It’s 1996. You’re Bill Gates. What’s on your mind? Interactive multimedia content, the kind made possible by the Internet. Revolutionary content that would transform the Internet into “a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content.”
Fast forward to 2013 and new content is being created, curated, and shared worldwide at record speed. But many organizations using content creation as marketing strategy still ignore one of Gates’ other nuggets of wisdom:
“If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will.”
This is a content strategy: rewarding customers with deep, up-to-date content that’s relevant to their interests. How to get there? If content is king, then old-fashioned market segmentation is queen.
Rewarding customers—their needs, their desires, their concerns—with what’s on the screen starts with segmentation.
Consumers already self-segment online. They’re increasingly using social networks to “see” what other people like them are doing, what decisions they’re making, and what the results are, posting on Facebook to ask for recommendations.
Why? Do we really believe our hundreds of Facebook “friends” are experts on everything from glass baby bottles to buying a new car?
The truth is that we don’t care. It’s tough making decisions, and even tougher when decisions get bigger or more expensive. In a world of information overload, the more we can block out unnecessary or irrelevant input, the easier decisions become. One way to do this is to use familiarity, or social closeness, as a gauge. We implicitly trust someone we know—even though we met her once at a party 10 years ago—and attach greater weight to her opinions.
This doesn’t seem like a great tool for making important decisions. But it makes sense in a way marketers can understand: We assume the people we know are similar to us in some way. That means we have a higher level of confidence that the information coming from our social networks is relevant to us and our decisions.
By segmenting your customers, you are increasing the odds that the information you’re generating for target customers will make the cut. A useful market segment is one that hits the sweet spot, where customers receive maximum value from your product and the company makes maximum profit from sales to that segment.
Ideally, segments should be made up of customers that respond in a very similar way to your marketing efforts, and who respond differently than other customers (in other segments). These differences form the basis for your content marketing strategy.
Different customers respond to your marketing efforts differently based on a broad range of variables: demographic, geographic, and psychographic. Somewhere within each segment, there’s an ideal customer for whom your product, service, or specialty is the ideal solution. To execute your content strategy, bring these ideal customers to life by creating buyer personas.
Buyer personas flesh out the key factors that differentiate segments from each other. Think of creating buyer personas like you’d describe the conversation you had last night with “the most interesting man in the world.”:
Now that you’ve created the most interesting buyer personas in the world, you can begin to know them better. If you hit the mark, your organization’s content can stand in for a friend’s opinion on Facebook, or an online review. Your videos and photos can speak directly to the right customers, offering the visual proof that’s most beneficial for the way each customer segment makes buying decisions.
The more you know about your target customers — through research, meaningful segmentation and vibrant buyer personas — the more you can reward them with content that fits their needs, solves their problems, and positions your organization as a trusted member of their social network.
As the Content Marketing Manager for eCornell, Paralee Walls spends most of her time wrangling and publishing awesome content in everything from Marketing to Hotel Real Estate to Plant-Based Nutrition. Before moving to Ithaca, NY, she designed online Spanish learning programs and went snowboarding every winter morning in the Colorado Rockies. Connect with her on Twitter, Google+, & LinkedIn.