How to connect with your target audience using content marketing

Through the ages, the human connection has enabled us to achieve great things together–as well as smaller ones–and it’s no different now. Connecting with your target audience with content marketing is an important part of your online lead generation, and it also plays a big role in onsite SEO. Producing material that gets the search engines going is one thing, however, but if you’re not actively connecting with your human readers, then you are probably still getting it wrong.

If you are just throwing everything out into the online world and hoping something sticks, then there’s a good chance you’re wasting time and money at best, or damaging your brand at worst. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to simply go out there and start blogging; you need a strategic approach that it going to help you establish your online relationship with your prospects.

Do You Really Know Your Customers?

Taking the time to really get to know your customers is vital, according to Apple’s tech and entrepreneurship icon, Steve Jobs, who believed it was entirely possible to get so close to the customer you could tell them what they needed before they realized it themselves. Getting to know them will also help you to identify “hot button” issues, such as the language they use. For example, there’s no point in targeting cat lovers if the people you really want to reach call themselves cat owners, capiche? You cannot sell to a rocket scientist if you sound like a gangster rapper and vice versa. Take the time to really research what the tone, style, slang and buzzwords are that your target customers use. Chances are, as you discover new niche language, you will also unearth a treasure trove of little-known, low-competition high-search-volume keywords.

Do you know your customers that well? Do you really know what they want and need? Are you really answering their questions? Have you asked? If you’re just writing content that you think your customers will be interested in, without asking them or engaging them to find out if you’re creating must-read content or filling their junk mail folder with newsletters and updates, then you’re missing mark.

Research More, and Then Some More

Marketing has always been built around research. Long before the internet changed the way we relate to our customers, new businesses were doing market research to find out who their target market was, and what they wanted and needed.

Just because we’re now connecting online rather than face to face with a marketing survey, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still put in the work. Use your social media accounts to poll your followers. Ask them what they want to know. Visit sites like Quora, and find out what questions are being asked in your industry or niche. If you don’t have comments or ratings on your blog posts, consider turning them on.

Ask your customers questions, and then listen to what they have to say. Follow them on Twitter. Make it easy to ask questions on your website. The more you can find out about who you are selling your products and services to the better, according to Jake Wobbrock (@) of AnswerDash. It needs to be an obsession. Something that you do every day, and that you adjust constantly.

Understand Buyer Personas

If you are like most businesses, then you have more than one ideal target customer. Chances are you have defined one or a few typical customer personas. If you haven’t, do it now. You need to balance your content creation to reach all of the customers you are targeting. If you ignore them, they will ignore you.

Find Them Where They Hang Out

The internet is really just a digital version of everyday life. Just like there are cliques and groups that hang out in different parts of the real world, there are different parts of the web where your customers hang out. Except now, instead of the cool kids hanging out behind the bleachers, your customers are hanging out on social media platforms, video sharing sites, forums and news sites. Find out where they spend the time online, and then create your content for those platforms.

A great example of an online success story that is based on knowing customers and being where they hang out is Pewdiepie (@Pewdiepie). If you don’t know who that is, it’s probably because you’re not a teenager or an avid gamer, but since this 25-year-old has built a fortune based on nothing but his content and knowing his audience, he’s definitely got the formula figured out. Look past the ridiculousness, and you’ll find an online entrepreneur who knows exactly how to create–and capitalize on–a captive audience.

Hacking Viral Content

Viral content is the holy grail of content marketing. To create something that is shared massively and that drives traffic in droves to your site is every content marketer’s dream. The good news is that there are ways to hack the viral content creation process by spying on your competition.

Use tools like Buzzsumo (@BuzzSumo) and Epicbeat (@epictions) to search for your competitors’ most popular content ideas. Then borrow and adapt them shamelessly to create content that your target audience is sure to love.

Make It All Better

Every successful business, product and service of all time has one thing in common: they solved a problem. Maybe they did something completely new. Maybe they did something better. Whatever it was, they identified their customer’s pain points, and they made it all better. Your content should be doing the same thing. Example: “I’m blogging regularly, but it’s not helping to drive traffic” becomes: “How to Connect with Your Target Audience through Content Marketing”

Kissmetrics (@Kissmetrics) has a great article about sales psychology that elaborates about capitalizing on pain points.

Keywords. They’re Called Key for a Reason

Way back in 2004, when the internet was young and no-one had even thought of Twitter, an author named Chris Anderson (@chr1sa) wrote an article called ‘The Long Tail’ which was published in Wired.com. Things have changed a lot since then thanks to Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird and other updates to search algorithms, but the importance of finding the right keywords hasn’t.

Whether you choose Google’s keyword tools or a service like SEMrush (@SEMrush) to research keywords that will bring your customers to your site, make sure that you do, and that you find and use the right key words and phrases to align with the pain points you have researched. Use long-tailed keywords comprising three or more words where possible, says Robbie Richards (@RobbieRichMktg), digital marketing strategist at RoyalJay. These help you to:

  • Get targeted traffic and higher conversions
  • Rank more easily for the phrase/keyword
  • Lower your risk of competition in the SERPs
  • Reduce costs on PPC bids

Remember to Be Approachable

The most important thing that you need to remember when you’re creating content to build relationships and connect with customers is that you need to be approachable. Long winded, academic monologs that lecture and drone on aren’t how you do that. Good content needs to be conversational, according to Wongdoody’s Scott Meldrum (@ScottMeldrum) in his presentation at the 2014 Seattle Inbound Conference. It’s amusing or interesting. It features images or graphics that enhance the reader’s experience or understanding.

Sometimes, great content isn’t even an article. Sometimes it’s a video or a slideshow, or an infographic. Great content is approachable, and readers or viewers get something out of it. If you’re creating content that gives the reader or viewer something (rather than just to serve as a digital soapbox) then you’re on the right track.

Give Your Customers Something Actionable

Even if you are doing everything right with your content and getting masses of traffic, if you are not giving them something actionable to do that extends the connection, you’re still not going to be getting the desired results.

Every piece of content should be designed to include at least one action that adds to your sales funnel, by encouraging an action. Offer a related download, or invite them to subscribe to your newsletter for more content.

Unbounce (@Unbounce) has a great series of articles on the mechanics of CTA buttons, and how to convert more by improving landing page design and other design related issues that can help to improve the look and placement of your calls to action.

Top Take-Away

At the end of the day, knowing who your audience is and what they want, and then creating content that caters to those needs is the foundation of good content marketing. Finding the right platform, and matching the right tone, style and type of content to your customers’ preferences is what takes good content to the next level.

Remember that there are thousands of articles on millions of websites on the internet. To compete, you need to be great. To stand out from the crowd. If you follow these tips to improve your content game, you can do just that.