Target practice: Knowing your audience

November 8, 2016Content marketing
knowing your audience

By Simon Harrington – Content Editor

When it comes to content creation, it’s easy to get entangled in the production process. From eternal revisions to stringent legal checks, we often lose sight of the most important thing: knowing your audience.

Knowing your audience is important. When a prominent US baby food manufacturer launched its brand in Africa, it neglected to alter its packaging – assuming that the cute baby pictured on the label would appeal to customers, just as it had done States-side. What better way to unite continents than through the transcendent innocence of youth, right?

Wrong. What the marketing team failed to realise was that companies in many African countries routinely label their products with a picture of what’s inside the package, as many customers can’t read.

Needless to say, a tin with a baby’s face on it didn’t go down too well.

Talking to the right people

Granted, this may be an extreme, suitably hilarious – and somewhat folkloristic – cultural example, but there’s a relevant truth at its core: knowing your audience is important. And it’s never more so than when marketing a product or service. In fact, if done properly, we as consumers don’t even know it’s happening.

This is especially true of content marketing, where knowing an audience – and anticipating their needs in a smooth-as-silk fashion – is at the heart of everything we do. Take Hipmunk as an example.

The travel website knows that value for money and convenience rank highly on customers’ agendas, as reducing trip ‘agony’ and ‘price’ form the foundation of its comparisons. This knowledge informs its content. Blog posts like ‘The Traveler’s Guide to Tipping Internationally’ and ‘How Much Does a Disney Vacation Really Cost?’ get their brand in front of the right people, at the right time – all while answering legitimate questions.

Keeping things creative

Although its audience is much broader, Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign is another example of content done right. The soft drink juggernaut understood the importance of connecting with its customers on an individual level. Printing names on a bottle was a simple, yet ingenious way to create a highly personalised, shareable experience.

As of September 2015, more than half a million photos were shared with the hashtag #ShareaCoke and six million virtual Coke bottles were exchanged online. Coca-Cola gained 25 million Facebook followers. This truly was a marketing home run, and it all came down to knowing what the audience wanted and anticipating how they would react.

Targeted innovation is key

As editors working in content marketing, there’s a sweet spot between Hipmunk’s targeted blogging and Coca-Cola’s en masse innovation. The best scalable campaigns are rooted in targeted innovation. But it all starts with audience. The strongest foundations are laid by understanding exactly who they are and what they need.

Indeed, before we pitch a single idea to a client, or put proverbial pen to paper, we ask ourselves three key questions – regardless of whether we’re working with an insurance broker or a sports brand:

· Who is our target audience?

· What do they want from our content?

· Why should they listen to us?

Of course, with limited research we can begin to shape answers to the first two questions. It’s the third that poses the biggest challenge. This is especially true for digital marketers trying to establish a voice amidst the swirling chaos of the world-wide web.

Why should I listen to you?

“Your audience is one single reader,” author John Steinbeck said in an interview with The Paris Review. “I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person – a real person you know, or an imagined person – and write to that one.”

He’s right. People listen when they feel they are being spoken to personally – whether that’s a name on a Coke bottle or a blog post about an upcoming Disney vacation, addressing the specific needs of the reader is integral to quality, targeted content.

So before you rush to get words on the page, vloggers in front of the camera or 140 characters on Twitter, take a minute to consider your audience. It could mean the difference between a poignant, successful campaign and a reputation-destroying baby in a can.


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