When it comes to marketing, there's a lot of clutter.
The online content tracking tool Worldometers shows how many blog posts have been published in a given day. By noon, the number is in the millions, and you can watch in real time as it climbs even higher.
In addition to blog posts, your customers see a flood of marketing every day: logos, commercials, banner ads, websites and emails. Because there is so much to notice, most of it ultimately gets ignored.
Joe Pulizzi, the expert behind the Content Marketing Institute and author of "Epic Content Marketing" (McGraw-Hill Education, 2013), warns businesses against becoming part of the clutter. "If you are creating content for... a broad audience, you'll never be relevant enough to be of value to them," he said to Business News Daily. "In other words, it will be a big waste of time."
If, however, your marketing is written to address the concerns of a single target customer, it cuts through the clutter, becoming interesting and relevant to the people who need your product.
"The more niche the better, always," Pulizzi said.
[Don't make these content marketing mistakes.]
Developing an ideal customer profile
To write for your target customer, you need to understand who that person is by developing an ideal customer profile. This profile is a detailed description of the single person you are speaking to. This keeps your writing focused and your marketing as relevant as possible.
To create your customer profile, start with broad demographic information, such as age, gender and marital status. You may already know this information from your business plan, or you can discover it from your website, social media analytics and purchasing data.
"Write down specifics ... such as, 'Women [who] enjoy hiking, ages 24 to 35,' then think about other variables," said Emily Sidley, senior director of publicity at Three Girls Media Inc., of crafting an ideal customer profile. "Does she live in a specific region? What is her income like? In addition to hiking, does she like related activities like camping? Where does she get her news? What does she read for fun? By asking questions like these, you can create a detailed profile."
This profile will help you understand your target's needs, which will shape how and what you write. In its final version, a target customer profile is a detailed story in which your target is the main character facing a problem and your company is the solution.
For example, a profile of the target customer that Sidley described could read like this:
Diana Young is a 31-year-old African-American woman who lives in the U Street neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and bikes to work at an environmental nonprofit. Her job often requires overnight trips to other major cities in the U.S. to speak with partners and donors. She is unmarried and doesn't have kids, and the area where she lives and works is expensive. Diana likes spending time outdoors and often goes hiking with friends on the weekends when she isn't traveling. She also takes short trips to see family when she can. She likes clothing brands like Everlane and reads both fashion and design blogs.
Since working for a nonprofit means a lower income than she could make in the private sector, Diana doesn't have a lot of wiggle room in her budget. She needs a single travel backpack that can hold the essentials for a short trip and feel comfortable for a day of hiking. Because she lives in a small city apartment and doesn't want lots of bags taking up space in her home, she needs one backpack that looks sleek enough for professional travel and is tough enough for a day outdoors. She can't afford premium prices, but environmental is important to her, so she's willing to pay a little extra for a bag that's sustainably made.
Using your ideal customer profile
Once you know who your business' target customer is, you can write in a way that speaks directly to that person.
If Diana is your target, her profile tells you what elements of your product to emphasize on your website. Words like sleek, versatile, compact, comfortable, affordable, quality, durable, ethical and sustainable will all show that your business understands her problem and can help solve it. You can use these to write product descriptions, video scripts, email headlines and ads.
Your target customer's profile can also help you with content marketing, such as blog or social media posts.
"Before you create any content, ask yourself, 'What is my main message? How will this appeal to my target customer?'" Sidley said. "The main focus in all marketing needs to remain the target customer. How will you connect with them in a meaningful way that will make them choose your business over another?"
For example, Diana's interests include travel, hiking, fashion, design and sustainability. Knowing this can help you write posts for her, rather than for a generic audience. Post topics based on Diana's profile could include the following:
- Top Hiking Destinations Around Washington, D.C., and What to Pack for Each One
- The 10 Pieces You Need to Create an Ethical Travel Wardrobe
- Stuck at the Airport? Check Out These Sustainable Design Blogs
By writing in a way that appeals directly to Diana's interests, you create posts that will show up when she searches for those topics online. This will lead her directly to your website and introduce her to the new solution to her problem: your products.
It is possible to have multiple customer profiles that your different products or services address. But each one should be equally specific, and the marketing language you use should be different for each target customer.
"Focus on one audience at a time," Pulizzi said. "If you have three types of customers, you should be talking with only one at a time."
This takes more work than many business expect, Pulizzi warned: "Too many small business dabble… Try to build your audience doing that one thing better than anyone else and don't get seduced into producing more content just because you feel you should."
Sidley agreed. "Too many businesses underestimate the investment," she said. "It takes a lot of time and energy to understand your target customer [and] regularly craft quality content."
But the investment pays off when your targeted writing helps you stand out from the advertising clutter and connect directly with the customers most in need of your product.