Do you know who you’re marketing to?
When I ask this question, most companies respond quickly with, “Yes, Jessica, our marketing team has created buyer personas and that’s who we market to.”
But when we start to dig into what a company understands about its customers as reflected in these “paper personas,” we realize in many cases the personas were based on a marketing team’s assumptions.
The target audience only exists on paper. The marketing team had no real interaction with the humans who make up their target audience. Or maybe they spoke to customers once upon a time, but the world changed since then, and so have the human beings who engage with it (and the company).
At that point, we don’t know what language real buyers are using to describe their problem.
We don’t know how those customers are going about looking for a solution to their problem.
We don’t know the best way to connect with them.
The result? Marketing that fails.
Before I produce content that converts, I need to “get under the hood” of the business — and that includes getting a deep, up-to-date understanding of who we’re marketing to.
That’s why my three-phase consulting process starts with a deep dive.
Phase 1: Diagnostic
This critical phase is a deep discovery of where you’re starting from, what (and who) you’re working with, and what the gaps and opportunities are.
First, since our strategy needs to be grounded in reality, I get to know your company. I need to understand what your company’s objectives are to keep us laser-focused on the right activities.
I need all the nitty-gritty details here, from the company history to the human resources you have and the tools you use. I want to know what you’re currently doing to market your product and services, what’s working well, and what takes the most time and energy to maintain.
Then I learn about your customers.
To achieve the greatest ROI for your marketing, we must go beyond demographics when researching your target audience. These are human beings and we must get a better understanding of what they need, what they think they need, how they would describe their problems and what solutions they seek.
Because the most straightforward way to grow a company is to clone your best customers, depending on the goals of our engagement, I will most likely connect directly with a few of your “unicorn” customers and get data directly from their “unicorn” mouths. The better I can understand these ideal customers, the better we can connect with people exactly like them through content marketing.
Researching and interviewing your real customers is the most critical part of this phase . It helps me understand your target buyer more deeply. Then we can create a buyer persona based on reality. And getting this right is the very foundation of an effective marketing strategy.
And what if you don’t have many ideal customers for me to talk to or research? I extend my research to a “like” target audience. I look at what the audience is saying about competitor offerings, and what questions they’re asking in forums and on review sites.
Then, I put all this data (and it’s usually a lot!) into an Airtable, categorize it, look at it from different angles, and analyze it to better understand the mindset and language of the target audience.
Since research is the foundation of everything I do, you can bet this phase also includes a comprehensive competitor analysis, content audit and metrics review.
Then I wrap it all up in a detailed findings and recommendations report, and present the key points to you over Zoom so you don’t get completely overwhelmed by everything we now know about your customers.
Whew! This is a very complex undertaking, yes — but the result is a clear understanding of who we’re marketing to and the best way to engage with them.
Phase 2: Blueprint
Once I emerge from my deep dive into your business and customers, I’m able to use what I’ve learned to create or tune up your content marketing strategy .
At this point, together we select the top one to three opportunities and build a comprehensive plan of action. While my work is customized for the goals of each individual client’s needs, this usually takes the form of updating buyer personas, creating editorial calendars, building rollout plans, and outlining content sequences.
What my clients receive is a strategic plan designed to help build a relationship with their customers. What they get, however, is clarity. Now that we know what the ideal customers are thinking and how they’re talking about their problems, everything that follows is tightly dialed in to them, and designed to connect and convert.
Phase 3: Build
About those conversions …
A solid content marketing strategy will make it crystal clear to your target audience that your company can help them solve their problem, while also building a relationship with them that paves the way for a great customer experience.
But, no matter how solid the strategy is, if it never gets implemented (or is implemented incorrectly), you won’t see the growth you want.
In the Build phase, I make sure the content is written and edited to make your strategic plan work. Either I put my expertise and experience as a conversation content writer to work directly and write the content outlined in the strategic plan, or I train your in-house team or favorite freelancer to do the writing.
A note on in-house writers: Keep in mind that your developers and sales reps are highly qualified professionals, but that doesn’t make them the best-qualified writers to execute your content marketing strategy. Also keep in mind that asking non-writer team members to do the writing takes them away from their core tasks — the tasks that you’re likely paying them well to do.
In my experience, the companies that go through all three phases — Diagnostic, Blueprint and Build — more often have the most successful content marketing programs. BUT, that said, each phase is designed to deliver value. So if you stop at the end of Diagnostic, you’ll have everything you need to create your own strategy. Or if you go through Diagnostic and Blueprint, you’ll have everything you need to implement an effective strategy with a writer of your choice.
Ready to design a content marketing strategy that personally connects with ideal customers and actually converts? Talk to me.