5 Ways to Improve Targeting of Your Online Content

When’s the last time you heard this at a cocktail party or networking event? If you’re like most people, this offer doesn’t come by easily. Granted, there’s a time to sell yourself and all you have to offer, but what most people don’t realize is that it’s often just as valuable to be a good listener as it is to demonstrate your own knowledge on a certain subject.

As marketers, one of the biggest dangers is producing online content that is solely self-promotional-and not taking the time to listen. Both consumers and B2B buyers are flooded with options out there-not only can they find the real scoop on your product or service in a matter of minutes by scouring the Web, but when they actually do come to your corporate site (which is mostly toward the end of the purchasing decision), why should they believe what you have to say versus independent third parties?

5 Ways to Improve Targeting of Your Online Content

This is when the “people” factor comes into play. Despite all its glory, the Web has done a fairly good job at removing valuable face-to-face bonding and real human interaction. When it comes to creating and managing our online content, we need to get this feeling back by knowing our prospective customers, understanding what motivates them, and demonstrating our ability to listen by offering relevant content tailored to who they are, not what we’re trying to promote. Here are a few ways to get started.

Rethink Buyer Personas with Content in Mind The concept of a “buyer persona” has helped many companies better target their prospective customers. Traditionally, the buyer persona is designed to represent a group of prospective customers through one person, say John, a chief technology officer who is married with two children, communicates mostly through email, and is a primary decision-maker at his organization. Let’s say your company specializes in the creation of mobile devices. If you’re in sales, you want to know more about John’s role when it comes to budget and decision-making. If you’re in product development, you’re probably more interested in the way John interacts with the mobile technology he uses.

If you’re responsible for creating online content, your interests may vary from what John reads on the commuter train on his way into work to where he clicks on your Web site. People derive value from content in a variety of ways and it’s up to marketers to determine where they can provide the most value. While you can discover this information through in-person interviews with your target buyers, this isn’t very scalable or cost-effective. Instead, use your online tools and Web analytics data to enhance your traditional persona profiles. For example, if you discover that John is both a primary decision-maker AND a devoted reader of your corporate blog, you can begin to tailor your blog with more content focused on ROI and other topics in which economic buyers would be interested.

Perform an Audit of Your Online Content Putting the actual substance of online content aside for a moment, let’s first take a look at the types of content your organization creates. It’s worth your time to perform an audit of the kinds of content you’re currently creating and investing in, and seeing what’s actually capturing the eyeballs of your target audiences. Are your prospective customers more likely to listen to podcasts or are they still the type of people who prefer to register for your online newsletter? Have your email campaigns promoting Webinars garnered more click-throughs than those for your online video demos? Or does it depend on the segment? Once you start looking at your various marketing assets and examining not only the most popular, but also the key audiences that are attracted to each type, you’ll be in good shape to determine what type of content is giving you the most bang for your buck-and where to invest future dollars.

Assume Nothing-Prove It with Testing One of the greatest benefits of online content delivery is that companies can now test to see what content has the best conversion rates and continually optimize with every new piece of content they develop. Gone are the days when marketers and content developers would work in a bubble, forcing themselves into the shoes of their prospective customers and trying to imagine just what type of content would resonate best with specific audiences. Now there’s no more guessing-by incorporating technology that supports A/B or multivariate testing, you now have an easy way to test content type and subject matter to your audiences and have the numbers to prove your assumptions right-or wrong.

“New” Means Nothing, Relevancy is Everything While we’re on the topic of assumptions, one of the biggest mistakes that companies make with online content is the assumption that if something is “new,” everyone will want to read about it. This is, of course, not always true. Further, what’s “new” to me may not be new to you, depending on where and how we access our information. The next time you’re tempted to showcase “What’s New” with your online content, take a moment to see if there’s a way to strengthen the relevancy of the content by looking beyond its premiere date. If a certain target segment has shown a strong interest in an online demo series and you’ve just developed a new series on a more advanced but related topic, then this would be a strong reason to promote this new content to that specific audience. However, this approach may not make as much sense when targeting your newsletter subscribers.

The Most Targeting-Friendly Content Piece of All-the Customer Success Story Before making a purchase, all buyers need reassurance. They want to know that the product or service is right for them and will be worth the investment. What helps most in this process is the ubiquitous customer testimonial or success story. Potential customers want to know that someone with similar needs and challenges took on the risk of purchasing your product or service before them and found success. While there’s no shortage of customer case studies and testimonials out there, this type of extremely valuable content is often not targeted to audiences as well as it could be, which is a shame because there are few other content pieces that lend themselves to segmentation quite as nicely as the case study.

Think about it-what other type of content brings together company type, industry, title, business challenge (hint: all the fields in that customer database of yours) so seamlessly-and frames it all within an extremely readable story? Before publishing your next customer success story or blasting out an update about it to your entire database, look for new ways to segment your recipients based on the story being told. Got a great story involving a specific industry? Try sending the story to that segment with an industry-friendly spin on it. Remember, potential buyers want to feel like you understand them, and providing them with a case study scenario in which they could imagine themselves is a great approach.