We can almost guarantee that you don’t know your customer as well as you think. In our experience, many businesses’ response to this is “of course we know our customer, they buy our products, how could we not know them?”
Quite easily. Even if you go through the effort of creating an ideal customer profile, if it isn’t extensive enough, or it isn’t regularly updated to match changing customer behaviours, how can you possibly say you know your customer?
The success of content marketing specifically relies on how well businesses can relate to their customers - that they know their needs, goals, challenges (even their darkest secrets if you dig deep enough). We’ve talked extensively about the importance of buyer personas, so we thought we’d go through exactly how you can go about creating the perfect image of your ideal customer - in 4 easy steps.
Step 1: Extensive audience research
While this is arguably the most important stage of any B2B content marketing strategy, it’s often the one that isn’t done effectively. Before you even consider writing content, you need to step away from your computer and actually talk to the people you’re trying to sell to - conduct research online, send out surveys, ask for feedback, go and meet prospects in person - anything that gets the information you need to match your content to your customer (without being overly-invasive, of course).
These are just some examples of the key information you need to fully know your customer:
- Their biggest challenges
- The questions they’ll have before they even come across your product/service
- What they’ll research for when they identify a need for your product/service
- What sites or social media platforms they’ll use to conduct their research
- Who they go to for advice - think friends, other forms of media, influencers
- The concerns they have about your product/service
- Why they might choose a competitor instead (your weaknesses, which can be mitigated in your content)
In order to sell and grow successfully, you need to focus on the people that are going to make it happen. Once you know your customer inside-out, you’ll be able to come up with a mine of potential content ideas, identify the key messages you want to be sending out, as well as determine the best tactics for your content marketing strategy as a whole.
Step 2: Identify the BEST customer
After you’ve conducted preliminary research, you should have a better idea of the types of people that interact with your company. However, at this point, you’ll probably be overloaded with information that needs breaking down in order to determine the customer profile that best fits your ideal buyer persona.
There are a number of ways you can do this, however, what we find most effective is getting the right people from your business in a room to conduct intensive customer research (we typically do this with our clients, and call it a discovery session). The aim of this is to get a full picture of your ideal customer that goes beyond what the marketing team have researched - sales teams, customer service teams, account management - anyone who is front-facing and knows the customer well enough to give accurate, reliable information (sorry, marketers).
Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a better idea of your customers that isn’t based on guesswork. This is crucial, as it allows you to understand exactly what your typical customers are like (their needs, challenges, goals) without filling in any of the gaps yourself.
By now, you’ll be at a point where you have a clear idea of who you’re going to target in your content marketing campaign. But don’t get ahead of yourself - there’s one more step to go before you can start creating.
If you’d like to know more about our customer research methods, come and say hello to us at the B2B Marketing Expo - our team would love to discuss our process in more detail.
Step 3: Learn their pain points
Remember when we told you to find your customers’ biggest challenges?
This is where you’ll need them. In order to write educational, valuable B2B content you need to know what common pains your ideal customers share. There are many ways you could do this - way too many to list all of them in their entirety, however, you could:
- Look at reviews
Both online and offline, for you and your competitors, reviews are a great way to gauge the problems your customers may have. Whether it’s with your product/service, your competitors or simply general industry concerns, reviews will give you a wealth of information you can use to inform your content.
- Ask your sales team
No one knows why customers don’t end up making a purchase better than your sales team - so use them. Ask them to think about all pitches or customer interactions they’ve had and write down the main reasons why people didn’t buy, any concerns about your product/service and common enquiries. Not only will this give you more content ideas, but it will also show you what you need to mitigate.
- Ask your customers
What better way to know what someone thinks, than by asking them? Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your customers - they’ll likely appreciate it. However, in order for the exercise to be successful, be sure to ask the right questions. You can do this by sending out surveys via email, or simply having a “what is your main challenge? “ tick-box on a landing page for a piece of gated content.
This step is crucial when it comes to matching your content to your customers and the examples we’ve given are just some of the ways in which you can learn your customers’ pain points. Once you’ve got them nailed down and you’re confident you know everything there is to know - congrats!
But you still aren’t ready to create content. Sorry.
Step 4: Map their buyer’s journey
You should now be at a point where you know your customer inside-out, which means you need to map the pain points you’ve just identified to their buyer’s journey - that is, the journey they take up until they make a purchase. It looks like this:
Your buyer’s journey can be traced to fit into these four stages. Working with your team, you should attempt to fit the pain points you’ve identified into each of them - from where the buyer realises they have a problem, right up until they purchase your product. This gives you a well-rounded understanding of your customer at every stage of their journey, which helps significantly when it comes to coming up with B2B content ideas. It also allows you to reflect on your business and establish what your weaknesses are, so you can mitigate them with content.
There. Now you’re just about ready to create content.
On a final note, we cannot stress enough how important research is in the initial stages before you even begin to create content. If you don’t know your ideal customer, you can’t expect to attract them successfully. With our step-by-step guide, you’ll be much better equipped to engage potential customers with targeted, educational and above all, valuable content.
In our next blog of the Getting Started with Content Marketing series, Turning readers into revenue: Optimising your B2B blog for conversion, we’ll discuss how to create conversion opportunities throughout your blogs, as well as how to nurture your leads to the point of conversion. However, if you can’t wait until then book your tickets for the B2B Marketing Expo, where the team here at Axon Garside will be on hand to answer all your content marketing questions, as well as general inbound queries.