Posted October 12, 2017

This is part three in a series on how to create a content strategy. You might also want to read the introduction, or learn how to identify your audience.

You’ve learned who your customers are, and now you have to figure out where they live. Not literally, mind you — I don’t want you to do anything creepy. We don’t need their physical address, or their IP address (and anybody who advises otherwise doesn’t have your long-term interests at heart). But if you want to communicate with your customers, you need to know where they are.

Last week, we talked a lot about the role of empathy in understanding your customer’s pain points. Here’s what I said then:

This [meaning empathy] 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.

I want to talk about the role of empathy again today. Like you did before, you want to step into the shoes of your customer. Now that you know their problem, you’ll begin to understand where they’ll go to find a solution.

Let me share an example that often stumps people, and break it down to show you how easy this can be.

In the past, I’ve worked with a few industrial clients. These markets are different from your typical consumer-based markets, in that the clients aren’t driven by desire. Most companies, even in the industrial sector, aren’t excited to upgrade to the latest heavy-duty water pump.

So when they do have a problem, it’s usually a lower-rank executive who needs to find a solution to a potentially expensive problem. They might start by seeing if the problem requires new equipment, or if there’s an available fix. And after that, they’re going to start looking for somebody they know who specializes in the problem — somebody they can vouch for to the boss.

The first step — finding a potential solution to the problem — often involves a Google search. The second step — looking for somebody you know — is all about business connections. That means LinkedIn is an important part of the strategy.

Just like that, you know where people are going to go when their company’s expensive water pump breaks. And now you know you should spend money on Google AdWords (and online support), and train all your sales people on LinkedIn.

Let’s repeat this trick for your business. Start with your paint point. Why do your customers seek you out? (If you don’t know, read last week’s article on identifying your customers). Look for the root of that problem. What causes their problem? Where are they likely to look for a solution?

Sometimes, the answer seems complicated. If you run a restaurant, your target market is smaller than an international corporation. You’re really looking for hungry people who are within an approachable distance. That means you need to use geo-targeted ads, and advertise during specific times of day.

Instagram is a great place to advertise restaurants because the visuals help induce hunger. Its geo-targeting, combined with the omnipresence of our smartphones, makes it an ideal way to reach old and new customers alike. (Or, if you’re like some people I know, Instagram is the trigger that makes you realize how hungry you are.)

Regardless of the sort of business you run, there are a few things you should consider when you’re thinking about where your business needs to be:

  1. Will your business benefit from an email newsletter? (The answer is usually yes, but that’s a different article. Don’t worry about what you’d write in a newsletter yet. We’ll talk about that next time.)
  2. Where will your business get found online? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? LinkedIn? Snapchat? A specialty service for people in your profession? Some combination, or all of the above?
  3. Would print advertising be practical for you? If you run a major theatre, it might be pertinent to put a billboard up for your current production on the highway that goes through town.
  4. Do your customers physically congregate anywhere? If you run an evangelical non-profit, churches are where your tribe is at every week. You likely can’t advertise directly at a church, but getting involved in the community will be rewarding on personal and corporate levels. Similarly, if you make a podcast app, you should advertise in subways — where the commuters will use your product. And don’t forget conferences!

Ideally, you would consider all this (or hire somebody else to) well before you invest in any marketing. That includes a new website, a newsletter, newspaper ads, or even a new logo. Knowing all this will help a good designer create something that cohesively blends and stands out, compared to the competition.

This also helps you plan your content. If you plan on putting your e‑commerce store on Instagram, you might not thing you benefit from a blog. You can focus all your early efforts on growing a single platform.

But allow me to give you one final piece of advice: you must pick more than one place to share your story. Like everything else in life, it isn’t prudent to put all your eggs in one basket. If Instagram’s algorithm ever changed, and you weren’t also present elsewhere, you could damage your business’ short-term income.

So consider your audience, review your options, and pick at least two. Next week, we’ll start to talk about how to tell your story in ways that will resonate — and finally put your newfound audience to work.