You’ve likely heard that the 5Ws – who, what, where, when and why – are essential to good journalistic writing. In fact, the 5Ws are worth referencing when you’re creating any sort of professional content.
Knowing that you want to deliver the right message in the right place and at the right time covers what, where and when. But to truly get it right, you need to address the who and why.
In this post we’ll talk about who your content is really for and why you need to make sure you answer that just right.
What is Audience-First Content?
Audience-first content is content that puts the audience first by meeting today’s expectations for intelligent, personalized, targeted and relevant messaging.
There’s a lot behind this simple definition, and technology and data are a big part of that. Let’s first just focus on the basics: creating content for the “who” …
So, when you create content, who is it for? The obvious answer is prospects. But are you creating the content they want, or the content you think they want?
Imagine it like this: When you’re buying birthday or holiday gifts do you buy something you like and think the recipient should also like? Or do you learn what they like and search for a gift that suits their taste?
Most would agree that the latter is a better idea, assuming the goal is to find a gift the recipient will honestly appreciate and keep in their home.
A similar approach can apply to content creation. Rather than developing your content first and trying to build an audience on it, be audience-first. Audience-first content (also called audience-driven content) discovers who the audience is, learns what they like and creates content that caters to said information.
One part of knowing your audience is creating personas, and perhaps you’ve done this. Yet, these snapshots of typical customers can change over time as people’s needs, wants and lives change.
Audience-first content is customized to your target audience by aligning with their needs and keeping their attention at various points in the customer journey. TandemSeven has a nice graphic illustrating this:
To make that happen, you’ll need solid data. One way to do this is interviews with your buyer persona to better understand how they make buying decisions.
As TandemSeven points out (and we agree):
Many enterprises are organized in silos – with each silo focusing on optimizing specific channels, touchpoints, and/or aspects of the end-to-end customer experience. It is not uncommon for each group or function in an enterprise to design and measure customer experiences independently of each other. But customers think of all their interactions with a company as connected.
Today the customer journey is not always linear. This article from McKinsey discusses how the process is actually circular with four phases:
Consumer attention is quite limited because there is so much content to choose from; if yours isn’t crafted to them specifically (fitting seamlessly into how they use content, aligning with their interests and providing value), you’re just going to sound like another marketer, and the audience won’t stick around.
And, of course, this depends a lot on your content channel marketing strategy. For example, if you want to compete, be relevant and show up in the search results, you have to create content for both for your prospects and search engines – ensuring you’re implementing SEO best practices before you publish.
Why is an Audience-Driven Approach So Important?
The numbers don’t lie. According to Demand Metric, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads as traditional marketing.
Audience-first content is part of an audience-driven, or customer-centric content marketing approach. Your content, marketing, product development, customer service, etc. should all operate based on solid data on what your audience and customers need and want.
An audience-driven approach to your content also fits with an inbound marketing style. Unlike an outbound marketing approach, which is interruptive and targets a wide audience (think television commercials and banner ads), inbound marketing strives to attract potential customers with content that interests them – true content marketing.
Further, positions in the customer journey change. People who, at one point, had only visited your website might now be repeat customers, so you’d want to approach them differently and with more familiarity. This will help keep them engaged at every stage.
For example, instead of reaching out to regular buyers with a deal on the product they usually buy, offer them the deal plus an even better deal if they add a product that complements the first. To keep it customer-centric allow them to choose the additional item from a short list, and link the listed products to relevant web pages and blogs to make the most of your content.
If you want to talk bottom line, audience-first content and an audience-driven approach reduce marketing waste. You might spend more time researching and tweaking upfront, but once your content and audience are aligned, you can build relationships and trust with your customers. It’s a long-accepted fact that returning customers bring in more revenue than new ones, so those early time investments are sure to pay off in the long run.
Before you develop your content and determine where and when to share it, know who you’re creating it for and why they want it. It’s going to take some time and energy up front, but audience-first content is an investment that can bring long-term benefits for your brand.
What have you learned about your audience and creating content for them first? Let’s talk about it in the comments!