Our crazy upside-down world offers plenty of evidence that, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But while that might get you $26 million worth of Instagram endorsement deals, in content marketing, you have to know something — as well as someone.
In fact, you need to know something about someone — specifically, your target audience. With that in mind, it’s worth considering the tools and techniques we use to paint an accurate picture of our ideal customers.
Established Client Interviews
Though you’ll hear many an expert talk about prospect personas as the ideal starting point, for most of us, it’s easier to establish a baseline by interviewing our existing clients to find out what motivated them to seek out a solution. You’ll also want to understand what differentiated you in their minds from your competitors — and from other possible solutions.
That information should form the backbone of your content marketing efforts, your broader marketing efforts, and even your sales team’s approach.
Interviewing Prospects and New Clients
Naturally, you’re going to want to start your interviews with your best clients. That makes sense on one level, because an established and long-standing relationship will make the ask easier and a positive response more likely. But low-hanging fruit has its limitations, including faded memories of long-ago meetings not necessarily being as useful as we’d like. It’s worthwhile to look deeper into your client pool.
As you talk to newer clients, the goal of each interview should be to determine
- What pain the client is experiencing
- The (negative) impact that pain point is causing their business
- The risks posed by trying something new
- How they perceived you vs. your competitors
These are also great questions for prospects who you have lost, assuming you forged enough of a relationship during the courtship to gain a few more minutes of their time. In fact, you should encourage your sales team to ask lost prospects questions around, “Why not us?”
Prospect Personas for Content Marketing
All of this interview information can be combined with basic knowledge you have about your clients, prospects and targets to create the outlines of your prospect personas. This will include things like target industries and typical roles for your prospects. The rest of the persona-building process is a topic for a separate article, but you’ll certainly want to flesh out your ideal prospects in as much detail as possible. Which brings us to our next critical layer: the human element.
The Human Element in B2B Content Marketing
The human element is, arguably, more important than any other consideration. We’re not talking here about the smarmy tendency of some salespeople to research individual prospects’ alma maters and open a meeting with something along the lines of, “How ‘bout them Huskies!”
There is value in connecting on that very individual level. But first, we simply want to remember that our prospects, even though we are B2B marketers, are human. They have human concerns in the office, just as they do at home and on weekends. Getting too personal can be creepy, but I’m not sure there is such a thing as too human. Strive to make that human element a part of your marketing.
Don’t Forget the Data
It might seem a hard shift from the human element to data, but quite the opposite is true. Data is what gives us the ability to focus our marketing much more tightly than our B2C brethren often can. And that focus is another way we can humanize our message. We’re not trying to be all things to all people. Let the data guide you toward the areas where you can be more human and connect more completely with your audience’s needs and their (perhaps unexpressed) concerns surrounding risk and reward.
Data can take the form of general quantitative data, like how popular was a particular piece of content we’ve created. And it can take a more personalized form in basing upcoming touchpoints with prospects based on the content they’ve interacted with most recently. You’ll want to combine as many data sources as possible to fill in both the foreground and background of the picture you’re painting.