogging, webinars, and networking, all of which can help spur community growth and engagement on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Step 2: Brainstorm About Your Content
Once you’re well-versed on the subject of industry lingo and trends, it’s time to start brainstorming on content ideas. Not all of the knowledge resides in the marketing department, and holding internal meetings with the various departments within your company can be extremely useful. Meet with key staff and teams, both in the sales and the customer service department, and ask open-ended questions regarding what they’ve learned about customers, the type of questions they ask, the information they seek, what sources they utilize to find it.
As mentioned above, conducting extensive online searches to identify keywords, trends, job titles and customer demands – and using the ‘related searches’ function to expand on this, is fundamental to the brainstorming process. Make a list of the resources (websites, blogs, discussion groups, etc.) in which these keywords appear, as well as the type of content they appear in – found, mainly with respect to wording, formatting and tone. Using a tool such as Google Alerts can help you stay on top of content that contains these keywords on a daily basis, and inspire your brainstorming process.
Another resource for brainstorming is by conducting social media searches, and noticing which stories resonate most with your target audience. Monitor which industry-related articles are being shared the most and which posts drive the highest engagement, and then make your decision about which social communities are best to join.
A two-pronged strategy that involves collecting information directly from internal departments, and tracking industry influencers, blogs and online publications, is extremely effective. If you notice that customers are voicing opinions on a certain topic, and that several leading news sources are writing about the same issue, then it would be ideal to address it from your unique company standpoint.
Step 3: Listen to and Educate the (Right) Social Masses
Just as important as generating the right content, is ensuring that it appears on the right channels. Before pushing out content to external channels, first focus on building up internal digital assets that contain original content. Among others, these include the company website – with a focus on landing pages, as well as your blog and any videos, white papers, case studies or other marketing collateral.
Once you’ve prepared a broad range of original content that spans your website, you can begin distributing it to the proper social channels, and building your online community. Establishing a social presence to which you contribute in the form of helpful posts, thought-provoking questions, and curated content is essential to establishing a loyal consumer base, and promoting your brand. Proper target-audience research can help you understand which platforms are most effective for reaching decision-makers – whether via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Pinterest.
Social media platforms give you the opportunity to tap into your prospects’ opinions, feedback and questions – in a real-time environment. This type of insight can be used to personalize your marketing approach, and create content that is specifically tailored to current customer needs. Use this to your advantage, and search for your keywords and industry influencers in LinkedIn Discussion Groups, Google+ Communities, Quora and Reddit, and reach out directly to your target audience.
In particular, given the importance of LinkedIn in the B2B social selling space, joining a number of its Discussion Groups will provide you with direct access to what’s happening in the industry. Use the keywords you compiled to search for the most relevant Groups, and narrow down the list based on: number of members, engagement rates (comments and discussions per week), and demographics that are most relevant to your business.
Creating content that is customized based on your target audience is critical to resonating with the right users, and ultimately empowers your marketing strategy. Actively engaging in social media discussions, keeping tabs on the latest industry news, and turning to key staff to better understand customer demands all play a major role in driving your content marketing success.