Five ways to learn what triggers your audience

As I talked about in my last article Are we forgetting something, we may have to look beyond the KPIs to get the customer insights we need to make impactful B2B content. I guess most of us are trying to make relevant content, but ‘relevant’ to someone in its broad sense can mean that is has something to do with the target customer’s particular business or market. This does not automatically mean that it will get noticed in the content storm raging in social media, let alone read and shared. To give our content investment a better chance to pay off, we need to understand what would really trigger our audience. (Or rather, what would trigger the different roles of our audience; a CFO usually have other challenges than a CTO even if they are working for the same company). Tracking data helps us segment prospects based on behaviour and see which content pieces that created engagement and which did not. But when looking ahead, trying to foresee what topics that would give the best results, we need a deeper understanding. Truly engaging B2B content stems from sore professional pain points and gaping business needs. 

So, how can you uncover these needs and triggers yourself without hiring a costly marketing research consultant? There are many ways, but here I will just propose five of them:

Keyword research. You probably do it to generate traffic from search, but how about when you produce content ideas? It can tell you what people have been looking for, how and what the common questions were, as a sanity check and to validate your ideas and assumptions. Just remember that keywords are far from a complete map for content creation. If you’ve downloaded a PDF book behind a paywall you probably expect more than reading your own keywords. Don’t let the tech talk of Hummingbirds and spiders derail you. Put the keywords in the context of customer needs, your value proposition, expertise etcetera and see how they work.  Consider the “80/20 rule”: applying a basic set of SEO principles will get you far. Test hypothetical keywords for relevance (for instance using Google’s Trends or Keyword Planner) to create a list of keywords and phrases to use as part of your strategy. Update it  on a regular basis.

Curate best performing content. This is a real quick-and-dirty. Keep track of the best performing news articles and the most engaging social posts on other media sites in your industry that have a big audience. Their top journalists have probably done their research on what’s top of mind, what’s trending and what gets them readers and subscribers. This is probably mostly for the top of the sales funnel when you want the interest of many. If you steal a topic and use it in a piece of your own content, make sure to add your own twist to stand out. If you copy and refer back to the original source without adding value, you’re just providing them with a free channel.

Online customer surveys. Nowadays it’s just so quick, easy and cheap to do surveys. A good way to get a good response rate is to combine them with another marketing activity; event invitations or follow-up emails provide opportunities to ask your guests a few questions which also make them engage. Competitions are another way (people seem to love them). Not only do you learn something, surveys can generate unique, up-to-date content that often well appreciated reads if published. The downside is that it’s usually limited to a few multiple choice questions, as oposed to workshops or interviews which allow deeper exploration.

Use your imagination. What would really help you in our work if you were them? If you dont have enough knowledge about their challenges, you could start with point below, Exploratory workshops and interviews. Warning: this test will reveal if your marketing team are actually using an “inside-out approach” or is just habitually dropping buzzwords (which by the way would include “creative”).

Exploratory workshops and interviews. Invite a selection of customers (or at least people who engage with customers frequently, typically sales) to talk about their current actual key concerns and needs. Use a systematic approach, carefully mapping out each buying journey and its destination (the business opportunity it aims to create). Identify the most influential roles involved in the buying process and explore their goals and challanges. If you have the opportunity, create buyer personas, fictive persons representing your ideal customers. I will shorly publish an ebook that shows you a simple method for this. 

Just as content is the lifeblood of marketing, the key to relevant content is to address and relieve your clients pains and pressures.

If you have ideas or input on this topic, drop me a line!

– Erik

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