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Commentary Alison Jones

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Creating content that speaks to your audience by Alison Jones

In my last article, I shared with you a working definition of content marketing—‘the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action’—and started to unpack what ‘profitable customer action’ might look like for you. In other words, WHY you’re putting the content out there in the first place.

Today we’ll look at another crucial piece of that definition: your ‘clearly defined and understood target audience’. In other words, WHO are you creating the content for? (Or for whom are you creating the content, if you prefer). This is the second step in your content strategy.

There are three useful questions to guide your thinking when it comes to target audience:

1. What specific market sector do we need to reach to achieve the WHY, the aim we identified in step 1?

You’re used to thinking about target readers when you’re commissioning or marketing books. And if you’re simply trying to sell more books it’s likely your content marketing will be directed at the exact same market. But it ain’t necessarily so: if your aim is to increase brand visibility, for example, you might be targeting influencers or associations rather than the readers themselves. Only when you’re clear on who you want to reach (and of course why) can you craft the right content.

2. What fears/frustrations/desires prompt them to engage with content on this subject?

Or, to put it another way, what’s in it for them? You might think that making your content free should be enough to guarantee a readership, but the truth is that content isn’t the scarce resource these days: it’s attention. Your target readers will only spend their precious attention on your content if they immediately understand how it will help them with a particular question or problem.

That question or problem will vary depending on what stage of the process they’re at: if you’re targeting people thinking about setting up a new business, for example, their preoccupations will change as they go through the cycle from initial idea to research to business plan to financing to all the legal issues involved in setting up a business. You need to be clear which stage you’re addressing and which specific question or concern you’re answering.

3. How can we provide value to that audience, in a way that goes beyond our existing products/services?

‘We’ve got a book that’s perfect for you!’ That’s not content marketing, it’s promotion. Don’t tell, show. Effective content marketing provides value for readers in and of itself—you need to be offering a clear next step or call to action, sure, but unless they feel they’ve had a good return on investment for the time they’ve spent engaging with the material you’ve already given them, they’re unlikely to take you up on it. If they feel that this first interaction with you and your content was a positive experience, that they learned something useful, or were entertained, or simply feel better about their situation, they’ll want more.

4. How can we do it in a way that’s uniquely our own?

Don’t make the mistake of focusing ONLY on your target market. It’s also important to think about the other party in the relationship you’re building, and that’s you. In a noisy world, where everyone seems to have something to say about this topic, what’s distinctive about your company’s approach (or that of your authors)? What’s your brand’s personality, and what tone of voice, visual identity and type of content fits with that? Content marketing builds not only awareness but also trust and liking, so it’s important that you show up, and keep showing up, authentically.

In the next article, we’ll look at some tools and techniques to help you understand your target reader more deeply, so that you can create content that hits the spot every time.

Alison Jones, MA, MBA is a coach, content consultant and publisher passionate about supporting people and books that make a difference.
Twitter: @bookstothesky


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