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How to turn your target audience into a real audience

Published Mar 15, 2024 – By Jane Douglas


If your content is talking to everyone, the chances are it’s speaking to no one.

That’s why organisations invest so much in personalised content that targets specific groups at different parts of the buyer journey.

Companies spend precious time and money researching their target audiences. They know who is involved in the buying journey, they understand their different pain points and motivations; maybe they have buyer personas.

For companies wanting to dig even deeper, tech and market research companies offer data on specific audience segments, revealing social media habits, which channels they use to research new B2B products and more.

All that valuable insight is mapped against the marketing funnel and used to inspire content ideas and inform channel choice.

If done well, the content that emerges from this research will generate a decent audience and maybe even a community. They will arrive by search, social, backlink or email. They will arrive because you’ve created content they want to consume. You’ve understood the challenges they face, or you’ve said something that speaks to a cultural or audience truth. They will gain brand awareness and be driven down the marketing funnel.

Where did it all go wrong?

But, over time, content marketing strategies can lose their edge. Target audience insights can be forgotten during long-running content programmes.

They get buried under the sediment of new priorities, such as fresh messaging, or are lost with key people moving on to other roles. Maybe there simply isn’t the budget to create content for each different target audience segment. Or perhaps the target audience research is ignored in favour of insight from conversations with direct contacts who paint a more vivid and urgent, but perhaps incomplete picture of your intended audience – even seasoned journalists are guilty of that.

The thought leadership audience trap

With thought leadership in particular, audience segmentation and targeting can be side-lined. The temptation is to think your brilliant, big-think idea will appeal to the full bucket list of bigwigs you’d like to influence – media, government, the c-suite. If the idea is big enough, then it just might. But for the most part, these groups have different interests, pain points and motivations, and no time for content that doesn’t get straight to the point that’s relevant to them.

It’s not just attention spans that are working against generic content, it’s algorithms too.

It’s not just attention spans that are working against generic content, it’s algorithms too. LinkedIn, arguably the home of B2B thought leadership, favours content that is aimed at the right audience, not lots of people. Indeed, that was a major part of its June 2023 algorithm update.

So how can you stop your content strategy from going off course and retain your audience?

Four habits to turn audience insight into a real audience 

Whatever the reason for forgetting or ignoring your target audience analysis, the reasons for remembering it are better.

Here are four habits that content teams can adopt to make sure all that research pays off.

1. Think about distribution before format 

It’s surprising how often distribution is an afterthought in long-running content programmes. Thinking strategically about distribution for each piece of content will keep your core objectives and buyer personas front of mind.

You might know what topic needs covering for a particular segment of your audience, but how do you expect them to find your content? Is your objective to bring in new customers through search and social? Or speak to current customers already on an email marketing list?

If it’s new customers, you’ll of course want to do some keyword research. But the targeting opportunities on social platforms sometimes get forgotten. LinkedIn, for example, lets you target to a huge degree of detail – not just job titles and industry, but member interests based on the kind of content they have engaged with on the social media platform. That’s an incredible opportunity to map your audience personas on to real people.

Influencer marketing is also an increasingly popular way to reach a targeted audience, with 75% of B2B marketers actively using this approach, according to a report by Ogilvy.

But targeted advertising on social and influencer marketing costs money. So which segments of the audience do you want to invest in most right now?

How you answer those questions will determine your format priorities – an SEO-friendly format or a really engaging piece of social content targeted at a priority audience.

By thinking about distribution before you create each piece of content you will have healthy regard for your audience priorities and all the research you have invested in. You will also create the right content for the right platform, keeping your audience engaged.

2. Shout it from the rooftops

If you have audience personas, a well-mapped marketing funnel and data coming out of your ears, then don’t keep it to yourself. Everyone involved in your marketing should have this insight at their fingertips.

That means your agencies too. Your agency should be using it as a springboard for creative. If you don’t have this insight they should be helping you create it.

Your agency will only be able to create content that engages your audience if they get to know them. There are other ways for us to do that, but audience research can be golden for building successful content programmes that keep customers coming back.

3. Keep it fresh

So often target audience research lives in a PDF in a folder somewhere when it should be continually evolving. Your personas should be living documents, like the people they represent. They need updating when someone from sales gives you a new titbit, or an interview with an ideal customer adds depth to your understanding. But there are many ways to keep your research current:

  • Social media polls are a great way to gauge audience sentiment on emerging topics or important themes.
  • Analytics will tell you which topics or types of content are driving the most interest.
  • Being part of the community you are serving will also help you keep your content relevant. Do some social listening, take part in LinkedIn groups, relevant conferences and events, speak to existing customers and a target customer or two, and cultivate diverse perspectives from inside your organisation.

    These habits will not only keep your audience insight relevant, it will also keep it front of mind.

    4. Do your washing up regularly

    It’s important to have regular wash-up meetings to learn from what you’ve produced.

    Content teams can use analytics to gauge whether the subject matter, format, tone and headline worked hard enough. Did your content get social engagement? Did people find it easily on search? How long did people spend watching or reading? When did their interest in the piece drop off? Did the format hold people’s attention? Did the storytelling resonate with this target market?

    No one wants to look at the ugly figures. The stats that say the content you spent weeks collectively crafting didn’t pull in decent results. But look at them you must, or they will cost you more in the long term.

    Through this process you will sharpen your craft and learn what engages your audience. And you can use those learnings to build on your buyer persona research.

    Ultimately, though, there is one fail-safe method for turning that target audience into a real audience – producing content that people want to consume.

    With each idea your team suggests, ask if it passes the so-what test. Why does your audience care about that? Is your angle fresh? Does it tell your audience something they need to know? Will it grab their attention on social? Does it help you achieve an SEO objective for a specific target audience?

    If the answer is yes, then your target audience should turn into a real audience. Keep up the four habits above and that audience should stick around, giving you a return on your marketing efforts.

    To find out how Wardour can help you reach your target audience, email hello@wardour.co.uk.

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