Content marketers are passionate about their audiences. You seek to understand their motivations, goals, and challenges. With this approach, you’re all-in on audience marketing and its importance in successful content marketing. But how well do you really know your buyers? How can you truly empathize with their position?
These aren’t easy questions to answer. It requires a thoughtful content strategy that incorporates data-backed buyer personas. Audience marketing is also always evolving because your buyers are, as well. Needs change and shift due to internal and external factors.
If you want your content to perform in a way that attracts, delights, and converts audiences, you’ll have to get inside their heads. Let’s talk about how to do that and why it’s critical to hitting your content marketing objectives.
What Is Audience Marketing?
Audience marketing is a targeting strategy. Practicing it means you consider the behaviors, views, and attitudes of buyers. By infusing these details into your content marketing tactics, you are going beyond the demographics of buyers. Demographics don’t explore how buyers think and act. Audience marketing does.
The Attributes of Audience Marketing
We just defined the concept based on three things: behaviors, views, and attitudes. Let’s dig deeper.
In this scenario, behaviors relate to how a customer interacts with your brand. You are tracking their preferences by looking at the topics, solutions, or services in which they have an interest. You can find this data in your content analytics.
For this characteristic, you’re looking for the perceptions of the audience around your content. They could be positive, negative, or neutral. It’s a measure of sentiment, letting you know how emotional they are around some areas.
A mindset is different than a view. It’s a more philosophical response to their challenges and needs. A mindset is also something a user forms based on information or misinformation.
For example, a buyer may have a mindset that they can’t resolve their issues with solutions because they are too complex to implement. That may not be true, and you’ll need to work to disprove this misconception.
Is Your Content Truly “Audience-First”?
To fully leverage audience marketing, your content strategy and ideation should be squarely rooted in the audience’s world. The path to this is with the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey in content marketing is a framework with origins from Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth.
It includes stages where your audience is the hero in the story. If you use this in content marketing, it’s the ideal way to understand your audience. The story is about their journey from challenge to solution. It’s not about your brand. It can help you align content pieces with each step of the journey, monitoring behaviors, confirming views, and either accepting or challenging mindsets.
The Key to Audience Marketing Is Data
So how do you achieve being audience first with your content? It’s all about the data.
Data-driven marketing is here to stay. It becomes the foundation of how you target and segment. It’s the most critical element to delivering content your audience wants.
To build this infrastructure, you’ll need to have processes, tools and technology that allow you to collect, aggregate, and analyze data. You’ll collect data from multiple sources—your website, email marketing, social media, and SEO, to name a few.
For data to be viable, you need a central platform that combines all this data and provides a way to analyze it. This data helps you build your audience profiles and delivers insights on what your customers value in terms of content.
Here’s an example for clarity. By looking at engagement across your data sources, you may find that audiences react favorably to a topic or format. You can see patterns across all different channels, leading you to believe that those topics or formats are valuable to your buyers.
Make Time (or Get Help) for Analysis
We’re obviously focusing a lot on the importance of data to learn what makes your audiences tick, but most marketers don’t have a shortage of data. The problem lies with finding (or making) time to actually analyze the data to glean insights.
Pretty analytics dashboards won’t do you much good if you’re not putting your thinking cap on and understanding (or paying attention to) what the data is telling you. And it’s certainly not uncommon that creative marketers may not have the analytical skills to dig as deep as is needed to find actionable insights.
One recommendation would be to work with someone who actually does this for a living. Whether that be finding an internal resource in your company, hiring one, or working with an outside vendor, your data is likely teaming with insights and opportunities just waiting to be uncovered.
One example of this just came up the other day. A member of our team was analyzing auto-reply messages that fire automatically after we send a broadcast email to a big list. Normally this is analysis is done for list maintenance purposes (removing and unsubscribing people who have left companies/changed jobs). But we also uncovered that roughly 15% of auto-replies were due to users being on maternity leave.
This is a powerful data point regarding a large portion of our audience. It helps to validate existing personas (demographics: female, age range) and it presents opportunities for future content ideation and messaging (ex: spending less time on your content process = more time with your kiddos).
More Data, More Context, Better Targeting
Your audience data is only one part of better targeting. Immersing yourself in the role of the buyer also requires more context, including:
- Tracking the performance of your competitors, especially around ranking for topics and social media engagement.
- Following your industry or market closely for timely issues that cause disruptions (i.e., Covid-19).
- Gathering insights from internal resources like sales, SMEs (subject matter experts), and product owners.
With this data, you can further refine your buyer profiles and identify topics, channels, and formats that should be a priority on your content calendar.
Remember, audience targeting isn’t something static. It’s always changing, so you have to be vigilant and keep asking questions.
Keep Asking These Questions to Meet Your Audience’s Needs
You’ve got data. You’re using advanced tracking methods and automation tools. It’s a feedback loop of creating content, measuring audience response, and improving. For this cycle to work and deliver the best results, there are several questions you should keep asking.
What channels do your audiences prefer and/or trust?
This can change over time with the introduction of new channels/platforms/etc. Facebook was once an essential platform for a certain buyer. However, your targets may use Instagram, Snapchat, or Tik Tok more now.
Are internal pressures changing their motivations?
Company hierarchies and restructures happen quickly in many industries. It can have a significant impact on a buyer’s concerns.
What’s the next “big” challenge?
Having foresight is vital to audience marketing. While you don’t have a crystal ball, there are always tremors before the earthquake. Much of the time, this relates to industry requirements or mandates. Usually, these bodies socialize proposed changes and ask for feedback before they confirm them. Keep a pulse on this.
What questions are they asking?
Buyers ask questions every day. They ask them on Google, in LinkedIn groups, on message boards, etc. Stay aware of these questions and deliver content that’s the best answer to them.
Audience Marketing Supports Empathetic Content Marketing
Empathy is critical to success in content marketing. Audience marketing enables you to achieve empathy for your customers. It builds trust and lets them know you understand them. This strategic approach to audience-first content drives the connections and conversions you desire.
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