“Know your audience” is the communications mantra. After all, how can your message hit the mark if you’re not aiming it at a target? Of course, getting to know your audience means researching and then monitoring their demographics, psychographics, and awareness of you. That in turn, means investing in focus groups, community and industry forums, advisory committees, consultations with your field/sales reps, surveys, social media monitoring, and one-on-one interviews with buyers and influencers, just to name a few options.
It’s an understandable temptation to try to work around such a substantial outlay of time and effort by dashing off a“one size fits all” message (I’ve seen more than a couple of marketers and PR professionals succumb).
But there’s a big problem with the “one-message-for-all” approach. As PR icon Scott M. Cutlip put it, “different people receiving the same message may interpret it differently, attribute different meanings to it, and react to it in different ways.”
Here’s a quick example from the book Cutlip co-authored, Effective Public Relations. It cited classic Yale studies that revealed that the first part of a message has the greatest effect on recipients with low initial interest while the last part of the message has the greatest effect on those with high initial interest. So, if you sent people who were already very interested in your offer a message in which the hardest-hitting component was up front (which works for low-initial-interest recipients), you’d actually water down the desired outcome. That would be such a waste!
Here are a few more ways in which audience research and monitoring can enhance your writing:
Developing Marketing Personas
One benefit of researching your customers and potential customers is that it helps you develop marketing personas (also called buyer personas) to help you better target your messaging. Personas are fictional characters that represent different segments of your audience. It’s much easier to figure out what details to include/exclude and what slant your message should have when you’re writing to a specific“person” with a particular set of attributes, interests, and pain points.
For example, suppose one of your personas is the CMO of a large B2C corporation who is striving to nurture both creative and analytical talents within her marketing team, balance an ever-increasing load of responsibilities, and prove that her marketing has a positive effect on tangible business outcomes. You’d most likely show how your offer enhances the desired talents or abilities within the team and/or measurably affects key performance indicators.
The example above is a rough suggestion of a marketing persona. Creating one is a more involved process, and depending on your customer/client base, you’ll need to develop anywhere from three to 11 personas.
Engaging and Responding via Social Media
According to Pew Research, 74 percent of adult Internet users were using social networking sites as of January 2014. That means that your clients/customers are most likely on a social network, so it’s a good idea to figure what platform(s) they’re on so that you can monitor their conversations and comments.
Seeing what your prospects and buyers post on social media may aid market research by helping you gain additional insights about their inclinations, concerns, locations, and attitudes toward your organization and products/services, all of which may help you refine your message. Additionally, you can use social platforms to engage customers and prospects in conversations and respond promptly to any complaints, potentially strengthening their relationship with your organization. This tactic gives you the opportunity to show a wider audience your organization’s dedication to customers and their satisfaction while you allay the issue or complaint.
Adapting Copy to Buyer Points in the Sales Funnel
Actually, I’m going to use the term purchase path rather than sales funnel since many experts agree that the linear concept of a sales funnel no longer applies to the convoluted path many buyers take to an actual purchase. But whatever term you use, what remains true that people on the verge of purchasing from you want a different message than individuals who have just become aware of you.
Hubspot recommends tracking the channel and campaign that brought a lead to your website as well as capturing the relevant search keywords as one measure for gauging and accommodating that lead’s initial interest.
While Hubspot was referencing their CRM system, you can acquire most of this information through free tools such as Google Analytics. It may not be possible to track every potential buyer, even online, but you should devise a qualifying process that gives you some sense of when someone is moving closer to buying from you.
Since the length and complexity of the purchase path depends on your organization and your product/service, I’m just sharing a few general guidelines for the type of copy/content that you should aim for at the various points of the purchase path.
When you are first attracting prospective buyers’ attention, it’s best to avoid a lot of self-promotion. Instead, offer something that makes their life better in some way whether that’s helping them solve a problem, enhance an advantage they have, entertain them, etc. Prospects who are midway to buying from you (e.g., they’ve probably given you some information that can help you determine if you’re a good fit) want to know if you’re the best solution to their problem or need. At this point, you’d tell them why your products or services would be the best choice. In the final stage of the path, you’d probably offer a free trial, a discount, or whatever you think will nudge your potential buyer into action. If your purchase path represents a relatively short trip, you could make these offers on one or more of your social platforms, or include them in newsletters (those publications will go to people at various points of the purchase path).
You should also look at how many leads and customers you gained from previous initiatives or offers in order to get an idea of what type of copy or content has moved the needle for you previously. If you can build on and refine what’s worked before, you make things easier for yourself and increase your chances for success.