Target Audience 101: How to Get Maximum Targeted Readers for Your B2B Content
A question I often see in forums and groups is: How do I get my target audience to read my content? Content promotion is hard enough on its own and few companies manage to reach any audience at all, let alone prospects.
How then do you ensure that your B2B content reaches the largest section of your target audience, without spending too much on ads?
In this article, I dissect how you can create insanely shareable content, as well as ways to get it in front of your target audience.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this post:
- Audience-Focused Content Vs. Product-Focused Content
- How to Conduct Audience Research – What You Need To Know
- How to Find Your Customers’ Pain Points
- How to Write Insanely Shareable Content
- Getting Maximum Eyeballs for Your Content
- Getting Influencers to Share Your Content
Audience-Focused Content Vs. Product- Focused Content
Most companies go about content creation in the following way:
“What do we sell? Social media management tool. Okay great, let’s write a bunch of posts on social media tips and tricks.”
The best content creators, however, think like this:
“What do we sell? Social media management tool. Okay great, who’s most likely to buy our product? Social media managers, startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers, content managers, etc. etc. Great, lets create content that addresses each of their needs!”
The second approach makes your content more appealing to a wider section of your target audience, more shareable and more likely to land up in front of your prospects.
Let me illustrate this with an example.
You may know the social media management tool, Buffer. Their blog receives well over 1.5 million visits per month. How did they achieve this?
In the beginning, they created posts that revolved around social media, that is, their product. This approach yielded a few hundred shares, but they found it difficult to grow beyond this.
Says then-marketing manager Leo Widrich in an interview, “This kind of content spreads, this kind of content is interesting to some people, to newbies who don’t understand anything about Twitter and so forth, but it doesn’t go as far.”
The turning point for the blog came when they realized they should be creating content that would appeal to their audience in general, and not necessarily be social media focused.
Leo reveals, “It was like, “Well, what about how our brains work when we do things online? How about psychology? How about more business, productivity, life hack related stuff, that just a broad audience can find interesting, can email to a friend, and that friend might be like, ‘That’s an awesome piece of content. Thanks for emailing me, and, by the way, Buffer also looks super interesting. I’m going to check that out.’”
Mind you, they weren’t writing about anything and everything productivity and lifehack related. It was relevant content for their target audience, and also their friends, and friends of friends. They were still creating content highly targeted for marketers, but also something that would be interesting to others in their target audience, such as startups and entrepreneurs.
Sample some of their posts:
A major spike in traffic came when Leo experienced a major mindset shift after reading Rand Fishkin’s Content Marketing Manifesto. Here’s what Leo gleaned from it:
“You should not be writing for people who are using your product right now. You should not be writing for people who could potentially use your product. You should be writing for people who could potentially know people that could potentially use your product.”
By adding scientific findings to their work, they ensured it would appeal to a larger section of their audience. Not just that, this content also caught the eye of publications such as Fast Company, The Next Web and Lifehacker, that regularly syndicate Buffer’s content.
But you want to know the tangible results this strategy produced? Initially where a piece generated 250 shares, now their content easily generates 1000-2000 shares!
When defining your target audience, don’t just think about your customers. Think of who else has access to your target audience and would be interested in sharing your content.
Let’s dissect how Buffer does this.
Being a social media tool, they could have chosen to create content exclusively focusing on social media hacks. Instead, they also write frequently about small business, design tools, content marketing, and email marketing.
The idea is to reach a wider audience of small businesses, freelancers, agencies and designers,who might not necessarily use their product, but could have someone in their network who will, and thus help Buffer’s content get the largest audience possible.
Now that you’ve understood the difference between audience focused and product focused content, let’s see how you can find what your target audience wants to read about.
How to Conduct Target Audience Research – What You Need To Know
You’ll often find the term ‘buyer persona’ when you look up target audience research.
While creating target personas is important, B2B needs a different approach than B2C. As a B2B marketer, you don’t need to know as much about your prospect’s age and gender, as much as you need to know about their pain points.
Adele Revella, of Buyer Persona Institute, suggests focusing on finding answers to the following questions when conducting audience research:
– What problems does your buyer persona spend most time on?
– What metrics do they use to measure success (eg. getting X number of leads)?
– What’s preventing them from achieving success (eg. lack of a cost-effective solution)?
– What is the process the buyer goes through before selecting a solution?
– What criteria do they use to evaluate products/solutions (eg.cost, efficiency, etc)?
Now that you know what to look for, let’s take a look at how you can find this information.
How to Find Your Customers’ Pain Points
Knowing what keeps your customers up at night is the first step to creating target audience-focused content. Here are some ways you can get the full scope on your target customers’ fears and aspirations:
1. Speak to customers
Sounds obvious, but not many companies take the time to go this route. While it is time-consuming, chatting with customers is the best way to get into your customer’s heads and know what kind of content they crave.
Want to make the best of your customer calls? Here’s what to do:
i. Ask follow up questions: This is one of the biggest benefits of talking to a customer face-to-face as opposed to getting them to answer a survey or stalking their online activity.
If a customer tells you they prefer using your product over a competitor’s product, ask them why. Is it because of the price point? The features? Use these advantages to entice new users to your product.
ii. Make a note of the language they use: What’s better than writing copy like you talk? Writing copy like your customers speak. Customer support helpdesk Groove spoke to 500 customers in 4 weeks. Here’s what they found:
“We’re always working to improve the way we position and write about Groove. Hearing our customers talk about the app and its benefits, along with their personal stories, challenges and goals, is the only way we can write marketing copy that actually connects.Talking to our customers is the only way to talk like our customers talk.”
2. Find content your audience loves
In this step, you want to find content that’s already getting a thumbs up from your target customers. Do they like longform posts, list posts, or personal narratives? Do they prefer visual content to written? Are they podcast fanatics? Are they more likely to share content on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?
You can glean answers to a lot of these questions by using:
If want to keep an eye on the most popular posts in your industry, BuzzSumo is the tool for you.
There are many ways you can use this tool, but let’s get started with the basic ones:
– Find your competitor’s most popular content: Your competitors have likely done the hard work of studying your audience and figuring out what they like/dislike. Use BuzzSumo to find their most popular posts. The Content Analysis section of the tool also tells you which platforms their posts get shared on most, and which are the most popular content formats (videos, blogs, infographics, etc.)
– Find most popular content for a given topic: Let’s say you’re a time tracking software. Some of the topics you might want to create content around would be “productivity”, “time management”, “procrastination” and so on.
When I search BuzzSumo for the term “productivity”, here’s what shows up:
You can see that some of the most popular articles have to do with how to improve your team’s productivity as a whole. The most shared article in this category also deals with psychology, so you might want to write an article based on scientific ways to be more productive.
You’ll also see that the topic of productivity in particular is very popular on Facebook and LinkedIn. So you might want to target these two platforms when creating content.
If you already have a blog, there’s a lot of data you can mine from it.
For the time being, we’re interested in finding your most popular content so far. Your Google Analytics dashboard gives you an insight into your most viewed content, and also your least viewed content.
See the pages that have a high bounce rate (pages that don’t captivate readers much), and those that have a low time on page.
These stats tell you what your audience is most interested in hearing about and what topics you can stop writing about.
3. Hang around where your audience does
Here’s a way to justify all that time you spend hanging around on social media: use it for audience research. Participating in communities that your audience loves, gives you additional info on the kind of content they’d like to read more of.
Some of the best communities for audience research are:
Unless you’re living under a rock, you might know Quora as a Q&A app. What makes Quora unique is the presence of experts on the platform from fields such as entertainment, education, astronomy, business and also, marketing.
If you look closely, there’s an abundance of information about trending topics in your industry that you can learn.
Let’s say that you offer a service that helps build landing pages. Here’s what a search for “landing page” throws up on Quora:
If you look for questions alone, you’ll see that a lot of people are following questions such as “What products have killer landing pages?” and “What are the best tools for landing page optimization?”
When you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that people are interested in finding out more about landing page design, copy, examples, landing page mistakes and also why landing pages are important.
When you search by Topic, you’ll find related topics such as “Landing Page Design”, “Video Landing Pages” and “Mobile Landing Pages”
Delve deeper into the topic of landing pages alone, and you’ll discover that some of the most asked questions are related to improving conversion rates on landing pages, A/B testing, and landing page optimization.
With a few quick searches, you now have a list of topics at your fingertips.
When you take the landing page example to Reddit, you’ll find that a lot of people are interested in landing page colors, ways to promote landing pages and how to increase sign ups through landing pages.
Notice that the last one is as good as saying conversions, but the term used on Reddit is “increase sign ups”. Now you have ideas to modify and test new headlines.
iii. Niche communities
Which communities are landing page experts most likely to hang out in?
Communities for marketers, small businesses, and startups? Take a look at GrowthHackers and Inbound.org, and you’ll find a ton of content relevant to landing pages.
No matter which topic you’re writing about, you’ll find a targeted or niche community for it. Listen in and you’ll find a ton of topics to write about.
When looking at niche communities, let’s not forget social media groups. LinkedIn and Facebook groups are goldmines for discussions on niche topics, if you know where to look.
If you want the largest number of prospects to see your B2B content, you have to design it to be shareable.
Everyone thinks it’s easy for B2B giants to get their target audience’s attention because of the big bucks they spend on promoting their content. While it is easy for them to grab attention, remember, the final heavy lifting is always left to how good their content is. That’s the reason viral content isn’t exclusive to big brands and celebrities.
Any company with a voice and compelling content can go viral. In fact, there have been numerous studies to analyse what makes content shareable. Here are some common elements of share worthy content:
1. Provide unique value
What would you rather read and share: “5 Ways to Go Viral on LinkedIn” or “5 Experts Share how They Built A Massive Following on LinkedIn”?
Why did you pick the second one?
Because it offers you insights from someone who has already achieved what you’re trying to achieve – an expert. Who wouldn’t like such exclusive advice? On the other hand, you know the first article will be the same drab list of LinkedIn tactics you’ve seen over and over.
No one likes sharing old news. If you want your content to be shared by thousands of people, it needs to offer exclusive insights that they wouldn’t be able to find on other blogs and websites. One way to do this is to write about topics in your niche that haven’t been talked about before (and that your audience would love to read about). That way, you become the expert on that topic.
On the other hand, what if your niche is too popular and all topics have been covered? There are plenty of ways you can still offer unique value. Here’s how:
– Include facts and figures. Research proves that research-backed content and opinion forming journalism earns higher shares and links. See how this point instantly becomes more interesting when I back it up with a study?
– Include expert analysis. Everyone loves to hear actionable tips from those who’ve been there, done that. An expert point of view instantly distinguishes your content from the rest of the pack.
– Include personal perspectives. Personal anecdotes and experiences add a unique touch. Because they belong to you alone. No matter what the subject you’re writing about, adding personal commentary or analysis gives it a special spin.
– Include research of your own. As a B2B company, you might be privy to a lot of data from your customers and other stakeholders. Why not present that original research as content? For instance, BuzzSumo routinely publishes findings of this kind, and the results are there for all to see.
2. Create popular content types
It turns out, some content types are more shareable than others, as Moz discovered in their analysis of 1 million articles.
You’ve seen and shared them yourself: Videos, quizzes, list posts. These are easy to consume and fun to share. If you want more people to see your B2B content, tap into these popular formats for best results.
3. Make it actionable
A BuzzSumo analysis of 10 million B2B articles revealed that “How to” posts perform exceedingly well on LinkedIn. Terms such as these enjoy a high level of shares:
- How to stop
- How to succeed
- How to manage
It’s clear people crave actionable advice. The last thing you want people to feel after reading your articles is, “Okay, how do I actually do this?”
If you want your articles to be helpful, include as many examples, actionable tips, and details as possible. Readers should complete your article thinking, “Wow, that was so valuable, my colleagues/friends/family would love this!”
4. Make it easy to share
Every so often, I stumble upon a great article I can’t wait to share, and what do I find? The share options are missing-in-action. What do I do? I leave the article, and move on to the next. Your readers will probably do the same.
You need to make it easy as pie for your target audience to share your content; don’t expect them to do it by virtue of the awesomeness of the article.
Include social sharing buttons in each of your posts. Don’t add more than three channels though, you don’t want to overwhelm readers with too many options.
Other than that, add Click-to-Tweet buttons to quotes and image sharing buttons within your post. Even in the emails you send to your subscribers, include a Click-to-Tweet button like Groove does, to get them to share:
5. Include visuals
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth emphasizing, given how much it contributes to social shares. Adding an image to your post doubles the number of Facebook and Twitter shares received.
Getting Maximum Eyeballs for Your Content
There are a ton of ways to promote your content. One caveat: Don’t go after all of them.
Most companies find that one or two channels are plenty for bringing sufficient traffic to their content. For most, email is the biggest traffic source. Sure if you already have a sizeable email list, you might not invest too much time and effort in promoting your content. Your list will the job for you.
But what if you don’t have an email list yet? Or, what if it’s reached a plateau and you want more subscribers?
Given below are the best ways to ensure you squeeze every drop out of the content you create and also build a list in the process, if you don’t have one:
1. Get your content noticed in communities
If you spent some time lurking around in communities looking for the perfect content ideas, you know which are the best communities for promoting your content.
But here’s the thing: communities abhor promotion. After all, they weren’t built so marketers could bombard members with offers.
Communities are built for meaningful discussion and helping members grow. There are some rules and etiquette every community follows. You can’t just go and post links to your content in them (except for some LinkedIn groups, but their engagement is dead anyway).
The key to succeeding in any community, be it LinkedIn, Quora or Reddit, is offering value. How? Submit non-promotional articles, comment on other people’s posts, offer feedback and give away your knowledge for free.
Once you are seen as a trusted source of information, members will be more likely to appreciate your content.
For instance, when I joined Reddit, I spent a considerable amount of time studying subreddits I wanted to post content in. I offered feedback on various posts and submitted links I deemed helpful. I also studied posting guidelines carefully as well as content that was highly upvoted.
When I finally did post my own content on r/Entrepreneur, the response was overwhelming. I ended up receiving over 750 upvotes and a number of clicks to my article!
Would this be possible had I simply posted a link to my article? I doubt it.
2. Get your content social media-ready
Just like communities require tailored posts, so does social media. Each social media platform has a unique language of its own, according to Brian Peters, social media manager at Buffer.
In order to get the best reach for your content, he suggests the following types of posts for each platform,
“Where Twitter might be a link to an article with a witty caption, Facebook might require a 60-second video summarizing the article and LinkedIn might require a longer editorial caption explaining the article.”
3. Repurpose for different platforms
Repurposing your content not only increases the shelf-life of your content, it also helps you reach more people in your target audience. In fact, it helped Benjamin Hardy get 20,000 subscribers in 6 months, and earned Eugene Cheng over 10,000 subscribers.
In simple words, repurposing content means taking existing content and converting it into a new format.
For instance, you could take a blog article and post an abridged version to LinkedIn. Or you could crank out several LinkedIn posts from one article. Or you could convert a high performing blog post into an infographic on Pinterest.
Here are some ways to repurpose your own content and reach more people:
- Publish your posts on LinkedIn and Medium
- Publish snippets on LinkedIn
- Publish infographics on Pinterest
- Publish answers on Quora
- Make Slideshare presentations
- Create native videos for LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook
- Convert your most popular posts into an ebook
- Start an email course
- Launch a webinar series
4. Guest post
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, guest blogging is hands down the best way to increase the reach of your blog.
Why is guest blogging so effective? Because it helps you capitalize on someone else’s target market. If you choose the right publication, this audience should be your target audience, and will help drive subscribers back to your content.
In fact, guest blogging was a major driver of growth for the Buffer blog when it just launched. It was also the trick that Sarah Peterson used to grow her own blog to 5000 subscribers and more in under a year.
In a detailed post on SumoMe, Sarah shares the major guest blogging strategies that helped her achieve this. Here are some points to remember:
– Choose the right publication: Spend some time researching the blog or website you’re pitching. Are their readers your ideal target audience? How many subscribers do they have? What’s the potential to convert if you land an article? Many big name publications have a low click-through rate, while small publications might just land you a lot more readers, so choose with care.
– Craft the perfect pitch: In my own pitching experience, I’ve found that if you have something meaningful to say and convey it well in your pitch, no editor will say no. In this post, I’ve outlined a simple 6-step process for crafting the perfect pitch.
– Write an irresistible article: Your pitch will merely get your foot in the door, but your article has to do the real job. If you want readers to be compelled enough to click over to your own blog, crank out your best possible piece.
– Include a call-to-action: Don’t leave it to chance that readers will definitely click through to your blog to read your content. Instead, include a compelling offer such as an e-book, a course, or a report that you think readers will find helpful. Once you’ve got their attention, ask them to subscribe to your blog.
Getting Influencers to Share Your Content
Just like guest blogging helps you reach a publication’s target audience, in the same way, influencer marketing helps you reach an influencer’s carefully cultivated audience.
For a B2B blog that’s just starting out, there’s no better way to get on the radar of potential customers. But influencer marketing is not as easy as selecting a target publication and sending a pitch. A lot of influencers charge businesses for sharing their content. This may or may not work, but if you’re unwilling to spend serious money on influencers, there’s another route you could take: relationship building.
Here’s how you can get influencers to share your content:
1. Find influencers relevant to your industry
These could be bloggers, social media celebrities, content curators – anyone who has a target audience similar to yours, a larger following than yours, and could possibly be interested in sharing your content.
Don’t be in a rush to reach the biggest influencers yet. Start with smaller influencers that have an active following, and move up from there. Remember, the bigger the influencer, the more the chances that your outreach email won’t even be answered. Smaller influencers, on the other hand, are more likely to respond to your request.
2. Find out what content they like sharing
Some influencers run curated newsletters, while others have an active social media following. The key to getting them to share your content is to find out what kind of content they frequently share.
Sign up for their newsletter and follow them on social media to see if your content fits with their sharing preferences. It’s likely that they’re always looking for new and interesting content to share and if they feel your content will resonate with their audience, they’ll be more than happy to.
Rand Fishkin suggests that useful content such as statistics, data and visuals are more likely to be shared by influencers as it fills in a gap for them.
3. Engage with their content
Now it’s time to get on your influencer’s radar. How do you do that?
By engaging with their content. This means leaving insightful comments on their posts (not just “I agree”), asking questions and responding to their tweets.
Remember, with a big influencer, it’s likely you won’t get noticed like this, as they get thousands of tweets, questions and comments on each post. However, you can always start this way with medium and small influencers.
4. Send them a great outreach email
In a super helpful article, Rand Fishkin explains what separates a good outreach email from a great one. Here are some secrets he shares:
– Keep it friendly: Don’t address the influencer as “Mr. So and So”. Say “Hi First Name” instead. You don’t want to sound too formal or casual here.
– Be clear with your ask: If you’re asking for a tweet, be sure to state that. If you want them to share it in their newsletter, tell them clearly. Be sure not to have too many asks. Also, whatever you’re asking them to do, make sure it’s super-simple. For instance, if you want them to tweet, put a click-to-tweet link with a pre-written tweet in your email.
– Show you’re willing to reciprocate: Tell them that you’ve shared their content in the past, or that you’ve included links to their new project in your new newsletter. Influencers are usually working on new projects that they might need help promoting, recruiting for, or writing content for. Doing some quick research will help you stand out amidst a ton of outreach emails they receive.
It can weeks to produce a solid piece of content, and only a few hours for it to die an isolated death. Even if does manage to rise out of the trenches of undiscovered darkness, it may be that the wrong people are reading it.
Make sure your content reaches the largest section of your target audience using the tips shared above. Don’t forget to share your results in the comments below!