May 29 2012

Secrets to More Relevant Content Marketing

Category: contentTom Shivers


An interview with J Rich Wilson of Innovar Collective

In your whitepaper: Secrets to Creating Content for Buyer Personas, what do you mean by granular segmentation of content?

The Marketing world is overly nostalgic. Sitting at the head of ad agencies and marketing organizations are people who made their careers by crafting the most relevant message to the broadest possible audience. They became skilled at finding the common thread, however thin, amongst tens of thousands of people. This was done because the media at the time was extremely limited in its ability to speak directly to the individual need.

In the years since broadband adoption has become an expected and inseparable part of daily life, there has been a slow-motion arms race between customers and marketers. I remember working for a digital ad agency in 2005 and attempting to launch an early blog project aimed at a niche audience, only to find the audience didn’t know what the heck a newfangled blog-thingey was. We spent a lot of money on a small segment that wasn’t ready for the channel. In those early days of digital, marketers who took big chances on one-to-one communications were disappointed more often than rewarded with cover stories in Ad Age magazine. This had a chilling effect on a lot of agencies and their clients in terms of investing heavily in more individualized communications. This isn’t to say it didn’t happen, but it was a smaller part of the budget as corporate toes gauged the water’s temperature.

Things changed drastically after the crash of 2008. Wall Street may have been terrorized by a financial Black Swan, but Madison Avenue was certainly marred by the big bird’s droppings. Marketing budgets evaporated, especially the media budgets. The Don Drapers of the world suddenly found a pesky bean counter looking over his shoulder whispering a constant, “show me the ROI.” When the accountants and analysts finished pouring through the data, they found their audiences more receptive to less expensive digital media. They looked to Google’s countless special interest blogs. They watched SAP deliver unbelievable volumes of content to their developer network. They all watched and wondered how they could get a piece of the pie.

From my perspective, this was the beginning of the great shift towards knowing and understanding the customer and delivering more relevant content. In most companies I work with, we find we can splinter an existing audience segment into 10 new segments based on the type of media they prefer to consume. New segments pop out of where they are in the buying process or whether there is a propensity to share useful information across social networks. Every time we splinter off a new segment, we gain an opportunity to create a whole new track of content. This means new white papers chopped into new blog posts promoted by new videos. The more specific we can get, the better return we see on the investment. Marketing today is all about breaking boulders into rocks, rocks into gravel and gravel into sand. Hence, granular content.

How do you identify new buyer personas who are worthy of a more refined segment of content?

With all the new data streams available to marketers, there are countless ways to do this. I doubt if all of them have been identified. “Big Data” is a rapidly emerging industry designed to address this and a host of other issues. Instead of picking the best way, I would find a good place to start – knowing full well that it is a constantly evolving process.

First, make sure that the audience you are addressing represents the greatest opportunity for revenue. Look at your sales data, your account service costs, returns or other information to see which group of customers are the most profitable. We sometimes find that 20% of a companies customers make up 50% of the overall profits. Simply looking at revenue isn’t enough, the costs associated with this revenue must be taken into account.

Once you have identified the most profitable segment of your existing customers, start looking at what they have in common. You will likely find significant commonalities. The trick is to balance what they have in common with what makes them unique. Think of it like a tree. You have a main trunk that represents the commonalities that allow you to craft a value proposition. Differences like media preference, geography or other behavioral information make up the branches from this trunk. Not new trees, just subsets of the original segment.

Don’t forget to go through a persona exercise. Turning market segments into personas allow you to humanize the data set. Give the segment a representative name, find out what he/she reads or how they will vote in the next election. These softer points will allow you to craft more relevant content.

How do you identify new buyer personas who are worthy of a more refined segment of content?

This is the tricky part for most companies. In a perfect world, one would take a closer look at the existing sales data. Just because one customer segment makes up 30% of revenue, doesn’t mean it will end up as 30% of profit. One group of customers may be more expensive to maintain than others. There are countless reasons why money in doesn’t always end up as money kept. So, the first step is to recognize that the segment you are targeting is worthy of becoming a key persona for targeting.

Next, take a look at the performance metrics of your existing media, if it exists. Can you determine that the segment you have identified as the most potentially profitable is the one that consumes the media you’ve released to the world? The answer is generally no at this point, unless you already have a robust content marketing regimen in place with different media targeting distinct segments. A good way to test this out is through PPC ads.

Can you share an example?

We can’t talk about specific clients per our contractual agreements.

However, I can tell you that most ad agencies don’t have the data wonks needed to get a good view of the sales and performance data needed to identify a good segment that can then be developed into a solid persona. Furthermore, the old persona model is outdated. It rarely includes details behavioral information.

Download the whitepaper: Secrets to Creating Content for Buyer Personas

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