The secret to a successful content marketing strategy is based on a deep understanding of your target audience. It should delve into the ‘why’ behind your content approach. Getting into the granularities of who your audience is and what makes them tick should be at the core of your content strategy.
However, you don’t have to be fluent in data to understand your audience. Simply knowing where to find the data and knowing what to do with it, is a far more sought-after skill.
Data in its raw form won’t be of much use to you – it needs to be translated into insights in order to make sense of it. It’s easy to download a spreadsheet or pull a report, but teasing out the insight behind the data is the real task at hand. Interpreting the data will give you a richer understanding of your audience and what it means for your brand, leading you to form the strategic approach needed to create great content.
Build your audience personas
To develop your audience personas, you’ll need to gather data from a range of sources. Firstly, the internal data that you already have on your current audience may help to determine demographical data about your audience like age, gender occupation, location etc.
The crucial elements you should be endeavouring to uncover here are:
- Attitudes and interests
- Pain points and needs
- Internet usage and behaviour
The trick here is to go broad. Cast the net wide with your data gathering, then hone in on the resources that are proving most relevant to your industry or brand.
Depending on the industry, research reports and studies can hold a wealth of attitudinal and behavioural data about your audience. Tease out key stats that feel relevant, then endeavour to find any similarities or common themes.
Social listening is crucial to uncovering pain points and needs that your audience face. It allows you to extract key insights from social conversations. It is also perfect for understanding how your audience feels about a particular topic or trend.
It is here that the story begins to form and the audience narrative can develop.
Collect first-hand audience data
It might seem a little out of place, but if the resources you’ve found aren’t providing quite what you need it may be the next best step. Using open-ended questions will prompt your audience to share their knowledge with you, rather than you guiding them in a direction.
To really get under the skin of your audience, invest some time in running focus groups. It’s likely that you will be able to obtain some of the richest data directly from your audience – such as their biggest challenges as well as lifestyle habits and interests.
Once this foundation of just who your audience is has been established, you need to understand what content works best for their needs and how they interact with it.
Learnings from previous activity
If you’ve been creating content and measuring it correctly, you already have a gold mine of data in front of you.
Gather your analytics data and reporting from previous content activity to gain an understanding of how your audience are currently interacting with your content. Analyse what content that has performed well in the past. This will clearly show what is resonating well with your audience and help you understand what they value.
The kind of content your audience is consuming
Knowing about your audience’s interests and pain points allows you to discover popular content around then, using a content analysis tool. From here, look at what content formats are being created and consumed and what channels this content is being shared on to give you an idea of your audience’s content behaviour.
This is useful to set up at a strategic level, providing a framework for creating content when you’re ready to move into planning and execution.
What questions your audience are asking
Google is now the first stop when we have questions. As marketers, this shift in behaviour is a blessing. It has granted us access to an endless database of search information that we are able to then utilise to achieve campaign goals. Simple tools, such as Google’s auto-suggest function, can be a sound starting point to identify the key problems your audience face.
Another way is to work back from community forums and Q&A sites such as Quora to find the questions being asked. You can then use tools like Google Keyword planner to validate with search volume.
Ultimately, content strategies need to be curious about the audience. Strategists need to dig deep into as many data touch points as possible until you feel that they have a solid understanding of your audience. Do this and you’ll have no problem creating a data-driven content strategy and creating content that truly resonates with your audience.