A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing some marketing experts for an article I wrote.
I would definitely recommend reading through the article itself, which is all about creating a target customer profile and using it to refine your content marketing strategy.
But as so often happens with interviews and article, a lot of great insight got cut out of the final piece (the editorial process can be a little brutal).
Rather than leave all that excellent knowledge out there in the universe (or really, sitting on my hard drive) I decided it needed to be gathered up and shared with people who could use it: small business rockstars, like you!
Before we get started, a little background on the experts:
Emily Sidley is the Senior Director of Publicity at Three Girls Media, Inc. an award-winning social media, content marketing, and PR agency.
Emily manages social media and blog campaigns for clients in industries that range from home design to state taxation, and she has worked with media outlets including The View, Women’s Health, and CNET.
Joe Pulizzi is the founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing coming September 2017. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine.
Jennifer Frye is the founder and marketing coach behind Clever Me. She coaches solopreneurs and small business owners through one-on-one virtual strategy sessions to provide personalized marketing strategy, business ideation, content development, and implementation of marketing strategies.
Jennifer has ten years of experience as a marketing and communications professional. She has worked on print and digital campaigns across multiple industries, including advertising, education, and financial services.
Three Marketing Experts Share: How to Write for Your Target Customer
1. What is the value in writing for a “target customer” rather than a broad “audience”?
Emily: It’s impossible to write content that will appeal to everyone, and most brands that try end up creating boring content. Crafting content that appeals to your target consumer will provide them with value, whether it’s something helpful or thought-provoking to endearing or humorous.
Joe: The more niche your audience, the more relevant you can be with your communications. If you are creating content for an audience, and it’s a broad audience, you’ll never be relevant enough to be of value to them. In other words, it will be a big waste of time. The more niche the better, always.
Jennifer: The value in writing for a target customer than a broad audience is that you are sharing relevant and timely content that matters to your audience — it resonates with their needs, problems, or goals.
Writing for a broad audience is ineffective and is a waste of time because you are creating content that does not matter to or entices your target market to read it in the first place.
2. What do you feel is the biggest mistake small businesses can make when trying to use content marketing?
Emily: Too many small businesses underestimate the investment. While a blog or Facebook page in itself is free, it takes a lot of time and energy to understand your target customer, regularly craft quality content, time when to share it and then engage with users as they ask questions or leave comments.
Joe: Instead of trying to pitch your product and get more leads, simply focus on building a loyal and trusted audience. How can you be indispensable to your customers every day? If you provide that kind of value, you’ll be able to pretty much sell them anything you want.
So when starting in content marketing, focus on the audience, and deliver something of incredible value to them on an ongoing basis. Do it leveraging one channel (your blog, on iTunes, on YouTube) and create an amazing enewsletter. Over time, the process will work.
Jennifer: Most small businesses see other businesses pushing out content and think that they need to be doing the same thing or sharing similar content and all for the wrong reasons such as to gain X amount of followers on Facebook, etc.
But it is important for small business owners to determine why and how content marketing is best for their customers. What are your goals and how do you plan to use content marketing to support those goals?
Want a cheat sheet that gives you all the information you need to get started with content marketing for your small business, including where to use 25 different types of content? I’ve got you covered:
3. Who is it more important to write for: Google search or customers? How does one affect the other?
Emily: While you definitely want your content to be Google-friendly, it’s more important to write for your customer. After all, if Google gets them to your content but they don’t like it, then you’re wasting your time.
Fortunately, Google also wants to provide its users with quality content, so it’s regularly changing the algorithm to discourage bad practices like keyword stuffing.
Ultimately, if you create quality content regularly that’s targeting your target customer and using keywords they’re likely going to type into the search bar, then your business will start climbing in Google’s results.
Joe: You always write for the customer. When you do write, just make it easy for them to find your article by using basic search techniques like proper URL, a great title, some keyword usage. It’s not rocket science. Always consider HOW your customers will find your content. Search is a key part of that.
Jennifer: It is more important to write meaningful content for your customers. As a small business, your number one priority is about keeping your doors open, providing quality service and products. Hence, your content marketing should follow suit as well — creating quality content that is relevant, timely, interesting, and appealing to your customer.
However, it is also important that the content created is developed in a way that optimizes the opportunity to be searched online when people enter specific key words. You want your content to show quickly in a Google search.
4. What is the best way for a small business to narrow down their focus when creating content?
Emily: Once you know who your target consumer is, you can make decisions about which social media platforms to focus your time and effort. For example, if you’re trying to reach 40-year-old women, Facebook or Pinterest would be good for you to include in your strategy. However, if your target customer is younger, such as 20 years old, Instagram would be a better fit.
By knowing whom you’re creating content for, you can also customize it to their interests by writing blog posts, creating images, making videos and crafting updates that appeal to them.
Joe: First, focus on one audience at a time. If you have three types of customers, you should be talking with only one at a time. Second, find an informational area of little to no competition where you have an advantage. Possibly an authority area for you. That mixture – one audience and one key content mission (called a content tilt) work every time.
Jennifer: Select one or two primary audiences (referring to their customer profiles) to develop a content marketing strategy. The customer profiles (or “personas”) will help to brainstorm content that is most useful for each audience at each stage of your sales model.
5. How does a target customer profile influence how a business markets/writes?
Emily: Before you create any content, ask yourself, “What is my main message? How will this appeal to my target customer?” There will always be new tools and resources, or new tactics you need to try, but the main focus in ALL of marketing needs to remain the target customer. How will you connect with them in a meaningful way that will make them choose your business over another?
Jennifer: A target customer profile influences how a business markets and writes because it can be used as a reference to help develop a content marketing strategy, niche products, and services. The customer profile will help to create solutions via content, products or services that are most relevant and useful to the customer.
6. Is there something you wish small businesses knew/did/would stop doing when it comes to writing online content?
Joe: Too many small business dabble. It’s better to focus your time on doing one or two things really well. That means considering investing in one or two social channels and creating one amazing enewsletter. Try to build your audience doing that one thing better than anyone else and don’t get seduced into producing more content just because you feel you should.