Most content strategies crack under pressure due to lack of stability from the start.
When starting any content marketing campaign on behalf of a client, it is all about building the foundation and setting the message and direction. While this may seem like common sense for some, many clients I work with do not conduct or even think to conduct any research before developing a content marketing strategy.
For those that have done research and/or have recommended it to clients, congratulations! You are ahead of the curve
A question that comes up a lot is, “Who should we perform research on?” Two-word answer: potential audience. Depending on if you are looking to launch a campaign toward the same target audience or looking into a new market here are two great groups to consider when conducting research:
Your client's own database
Media companies that reach your target audience (Hint to brand-side marketers reading this: They can do the heavy lifting for you…and should!)
To quote Joe Pulizzi, founder and CEO of the Content Marketing Institute in his book Content INC, “This is such low-hanging fruit that I almost didn’t include it as a strategy. Asking your customers or potential readers seems like such a simple thing to do, but sadly it’s rarely done.”
An example of setting the foundation from the start: One client that I recently worked with is a software company looking to break into a new market. This client had content that they used to promote their product in another market and wanted to repurpose the content to the new audience.
While I — being on the media company side — saw dollar signs of revenue potentially flowing in from this client, we asked the client what kind of research did they have to back up their approach to the market? Zero was the answer I received.
After talking through the idea a bit more, the client realized they were not 100 percent certain on how best to approach a content campaign in this new market. Yes, they are experts in the markets they are currently working in, but for the new market, the client was less clear on the best ways to get their content out in front this new market.
I recommended research as the starting point to gain an understanding of:
How this new target audience gathers information on products
Where they gather that information
What kind of content do they find most engaging (e.g., webinars, whitepapers, eBooks, etc.)
The financial benefit of this approach to the client: In this example we as a media company ended up risking potential revenue dollars by recommending to the client to take a step back before launching this campaign to make sure all of their ducks were in a row.
By consulting our client to a strong foundation before launching a new content marketing campaign, we not only helped the stability of the program but helped bring in more revenue for us and the client.
Imagine if we didn’t recommend the research study and the content program had failed. Not only would that have looked bad for our client, we would have missed out on additional revenue down the road.
Here is a short list of tactics that have proven to be extremely successful when researching an audience:
Online Surveys: Surveying an audience can be extremely easy and allows you to gather insights into what the audience is interested in, depending on the direction of the survey. This is great for larger target audiences.
Focus Groups: Having an online or in-person focus group can be extremely valuable for launching content around a specific product or solution a company is considering launching. Facial expressions and tone of voice are something that cannot be analyzed in a survey, so this adds another cool level when talking with groups. This is great for smaller, more niche target audiences.
In-Depth Interviews: Similar to focus groups but on a more one-on-one basis. This is great if you want to get feedback from large clients or larger audience members such as C-suite level individuals. Their feedback and knowledge within the industry can carry a lot of weight when looking to develop certain content pieces. This is great for all aspects of size but more towards the more niche target audiences.
E-Listening: This is one of the research models we performed on the client example above. We gathered information across to web by “listening” to the audience and understanding where, what, and how the target audience is gathering their information.
Above all, remember this quote from Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”