Is your content marketing barking up the wrong tree?

Research suggests that more than 70% of created content dies a lonely death. Could you be making this common audience strategy mistake?

Building an audience is difficult because most companies settle for obvious content, usually in their area of expertise, without thinking through the subtleties of what their potential audience really needs.

To illustrate this, imagine you want to create an IT support podcast that appeals to company CEOs and general managers (the decision-makers). The podcast will likely fall flat because senior leaders are generally not consumed by IT matters – IT is just one aspect of their role, so why would they subscribe to a dedicated IT podcast?

To build an audience, your content must deal with a theme that consumes your target market. 

By ‘consumes’, I mean it must be part of the fabric of their everyday lives, e.g. job, hobby or goal. Few CEOs will be interested in a dedicated IT podcast, but the person who juggles a couple of roles in a small business might be if IT support is part of what they do day to day.

If you want to build an audience, it is essential to gauge to what extent the subject consumes your target market. But be warned, there are caveats.

A couple of years ago, a company that sells specialist instruments to health and safety consultants requested a content strategy around health and safety. At first glance, this makes sense. It’s a subject the target market is ‘consumed’ with daily. However, when you think about it, you realise that their target customers are already experts in health and safety, so why teach them how to suck eggs? Not only would you be trying to teach experts about their area of expertise (very difficult), but all your competitors are likely making the same mistake.

When we stepped back and considered their target market, it was evident that the target market was ‘consultants’ – small business owners running consultancies – something that is both consuming and which comes with its own set of unique challenges within their niche. For example, ‘scope creep’ was a common complaint from health and safety consultants. 

We eventually settled on a content strategy that focused on helping their consultant clients become better consultants; an instant audience and instant differentiation because it dealt with something highly relevant to the customer’s daily life.

You might wonder how we link selling health and safety instruments to content on how to run a successful consultancy (dealing with subjects like scope creep). It isn’t as big a stretch as it may seem. The company’s instruments were designed to help consultants get better results from their projects. In the same way, the content was designed to help the consultants get better results from their business – in both instances, it was about making health and safety consultants more successful (with a few case studies and product stories in the mix).

1. Look past the obvious 

When creating a content strategy, think past the obvious. Make it about your audience and their day-to-day interests, concerns, roles and responsibilities, not just what you’re selling. The theme must be something that consumes a large part of their day to day.

2. Niche your content

No matter what products or services you are selling, look to make your content specialise within a specific niche to help differentiate you from your competitors. Just because you’re creating content around a particular niche doesn’t mean you’re missing out on other business. For one, you can use your niche to establish a ‘foot in the door’ that leads to broader sales.

3. Understand what consumes your customer

Take time to understand your potential audience, not just one tiny facet of their work or lives. Find out what two or three things consume the bulk of their time and effort. Health and safety consultants are consumed by health and safety, but they are also consumed by managing their consultancy. What other things consume a large part of their day to day time, efforts and thoughts?

The expression ‘barking up the wrong tree’ originated in America as a reference to hunting nocturnal raccoons with hunting dogs. The hunting dog, once it located a racoon that had taken refuge in a tree, was supposed to remain at the base of the tree until the owner arrived. Sometimes the dog had the wrong tree. Don’t make the same mistake with your content.

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