We live in a customer-centric world. As consumers have more information at their fingertips than ever before, they have more power when it comes to making informed buying decisions. Thanks to technology advancements, consumers have also become accustomed to personalized, targeted marketing messages that meet their distinct needs throughout the buying cycle. This presents a unique challenge for businesses who need to provide relevant, engaging content for their audiences. It’s not enough to hire writers who can produce quality content; they must understand the audience they’re writing for.

Knowing the Audience is a Basic Tenet of Writing

Trained writers are taught that every piece of writing should have an audience – the tone of a piece of writing, the style, and terminology used all hinge on the intended audience. In addition, the intended audience determines how much background information is needed, and the audience’s needs should drive the content as a whole.

Beyond the audience’s needs, writers should approach every piece of content with a purpose:

  • What is the writer hoping to achieve?
  • What specific action does the writer want the audience to take after reading?
  • How should the reader utilize the information provided?

These are all essential questions to answer before undertaking any content initiative.

The Basics Fall Short in Business Content Marketing

It’s easy enough for businesses to provide writers with the basic information needed to create content, but content that makes a real impact requires a deeper understanding of the audience. Today’s businesses often have not just one but many buyer personas that together make up the brand’s target audience but when considered independently may have vastly different levels of knowledge and experience about the subject matter, may be at different stages in the buyer’s journey, and may be researching the brand for completely different reasons.

There are a variety of ways to gain valuable data and dig deeper into any target audience:

  • Conducting competitive research
  • Visiting niche forums
  • Analyzing data from SEO tools (search queries, time spent on page, etc.)
  • Interviewing members of the ideal audience
  • Analyzing comments on relevant blogs and social media
  • Auditing data on the existing audience or current customers

Businesses that have a deep understanding of their various buyer personas can better equip writers with the information necessary to write effective content. Beyond basic demographics, writers should be armed with insights on the target audience’s primary pain points, understand where along the buyer’s journey the target reader is likely to engage with the content, and other insights such as common objections, which can be particularly important for content meant to convert readers into customers or subscribers.

Is Writing Well Enough?

A good writer can put himself in the mind of the audience and craft effective content when equipped with thorough information about the ideal reader. Producing well-written content isn’t enough if it fails to engage the reader, solve the reader’s problems, or convince the reader to take the desired action.

There are myriad considerations when it comes to hiring content marketers or content marketing agencies, making the process of screening and hiring a daunting one for many businesses. Above all, companies should look for content marketers and content writers with a solid grasp of the marketing aspect of content marketing – it’s not just the ability to write well, but the ability to research and understand the target audience and craft engaging content developed specifically to meet a unique need that sets a good content marketer apart from the mediocre. Content marketers should:

  • Have experience in the niche
  • Ask questions about the audience
  • Want brand representatives to be involved in the process
  • Seek to replicate the brand voice
  • Utilize a data-driven process to identify content ideas and opportunities

An agency, in particular, should serve as a partner, working alongside a brand to identify opportunities, vet content ideas, readily seek input from in-house marketing representatives (who have an in-depth understanding of the target audience), and continuously test and measure to modify and fine-tune the approach.

Generic content, often used in the “spray and pray” approach to content marketing, is no longer effective. Today’s customer-centric brands need content writers and agencies who “get it” – they understand how crucial it is to analyze the audience and take a data-driven approach to developing and implementing content initiatives. It’s the only way to create compelling content that gets results in today’s crowded landscape.