Do you know how many choices I make when writing blog posts?
I didn’t knew so either. Until last Thursday, as I was finishing up the first draft of a blog post on social media trends for a client. And was wondering in how much detail to explain the term ‘social commerce’.
“Does my target audience already understand this term? Will I hit them over the head if I explain it? Or will they feel completely lost if I don’t?”
That’s when I realized again why creating valuable content starts with knowing who you’re writing for.
Marketing is all about delivering value nowadays
There was a time when we could tell people what problems our products could solve, come with an offer, perhaps have a couple of dentists backing us up (“9 out of every 10…”), and wait for the orders to come in.
But those are not the days anymore. People are sick and weary of ads. So marketers started relying upon the law of reciprocity, by offering valuable content, (hopefully) in exchange for trust and future purchases.
This is what the success of content marketing relies on: you build relationships with your audience by giving them valuable content for free. Although, quite frankly, I think all good marketing should invoke this.
In the meanwhile, you’re building your email list… And by the time you show up with your actual product you don’t need to do much convincing anymore, as your audience already knows you have something to offer.
Offering value: it’s harder than you think
But how do you deliver value?
Taking my example of the blog post: if I don’t explain enough it’s difficult to read, and readers won’t know what to do it. While if I explain too much, then someone has to sift through it all to find the valuable bits.
In other words: to write an effective blog post that helps my readers, I need to know what my target audience already knows. And this can depend on many factors.
In the case of my term ‘social commerce’: who would understand this, and who wouldn’t? Experienced social media marketers probably would. Any marketer in e-commerce will.
But a marketing manager at a B2B office supplies store? Or the owner of a small coffee shop in Lisbon? Probably not.
Jargon: not always a bad thing, BUT…
Jargon serves a purpose. It can help you convey in just one word a concept that would have taken you at least 20 words if you would’ve used layman’s terms.
They help you to quickly move on to higher levels of abstraction and discuss underlying patterns, rather than just concrete details.
But your audience does have to understand whatever terms you’re using. Else it’ll be hard for them to know what you’re talking about, and that’s no bueno if you want to help them.
This also counts for abbreviations, slang, and references to popular culture. They can quickly help you get on the same page. Plus it can create a sense of mutual understanding and belonging.
But if they don’t know what the heck you’re talking about, there’s a bigger chance they’ll feel like they don’t belong.
Does your audience know what the real problem is?
And it isn’t just terms and slang you should be careful with. Another mistake I’ve seen founders make is to misjudge how much their target audience knows about their problems.
A quick question: what would you type into the Google search bar if your MacBook or ThinkPad would suddenly stop working? Provided you’re not a tech wiz who can magically see through laptop cases and detect the issue.
Big chance you’ll type in “my MacBook stopped working, what’s going on??”, while frantically pulling out your hair.
Not “my MacBook’s motherboard died a slow and painful death because of that coffee I dropped on it a month ago.” Because you don’t know this yet!
And this happens with marketing products as well: you, the expert, might know the actual problem your audience has. But they might not!
So you need to make sure you know what your audience perceives to be their problem. Because else there’s little chance they’ll find you, or if they do, recognize the value you can provide.
It all starts with knowing your customers!
To do good content marketing, aka deliver value for your audience, it’s crucial to know what they know. And that starts with knowing who you’re trying to reach.
Else you risk making content they won’t understand, that confuses or bores them, or they don’t recognize as valuable.
But I know, since starting my own biz, how hard it is to narrow down your target audience and know who to write for… Let alone find out what they think!
That’s why, in my next posts, I’ll dive a bit deeper into a couple of frameworks for understanding your customers. And if you know any cool tools yerself feel free to share them as well 🙂