Content and Context: Why Understanding Your Audience Is Critical

    Content marketers gauge much of their success in terms of audience engagement, measurable by such things as the number of followers and likes, comments, hits to landing pages, subscriber count, and, of course, revenue from new customers. When these numbers do not meet expectations, one of the first things that should be looked into is whether or not the brand is actually communicating what people need and want.

    In other words, businesses should ask: “Is our audience understood and is our content presented in the best context to get through to them?” If not, here are some tips to help you re-engineer your clients' content marketing efforts.

    Satisfy their needy, greedy audience

    People visit your clients online because they want something. They are looking for information, seeking entertainment or trying to buy something. It is never really about your clients — it's about providing whatever it is that the customer is looking for. This is the only reason people read your clients' stuff, sign up for your list or purchase anything.

    That being said, think about what the audience wants, and toss aside the old-style corporate sales jargon and insincere content, like splashing a boring mission statement on the front page of the website. Everyone knows that while many business owners do take satisfaction in a job well done, the true mission of most companies is to make the greatest amount of cash possible for their owners with the least effort, not “Provide world class, innovative service while preserving our core values and eliminating all disconnects in our paradigm.” Bleh, how phony.

    Keep the front page focused on what your clients are going to do for their visitors if they get involved right now, and leave the company vision for the “About Us” page.

    Watch the tone

    Those interested in content marketing, like those who read this blog, are usually a lively bunch that appreciate my Generation X-tinged humor and mild snarkiness. The tone fits. When I write serious white papers, however, you would think I had never cracked a smile in my life — because humor isn’t really appreciated by an IT manager seeking to, say,  invest millions of dollars to revamp his system architecture and physical infrastructure. The tone must match the context.

    It's an old adage in sales that people buy from those they like and trust, so learn to speak the language and match the tone of your clients' audience to build greater rapport.

    Pick the right channels and media types

    Another important decision is selecting the proper platform for the content and the form it should take. It can be quite off-putting to see a mismatch, such as church with a Myspace page, unless it is really well thought out. A better channel for a church to communicate would probably be a blog on their website, with a Facebook page reserved for their youth ministry. A podcast with the latest sermon would probably work well also, as religious talk radio is a proven format and podcasting is quite similar in context.

    Here are some other things to think about when picking channels and media types.

    • If the product is youth-oriented, videos and images are a must, so develop strategies involving sites such as Youtube, Instragram, and Flickr. Getting content upvoted on sites like Digg and Reddit is also a huge plus with this crowd.
    • Podcasts are enjoyed by a more mature audience who have the time to download and listen to an entire program. Skimming through a transcript might be more appealing to some, so invest the time making one and allow those who refuse to sit through an entire podcast (like myself) an alternate way of getting your clients' message.
    • Twitter and Facebook are excellent for coupons, breaking industry news, flash sales and event announcements.
    • Marketers targeting women would do well do publish or curate some eye-catching images at Pinterest.
    • Blog posts allow a much greater amount of expression, and are often effectively used as a personal soap box and to establish thought leadership. Vital for marketing to tech-savvy, educated buyers.

    I leave you with one last recommendation, and that is regularly survey visitors to find out exactly what type of content they want to see coming from your clients' brands. It can be as simple as a Twitter poll to your followers, or a post inviting comments with recommendations. In this way, you--and your clients--will save time and money and avoid the development of content no one wants, no matter what its context!

    Topics: content marketing - content strategy - content marketing tips

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