5 Steps to Develop an Audience-First Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing. . . marketers still aren't getting it right! Done right, content marketing distributes valuable, relevant content to ideal audiences. The purpose? To build relationships with current and potential customers, and keep them.

But consumers are fed up.

When engaging with the right audience, content marketing shouldn't feel like marketing. You see, consumer attention is limited. Audiences will only engage with the content that aligns with their interests and passions. Content that fits into their lives and newsfeeds seamlessly. Content that provides value and doesn't feel like an interruption.

Without in-depth audience insights, content marketing will still feel like marketing. . . exactly what audiences don't want.

So how do marketers stop sounding like marketers?

The marketers that get it right use an audience-first approach. Instead of building content and then finding the audience, marketers who take an audience-first approach flip this process.

Here are the 5 steps you need to develop an audience-first content marketing strategy

1. Pick an Interest-Based Audience Segment

The first step when creating an effective content marketing strategy is to choose an ideal audience segment you want to focus on. Audiences today are more diverse than ever. Brands attract numerous audience segments with varying interests, passions, and lifestyles. Content marketers must understand that each audience segment requires different communications.

For example, using Affinio data, we analyzed the audience of a top outdoor clothing and gear brand. The data visualisation of the audience and its naturally-forming audience clusters is shown below. While we can infer that the audience members are fans of the outdoors, they are not one-dimensional individuals. They are fans of the outdoors and something else.

The lesson here is age old: one size does not fit all and what will resonate with each segment is different. Would you present the same advertisement or content to a surfer as you would a skier? As you can see in the data visualization, they are two distinc communities with few other shared interests.

2. Understand That Segment Intimately

Once you’ve chosen an audience segment of focus, it's time to get to know that audience intimately. What makes them tick?

Getting to know your audience is easier said than done. By using a data science platform like Affinio, marketers can discover valuable insights in only a few hours. Insights such as:

What are their favourite brands?
Who influences them most? Celebrities? Athletes? YouTubers?
What are they key interests?
How do they self-describe?
What content do they trust and where do they get it? Blogs? News?

With these audience insights, marketers are able to tailor their efforts and create content unique to this segment.

3. Immerse Yourself In Their Culture

As shared in the article, This is the age of the audience, "The way brands will flourish is by learning to swim in the natural element of the audience."

Audiences are constantly changing. With news apps, media channels, and trends continually emerging, marketers must be able to connect with their audience at the speed of culture.

In marketing and advertising, context is everything. Marketers must live and breathe and and feel the pulse of audiences. So watch, listen, and follow relevant brands and influencers that your audience is interested in. In other words, do your homework and explore their culture.

4. Amplify Your Content on the Right Channels

While your content may be stellar, you still need to get it in front of the right people. Whether your goal is to reach current customers, or find new ones, Affinio can identify what domains and channels are popular with your ideal audience segment.

5. Forget Vanity Metrics

One mistake marketers make when developing content marketing strategies is getting hung up on the vanity metrics. What I mean to say is, marketers and brands alike don’t need to chase big Likes, retweets, etc. When using an audience-first approach, your goals are to identify, resonate with, and attract the right audience. The new standard of measurement should be the value of your audience and who exists within it. It’s the age-old matter of quality versus quantity. By the way, quality wins.

I’ll leave you with this, content marketing isn’t disappearing. However, to ensure your content doesn’t disappear in the shuffle requires homework. By taking an audience-first approach to content marketing, marketers will ensure that their resources aren’t wasted and that their content is valuable and relevant.