Unless you have a content strategy that delivers a data-driven understanding of your customers, you are not achieving all that you can with your content.
Trajectory: the path that a moving object follows through space as a function of time. Wikipedia
A lot impacts trajectory; speed, distance, height, angle, weight of moving object, and the environment (think underwater vs in air against a strong wind). And how you get started sets your trajectory. A slight miscalculation, a dip of the wrist at the last moment and the knife hits the beauty instead of the apple on her head.
Think about two people starting at an identical point who are given the following directions: take four medium steps forward, turn to your right 90º, then take one long step, turn to your left 90º and take 12 steps at a normal walking pace.
Do you think that having started in the same exact point they will end up at the same place? No, of course they won’t. There are too many variables, like how long their legs are, how well they can calculate a 90º turn, or even how well they follow directions.
Now consider if the two people didn’t start at the identical points. It may look like they are ‘walking the same walk,’ but where they end up will be wildly far apart.
With so many variables affecting trajectory, our start point becomes critical. And this is the most important lesson of a content strategy.
Content Strategy is Required
A content strategy delivers your start point, which limits or amplifies the success of your marketing with content. (Note how I am trying to not use the buzz words like content marketing, inbound marketing, social media marketing. But whatever you call it, I am talking about creating content to influence your audience to some sort of action, like joining, renewing, reading, attending, sharing, etc. You get the picture.)
Understanding the road that led to buying from you is the essential Step 1 of a content strategy. How did they get from there to here? To joining your organization or attending your annual convention? Why did they choose you? What made it the right time to buy? What was the biggest hurdle to buying from you.
How do you know what content is best to influence your audience? What tone in your writing will resonate?
Knowing your audience’s motivation is not the same as extrapolating from institutional anecdotes, like they join our community to open doors to other like-minded professionals or they attend because we are the leader in this niche.
Knowing is knowing. It’s not guessing. Not even educated guessing.
Because any error in calculation, or worse, assumptions gets amplified as your marketing goes out in its journey.
Trajectory: the path that a moving object follows through space as a function of time.
The start is simple: know the details about how your customers came to buy from you. The best way to find out is by conducting a one-on-one interview, but there are other ways that can augment your understanding of your buyers.
Ways to learn about your customers
Neuroscience is showing surveys are not as reliable as once we thought they were. Plus, they are limiting. Customer satisfaction surveys just don’t deliver an accurate or full understanding of your customer’s opinion. But they can deliver some insights. And because they are fast and cheap, they can be quite useful.
Yuk, blech, gag. They introduce group dynamics that don’t allow for a good litmus test of an individual’s ideas. If you have ever watched one that had an über vocal, strong-minded attendee, then you have witnessed a focus group go awry. She may be right, she may be smart, and she may have a lot to offer, but her brain speed and mouth speed are unduly influencing the others in the group. (She is someone you want to interview by the way: a gold mine!) So while these groups can be harnessed for certain purposes, they are not a good option to set your start point; for understanding your buyers’ path to buying from you.
Speaking with members of your team
Identify team members that regularly engage with the customer. Plan the conversation with one person at a time. Make the topic and purpose clear, select a place that allows you to protect your time, and stay on topic.
Mine Your Database
You may already be sitting on a wealth of information that is directly useful to understanding your customer’s motivations and perceptions. If so, lucky you! And don’t forget to check where that information came from? Was there a question added to an application that asked how your customer found you? If so, can you add one more question? Your understanding of you buyers must evolve along with your buyers.
They do not need to be face-to-face, effective interviews can be conducted over the phone too. In interviews, you can ‘listen’ for answers to questions you never thought or knew to ask. You can recognize and act upon an unexpected opportunity for insights that will be profoundly guiding in your marketing that might have not surfaced through the scripted questions of a survey instrument.
Content Strategy Start Point: Understand why your customer bought from you, how they found you and their biggest hurdle to overcome in selecting you.