How to Get to Know Your Target Audience
Before you create a successful content marketing strategy, you must know your target audience, including the journey they go through to make a purchase and the problem they’re trying to solve.
One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is failing to fully account for their target audience’s real-life wants and needs. We’re dealing with real people, after all – not just data signals.
A crucial piece of advice for any content marketing campaign is to know your target audience, but you also need to take that guidance a step further. You must improve each piece of content so it is relevant, valuable, and tells a compelling story that your customers want to keep reading.
This guide will walk through how to know your target audience by defining the buyer’s journey and buyer persona, focusing on their needs, and developing an audience-focused content strategy.
Outlining the buyer’s journey
- The buyer’s journey is no longer the seller’s domain.
- Today, buyers hold the reins.
- The awareness, consideration, and decision stages each come with unique questions that can help you define the journey.
The buyer’s journey is potentially the most important framework in inbound marketing. Every sale your brand makes is the result of a buyer completing the journey, and every new instance of churn is a result of a buyer prematurely ending it.
The most well-known iteration of the buyer’s journey is a three-stage map that includes:
- Awareness – The buyer knows about a problem and is actively looking to address it.
- Consideration – The buyer has enough information about available solutions to start thinking about making a decision.
- Decision – The buyer buys into your product or service as the solution. You’ve done it!
Of course, the journey never really ends if you want to retain customers. Converting that sales funnel into a flywheel turns happy buyers into promoters by attracting, engaging, and delighting them. That journey can take many routes, so be sure to anticipate all the roads buyers could take to reach you.
The buyer’s journey is customer-led and increasingly complex
Sellers don’t pilot the buyer’s journey anymore (if they ever did!). Buyers are in the driver’s seat, so it’s not enough to build a linear journey map that brings your lead from point A to point B to point C.
Instead, you have to consider that your customers may want to circle from point B back to point A to review some information, go back to point B to think about their options, and maybe then finally head to point C and make a decision about your product or service.
The point is your buyers are too selective to be shoehorned into a linear buyer’s journey that lacks real definition. They have to be picky because no one else will recognize their pain points and anticipate the solution for them, right?
Hint: That’s where you come in.
People crave brands that anticipate their needs
- Most people want brands to understand them.
- The only way to understand the buyer’s journey is by asking the right questions about pain points and experiences.
- The answers to those questions help you determine the touchpoints that make up the journey.
These days, it’s not enough to have a killer solution to a big problem. You must instead show buyers that you’re inside their heads and tackling their problems from a place of understanding.
According to the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report:
- 89% of B2B buyers and 72% of consumer buyers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations
- 75% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs before even making contact
- 70% of consumer buyers say their loyalty is influenced by a company’s understanding of their needs
- 70% of all buyers say it’s very important that brands understand how customers use their products and services
The only way to understand a buyer is to ask the right questions and think critically about the answers from their perspective. The buyer’s journey is 70% over before your sales team even hears from a prospect. If you don’t define the stages based on their needs, they might bounce before ever landing on your product!
Ask yourself these questions to define the buyer’s journey at each stage.
Questions for the awareness stage:
- What’s the buyer’s biggest goal?
- What’s the biggest obstacle in the way of that goal?
- Where does your buyer go to troubleshoot their challenges?
- How does the buyer decide to prioritize solving a challenge?
- Who does the buyer ask for advice on their challenges and goals?
Questions for the consideration stage:
- Where does your buyer go to find and compare solutions?
- What information does your buyer need to compare solutions (e.g., pricing)?
- How does the buyer weigh the pros and cons for solutions?
- How does the buyer digest information the best?
- What are the buyer’s deal-breakers?
Questions for the decision stage:
- Who else does the buyer need to involve in a decision?
- Do buyers need to prepare to implement the solution (e.g., make an implementation plan)?
- Is your buyer more likely to make a decision if they can try the product first?
- What questions does the buyer have about implementing your solution?
- What are the most important criteria for your buyer’s decision-making process?
Bonus: questions for the retention stage
Not all iterations of the buyer’s journey include retention, but it’s a critical fourth stage that’s also represented on the flywheel as delight.
Ask yourself these questions to guide your buyers from decision to retention:
- What are the buyer’s expectations for your solution?
- What obstacles might get in the way of the buyer’s desired results?
- What results should the buyer expect from your solution?
- What action does the buyer need to take to maximize results?
- How does the buyer quantify results, value, and satisfaction with your solution?
Defining your buyer persona
All of this information leads to identifying your buyer persona, which goes hand-in-hand with their journey. Telling your brand’s story through the buyer’s journey requires some intensive thought about:
- Your buyer, including who they are and what they want
- The buyer’s biggest pain points, challenges, and goals
- The personas that represent the buyer
- The touchpoints the buyer goes through
- The buyer’s thought process and priorities
Digging deeper to identify who these people are and what they most desire will help you both map their journey and tailor your content to be exactly what they’re looking for. These two crucial components – the buyer’s journey and the buyer persona – help you align your brand voice and content plan. It all starts with delivering value to that target persona.
Developing an audience-focused content strategy
- Deliver value.
- Engage the right people, not the most people.
- Address their problems with storytelling, not selling.
Your content will be meaningless to your target audience unless you deliver value. High-quality writing and lots of content aren’t enough on their own. You need to factor in how you’re addressing the audience pain points you defined.
Here are a few tips to do it right in your content strategy:
1. Deliver value
Ok, it sounds easier than it is. You may think that your audience cares about a topic, but what value does each piece of content bring them? It’s not enough to simply talk about something related to their interests. You need to:
- Answer a question they have
- Talk about how to solve a problem they’re dealing with
- Address their pain points right away
- Show you understand what they’re going through
- Pull in credible sources and stats to back your claims
- Make sure the content is well-written and free of errors
Put another way: Make sure you’re telling people what they want to know, not giving them information you want them to hear. Make it all about them. And make sure it’s great content.
2. Engaging the right people (not always the most people)
Every brand wants to have a lot of followers, but your dreams of going viral can’t drive your content. What’s much more valuable to you is attracting the right followers, and that means your strategy needs to focus on being helpful rather than more popular.
Why? Isn’t the goal of content marketing to bring in as many leads as possible?
Not exactly. Think of it this way: Viral videos require short-lived interest and shares from the masses – not just one specific audience – to be truly viral. If “viral” is your goal, your content isn’t going to be targeting your audience but all audiences. That makes it much less valuable to the people you need to reach the most.
Instead, focus on staying relevant to your targets who will benefit from what you have to say. This shows them you’re authentic and not just trying to get more clicks or page views. You want to truly give them something they can use. That’s how to connect more meaningfully with your target audience.
3. Address problems with storytelling, not selling
Another important point is that your content should never try to sell something directly. People go online to find answers and solutions, not necessarily products and services. They want to know that a brand understands their problems. This is the most important thing to them when they’re looking for something. By addressing their problem with your content, you are showing them that you’re listening.
This is easy to do when you harness storytelling. Telling a good story ignites emotions. It requires empathy for others and showing that you know what it’s like to be them. Step one is establishing that you know what they care about and what their problems are. This helps you connect a story with your authority on the topic. Show people why they should listen to you before ever mentioning your product. This sets a strong foundation for better relationships that sustain your brand.
Find the right approach with a little help
Now, the big takeaway here is that your content strategy should be all about delivering value, which requires that you know your target audience. This takes not only identifying who that audience is made of, but also tailoring your content to tell stories and address their biggest pain points.
Easier said than done, right? When you need a little help, leave it to the content experts at ContentBacon. We help you create a better content marketing strategy that includes valuable content specifically for your target audience.
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