In the age of the Internet of Things, engaging your target audience is more important than ever. With so much advertising vying for your customers’ attention on so many platforms and devices, your content needs to connect with them on a deeper level. The only way to establish that connection is to learn who your customers are, what they want, and how you can provide it with the content you publish and ultimately the products and services you offer. Here are seven ways to gather useful data on your customers so you can tailor your content to their needs.
- Analyze responses to existing content.
In Business 2 Community, Ashley Poynter says the first step to a data-driven content strategy is “getting down and dirty with Google Analytics. If you already have some content on your site (blogs, ebooks, white papers), take a look at how those have performed. Look at your top pages and top posts as well as where people are spending the most time on your site. These metrics contain clues as to which topics and types of content your audience prefers.”
By observing the length, formatting, visuals, and overall experience of your popular posts, you’ll know how to present content in the future. Review your popular topics and consider whether it’s time to update any of your posts or write “part two.”
- Send out customer surveys.
Post a Survey Monkey or Google Forms link to social media to get your current customers’ feedback. Smart Insights recommends questions such as “What is the biggest struggle in your role?”; “What type of content do you enjoy?”; and “What type of content do you interact with the most?” Include checkboxes for content types like blog posts, infographics, videos, podcasts, interactive content, and anything else you are thinking about producing.
Your goal is first, to identify your customers’ “pain points,” so you can offer solutions to their problems via your content and second, to provide that content in the format your customers are most likely to read or view.
Smart Insights warns click-through rates for surveys are often only 10-15 percent, but you can triple your response rates by offering an incentive such as a discount on a future purchase or a chance to win something.
- Ask your employees.
Joe Lazauskas of The Content Strategist points out sales, accounting, and customer service teams communicate with leads and clients on a daily basis, so their feedback is essential. Hold a meeting or send out a survey to learn what questions, concerns, or complaints they hear from customers most frequently.
- Interview your customers.
Surveys and second-hand accounts are helpful, but there’s no substitute for a good, old-fashioned phone call. Having a two-way conversation with a customer allows you to speak at length and ask personalized follow-up questions a survey can’t include. To avoid calling at an inconvenient time, email your customers and ask to schedule a phone interview.
While your interview should cover basic demographic information, you also want to go deeper. In his article for Medium, Arun Agrahri cautions against leading questions such as “Would you use this product?” or “How much would you pay for it?” Most customers tend to be polite on the phone but make an entirely different decision alone in front of their computers.
The author also cites the general rule, “Never ask your customers what they want.” Instead, ask what they’re trying to accomplish, how they’re doing it, and what would make that process easier, which will give you insight into their problems, their workflow, and the product features they most value. Don’t be afraid to ask why they are doing something a certain way. For example, a customer who is building a fence to keep out nosy neighbors has very different needs than one who is building a fence to start his own doggie daycare business.
- Follow trending topics.
Successful content marketing depends on supply and demand data; you supply the content that your target audience is searching for online. While Google autosuggest will give you a general idea of popular search terms, Target Marketing identifies some of the more refined tools available. Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner measures the search volume of each individual term. Google Trends monitors interest in topics over time, so you can identify which trends are on the way out or what topics are seeing a seasonal resurgence.
- Join forums and Q&A sites.
Once you pinpoint what terms and topics are popular, you need to find a way to make a unique contribution, so your content will stand out. Outbrain recommends being active on industry-specific sub-Reddits, Quora and Yahoo Answers, and the comment sections of other popular blogs and social media accounts. When you see customers post questions that no one answers sufficiently, create content addressing those specific topics and post links to direct traffic to your site.
- Monitor Your Competition.
On Search Engine Watch, Teresa Litsa emphasizes the importance of keeping an eye on “competitors’ most popular topics, the types of content they are using, the ideas they are expanding into, or even the creative aspect of their content marketing strategy.” By identifying what your competitors are doing well, you ensure you’re keeping pace and even finding ways to improve on their ideas. You can also collect data on their failures and learn from their mistakes.
What sort of data are you collecting for your content marketing? Share your insights in the comments.