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The Science of Content Marketing: Know Your Segments

Too many businesses approach content marketing as an art: they have a dude (or lady, no hatin’) whose job it is to be inspired, come up with awesome content, and make it fit their keywords of choice and possibly the websites they’re trying to outreach toward.  That’s all well and good, but it misses the single most fundamental purpose of content marketing: to appeal to your market segments.

Market Segments 101 in Three Sentences
A ‘market segment’ is a group of people that your company knows is actually out there that has a reason to buy from your company. Almost every product appeals to multiple different market segments. Part of the job of your marketing department is figuring out how to create individualized messages that will reach and influence your market segments to buy.

You Already Have Market Segments
This isn’t a paper on how to figure out what your market segments are. If you haven’t done that already, as part of your previous marketing efforts or even as a part of creating your first product or service, you’re insanely lucky to have succeeded thus far. Do it now. Hire a marketing expert to help you. It’ll help.

Your Goals
Before you start writing anything for content marketing purposes, you need to know:

  • What segment you’re going to be targeting
  • What that segment uses your product for
  • What other things (unrelated to your product) are universal to that segment
  • What other products that segment might use in place of yours, and
  • What problems they’ll have if they’re currently not using anything like your product

If you don’t know these things, it’s time to take action and start getting to know your segment.

How to Commune with your Segment — Locally
Pick a segment to target if you haven’t already, and find them. That’s the most difficult part — you can almost always find a community online somewhere, but how representative of your actual segment is that community? If your audience is local, or your product is often used by people who aren’t generally the Internet-centric type, looking to message boards or Hangouts is a bad idea.

So don’t be afraid to go local. Find a store that sells the kinds of thing that segment buys, and ask around — the staff probably has some pretty good ideas of where their clientele can be found when they’re not buying. (Or just hang out at the store and listen!) Go to a class at a community college focused on the kinds of subjects they pay attention to.  Find literally anything that your segment does regularly, and go there and do it with them — and listen as they talk.

Yes, this is an extraordinary level of effort — but what do you want, a normal level of results? If you want to win, you have to do something that no one else is doing — go a step further than anyone else goes.  (Of course, if your segment is largely Internet-centric and has a large presence online, you can do what you likely already do best and go hang out and swap wind over the Web.)

Your Goals, Take II
As you talk, listen, and hang out with the people from your segment, do it with an eye on your goals, above. Especially the third and fifth point — these are going to be your chief inspirations for your content. When you can close your eyes and rattle off a dozen things that your segment does entirely independently of your company and three ideas for content about each of those things and also come up with seven reasons why your product is better than nothing (and a few why it’s better than your major competition)…that’s when you’re ready to actually sit down and create new content.

Anything you do before that is shooting blind.

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