In “the olden days,” we used to make a lot of ads, put them on television and billboards, buy newspaper space, and get our message out to as many people as possible. Now, we have alternatives.
Data won’t solve your problems. In fact, too much data makes creative decisions harder to make.
Stop optimizing for click funnels, and tell a story that matters.
A couple quick ideas for creating content that creates value for your customers.
If your marketing shouts in a forest and nobody’s there to hear it, does your business survive? (Part three in a series on creating a content strategy.)
This is part 2 in a series on how to create a content strategy. You can read part 1 here.
Last week, I wrote about why you need a content strategy for your website. Simply put, you need a strategy because you want your website to work for you. You probably paid good money for it (or you plan on paying good money for it). Let’s put that money to work. (Otherwise, you might as well have invested in mutual funds.)
I said last week that the first step in creating a content strategy is identifying your audience. Many businesses have no idea who their customers are. These businesses have unclear and confusing websites. Maybe they use tons of meaningless buzzwords, like “growth hacking,” “machine learning,” or “audience measurement and conversion.”
You know the businesses I mean. If you’re like me, you either find them laughable or frustrating. Without context, their copy is meaningless.
I don’t want to shock you, but they have no idea who their audience is.1 And if you don’t take the time to figure it out, your entire brand will end up as off-point as theirs.
Good news! This isn’t as hard as you think. Here are two quick questions that will help you identify your target audience and ideal customer.
Why do people buy from you?
If you want to identify your audience, you need to begin with empathy (look, another buzzword!). Ultimately, businesses are successful when they provide value and solve problems. To understand the value you provide and the problems you solve, you first have to understand the problems your audience has. Without empathy, you’re going to get nowhere here. But if you approach your customers with an empathetic ear, you’ll quickly understand why they purchase from you.
You already know the end result — what a customer gets when they buy from you. Start from there, and begin working backwards. This won’t identify the “who” of your audience, but it will help you understand their “why.” Here are some examples:
- Fast food chains provide consistent food quickly. As a result, they provide value for busy families, quick lunches, and consistency — the last of which is particularly valuable when people are travelling.
- Apple makes computers and gadgets with integrated hardware and software. They provide value for people who need a tool that “just works.” (As Apple becomes more and more of a luxury company, this becomes a harder case to make, but think about the Mac computer and the early iPhones in this example.)
- I’m a brand and web/graphic designer who also writes. I provide value for organizations who need to consistently tell their story across many mediums.
See how you can start working backwards right away?
This will help you identify the pain point you solve for your customers. You probably won’t know what this is right away. That’s normal. It might take several conversations with customers before you start to understand what you’re good at, and where your value lies. I’ve been doing this for five years, and it’s only over the past year that I’ve started to see clear patterns in my clientele’s needs.
Who has these pain points?
But working backwards only gets me halfway there. I’ve answered the “why” question. “Why the heck would anybody want to work with me?” Most businesses skip the why. That’s almost more important than the “who,” because if it shifts over time, your business model shifts too.
Take some time to write down why somebody buys from you. I can wait. This will still be here when you get back.
The next question is “who” is going to buy from you.
Let’s return to my why: “Businesses and organizations work with me because they need to consistently tell their story across many mediums.”
Now, you and I will turn that into a question: “What businesses and organizations need to consistently tell their story across many mediums?”
Answering that question helps you identify your audience.
You can get this question by following the model I’ve laid out above. Take your original why, and ask what people or organizations have the pain points you describe. Those people are your customers.
And remember how I said you need empathy? This is important: these are called pain points for a reason. In all likelihood, you don’t need to spend your time reminding your customers they’re in pain. You just need to know what that pain is so you can treat it.
These questions trip up most business owners that I meet. Many of them are afraid of niches. You shouldn’t be. Niches are where the money’s at! Niches are deep problems that haven’t been solved by mass market providers. The value proposition of solving somebody’s niche problem is much higher than combatting the mass market. There’s less competition, and people will pay a higher price for your rare solution to their difficult problem.
So who’s your target audience? What’s your answer to “who” buys from you? I answered my question with “non-profits and other message-driven organizations, who frequently need help consistently telling their story across many mediums.”
That understanding has led me to shift the way I market my business. I spend more time writing articles like this, and less time hoping I’ll be noticed for my design skills.
I hope answering these questions is similarly illuminating for you.
Next week, we’ll talk about finding the right places to talk to your audience.
- There’s one exception to this. Some organizations purposefully make their message confusing and meaningless. Their target customer is a confused person who books a phone call for clarification. Then, these evil organizations use that phone call as an opportunity to up-sell their services. Don’t be like those companies. Use up-selling to provide additional value, not to screw people. ↩︎
There are three ways to introduce people to your brand, product or service. One is networking. One is advertising (which is really a misnomer, since this is all advertising.) The third option is taking control of your story. You really need to figure out how to do the third.
One of my favourite sayings: “There’s always more money where money comes from.” But attention is a different beast altogether.
We can learn a lot from Apple’s keynotes about telling the story you want people to hear about your business.
Good design, which is clear about its intentions, helps make more money than bad design. This applies to web design as much as it applies to branding, or to product design. It’s not complicated, and it bears out in the real world time and time again. Let me explain what I mean by comparing the Nintendo Switch and the Wii U.