Content marketing: Are you treating your customers like you truly know them?

I grew up helping my dad in the kitchen. When I was 8 years old, I was finally allowed to use a knife. I was so excited. I remember standing on my stool and holding the knife exactly like dad showed me. I looked at him and said, “Dad, how should I cut the carrots?” 

My dad replied, “You know what dish we are making. So what should they look like when you put them in your mouth?” 

Clearly my dad was trying to teach me to make my decisions. But he was also doing something else: content personalization.

He would never have given the same response to my mother or an older relative. He would have said, “For this dish, please cut them into small circles.”   

In our everyday lives, we naturally show the people we know that we understand them by customizing how we talk to them. We tell the same story differently to our siblings than we do to our friends than we do to our significant others. We personalize it to each type of audience. 

For great content marketing, shouldn’t we also do that for our customers? 

Take the buyer persona one step further

I think about this experience with my dad often when I write marketing content. While the majority of marketers are aware of their buyer personas, are they showing true understanding and empathy for their clients? 

To better understand their prospects, some organizations refer to the buyer persona map as a buyer empathy map instead. I prefer this version, because it goes deeper than most buyer personas. It asks the marketer to think about what the client does in his or her spare time. Some companies go as far as to think about what types of TV shows clients watch or genre of music to which they listen. These details can really inform a good content marketing strategy.

To do this well, we as marketers need to know our clients. The best way to develop a buyer empathy map is by direct interaction with clients. Many marketers rely on input from sales. While this input can be helpful, nothing replaces time spent directly with your customers. The result, a thorough buyer empathy map, will be worth the effort. If you’re short on time or unable to spend time with clients, here are some other ways to capture customer questions.

Focus on the buyer experience

I see more and more research about the importance of the buyer experience. Yes, people want or need to buy products and services, but they also want a great experience with their chosen brand. Knowing absolutely as much as you can about your prospects enables you to create personalized content marketing for a better experience through the buyer journey. 

For example, for a company selling almonds, mothers might want to see content about nutrition, while on-the-go millennials might want content about ease of transport, and people who love to cook might want recipe ideas. Each buyer segment wants to experience your brand differently and know that you understand them enough to personalize the content they see. 

You may be reading this and thinking, “So what? I’ve got my buyer personas done, and things are just fine.” 

But are they? 

Research continues to show that customers want brands to understand them. And that means companies must personalize their content to succeed. Accenture reports that 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience.

Despite that, 60% of marketers struggle to personalize content in real time, even though 77% of believe it is critical to do so. 

 You can have empathetic, personalized content

If you truly know your potential buyers, down to their likes, dislikes and entertainment preferences, you can deliver personalized content that shows your buyers you really understand them. 

First, remember that while your tone can vary, your company voice must remain constant. To ensure you deliver a clear, consistent message to all of your buyers, start with a Message Map

Once you have you Message Map, you can color code it by buyer persona. This activity helps your content marketing because you can customize your message for each buyer segment while keeping consistent with your company’s overall message and voice. 

Content marketing: Treat your customers like you truly know them

Next, segment your marketing lists by buyer persona as well. This way, you can create separate nurture streams for each buyer type. While this may sound time-consuming, there are a number of tools available to help set up automated nurture streams that serve the right content to the right buyer. 

Make sure you think beyond email campaigns and incorporate other tactics into your lead nurturing strategy. Paid retargeting, which enables you to “follow” your clients on the web and serve them consistent, personalized content, can be a cost-effective way to get qualified leads. 

Then, of course, you must actually personalize your content for each segment. The key is to show them you really understand, and empathize, with them by helping them through the buyer journey in a way that resonates with them. The best way to do this is by revisiting your existing content, rather than starting from scratch. This saves you time and the key messages should already be included. If possible, ensure your content will resonate by testing it with current clients. You don’t need to do this with every piece of content; just the first few to ensure you’ve gotten the tone right. 

Artificial intelligence can save you time

Worrying about the time it may take to deliver personalized content to your clients and prospects? Artificial intelligence (AI) can help. These days, there are many AI tools that can help you much more quickly and accurately personalize content. 

AI works by enabling computers to mimic some, but not all, human behavior. Once the computers learn this behavior, they can do simple tasks much more quickly than humans. 

Even without AI, many marketing automation platforms can help you personalize your content and create specific nurture streams for each buyer segment. 

In short, showing your target buyers that you understand their wants and needs will help you win and keep customers. Taking the time to make both a buyer empathy map and a Message Map will provide benefits in the longer term. 

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