How to create valuable content for your audience

An interview with Len Markidan Chief Marketing Officer at Podia.

How to create valuable content for your audience

Content marketing success starts with knowing who your target audience is, what they are interested in and what purpose your content is going to serve.

Your content marketing target audience is not just the people that already are your customers. It’s a greater circle that includes your buyers and potential buyers.

The first thing is to identify who these people are. The second thing is to understand what problems they want to solve. And by problems I don’t mean only the problems that your product or service solve but all the problems that can be related to that and you could solve with your expertise. The last thing is to create content solving those problems.

By the time you’re done reading, you’ll understand:

  1. How to identify your content audience.
  2. How to gather audience data using surveys and interviews.
  3. How to find your content.

Interview:

How to identify your content audience?

If you already have a product or service that you’re selling, figuring out who your audience is starts with talking to your customers. It starts with talking to the people who are already paying you money.

If there isn’t anybody already paying you money, if you’re using content marketing to start your marketing efforts, then talk to people who, to you, seem like ideal buyers. You probably have a couple of people in your head that you’re building your product or service for.

Talk to your buyers or ideal buyers and ask questions like, “What blogs do you read? What podcasts do you listen to? What YouTube channels do you subscribe to? Who do you follow on social media?” All of these people you’re selling to already have trusted sources of information. They already have places where they hang out on the internet.

Your goal is to find those places so that you can learn more about that market.

How to gather audience data?

Surveys and One-on-One Interviews

It depends on the size of your client base.

If you have a large business with hundreds of thousands of customers or millions of customers, I would start with a survey. I would start with something a little bit more scaled just to get a sense of who your customer base is. However, that will always still drill down, to one-on-one conversations.

If you have a small customer base, I would just start with the one-on-one conversations. There is so much to be learned in these one-on-one conversations that you cannot get from massive amounts of quantitative data. A very common mistake people make when trying to do customer research is that they create a massive survey. You can ask people what they’re struggling with, you can ask people what problems they need solved. But every hundred responses that you get, it can be replaced and made even more powerful by one face to face conversation with an ideal customer. The reason for that is people don’t show emotion in survey responses, people don’t show sentiment in survey responses.

It’s impossible to gauge whether a problem that somebody is listing is something that they really deeply feel as a burning pain, something they really struggle with, or they’re just filling in a box because you told them to.

How to start a successful survey?

Having run customer research projects with 30 plus companies in the last several years, the reality is if you send an email and say, “Hey …” Very human email, it’s a one-on-one email. It says, “Hey, I’d really love to create better content, and I’d love to create better resources that are going to help you get through the biggest challenges in either your life, or in your business, or whatever it is that your product does. Could you spare 10 minutes to just share a little bit about how we can help you do that? How we can help you solve those problems? I promise there is no pitch coming at the end of this call, I really just want to learn how we can do better for you.” What we find is conversion rates in the 30-40% range when we send emails like that for booking calls.

30-40% REALLY?

Yeah, incredibly high and the key there is there’s no pitch, there’s no sale, you’re not offering them any product or anything. And you’re also choosing the people, you’re also sending these emails in a very personal way.

These are coming directly from the person doing the product research. It’s not coming from the brand and saying, “Hey, help us do better. Click here, if you’re interested in being connected with one of our customer success specialists.” It’s a very personal one-on-one email that’s sent in plain text, and it’s just, “Hey, can we chat? I’d love to be helpful.”

How to find your content?

What are some great questions to ask?

If you already have a product or service that you’re selling, your product or service might be the big solution for your clients. But they have a lot of other problems that your product probably doesn’t solve, and the goal is figuring out what those problems are and create content for that problems.

One of the first things I always say is keeping questions very, very open ended because we don’t want to lead people. Let’s say that you’re a business that sells authoring services and you want to help people write books. I would ask something like, “Tell me about your general thinking around writing a book, around the idea of writing a book? What are your thoughts on it?” Get people talking with you with very, very vague, open ended questions, just so you can see where they lead the conversation to.

If you start by leading the conversation, you might take it in a direction that they might never have taken it if you had let them be totally open. I would start with that and then drill down into problems that they have, challenges that they have. Ask a question like, “So tell me about your biggest challenge with writing a book; with the idea of writing a book; with the planning of writing a book; with the decision to write a book? Tell me about the biggest challenges that you’re facing?”

And then the third question I would always ask, and this one is critical. This question is, “What have you done or what are you doing to solve that problem?” And the reason that question is so important is because we all have problems in our lives, we all have those thorns in our side that we think, “That’s annoying. I don’t like it. But frankly I’m not going to do anything about it, it’s not big enough for me to care.”

And one of the biggest mistakes that is often made is creating solutions for problems that people don’t actually care about solving, that people aren’t actually motivated to solve. And so that’s why we ask, “What are you already doing to solve that problem?” Because we want to know: Are they reading books about this problem? Are they reading blog articles about this problem? Are they talking to experts about this problem? Have they already hired consultants to solve this problem? Have they hired agencies to solve this problem? Have they bought a software tools to solve this problem? If they’re already acting in that way to solve that problem, we know that they’re already motivated to solve that problem. And so, if we offer that solution, they will be motivated to read it.

The right strategy

Identify – Interview – Create

That is what companies who I think deeply understand content marketing are doing. There are a lot of companies doing it the wrong way, right? There are a lot of companies who come up with 150 problems that are in the market that they think need to be solved, and then they write very superficial articles. And we’ve all seen these articles, right? “10 Ways to Solve Problem X.” And 0.1 is a paragraph and it’s a very surface level approach to the problem. And that helps nobody.

Any company that’s doing that will be better served by creating a single article that’s the best of its kind on the internet and pushing that out and promoting it as heavily as they can. Every single company doing that would be better served with that one article.

Len Markidan

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