Insights about your target segments should drive content development.
By: Richard Sine
You’ve got your content factory up and running, product is being pushed out the door, you know your platforms and channels in-side and out. But how do you know your content is what your audience wants to see? It might be time for some good old-fashioned research.
“Most content marketing talk these days centers around execution—what channels or platforms are you going to use, the benefits of new technologies like tablets and mobile, the importance of getting out con-tent in ‘real time,’ and the like,” says Marcie Avram, a content marketing strategist based in New York. “What’s left out of the discussion is where it needs to begin: developing insights about your target segments.”
Marketing 101 dictates the need to customize your message to the audience. But content marketing, especially when paired with digital, just turbocharges the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of segmentation and targeting. Almost every customer interaction can provide insights, and each piece of content provides an opportunity to take advantage of them.
The customer base can be segmented along lines such as lifestyle, behavior, and interests, notes Linda Willis, director of Strategy and Insights for Meredith Integrated Marketing. Interest can be particularly valuable for shaping content development. Customer value, on the other hand, can impact the decision on which content platform to utilize. Meredith builds analytical models that use current customer information to estimate each customer’s lifetime value to the company. Individuals with a higher life-time value might receive, say, a costly print catalogue or magazine, while lower-value customers would receive their content digitally.
Willis estimates that Meredith depends on as many as 50 different sources for segment insights, including its clients’ own research, studies by consumer trend companies such as Roper, and proprietary research that Meredith conducts for its clients focused on their own customers. It also culls insights from consumer panels, cross-references customer databases to glean detailed demographic and psychographic data about individuals, and tracks website usage when permitted.
Media companies that combine trade or consumer publications and custom marketing divisions have a powerful segmenting tool in their own subscription database. SourceMedia, which publishes more than two dozen trade publications in ᰀnancial services and technology, delivers custom content to subscribers who have opted-in. Many of its publications serve highly speciᰀc audiences, so the audience is already well segmented, though there is still the opportunity for sub-segmenting or personalization. SourceMedia also taps its subscribers for ongoing panels, creating an online community to facilitate dialogue and research, says Julian Orbon, head of SourceMedia’s Marketing Services Group.
SourceMedia’s custom media division also does a lot of segmentation and targeting that’s unrelated to its subscription base. For a large financial services company with three brands, SourceMedia produced a digital magazine aimed at the company’s agents. Each brand’s magazine featured a different cover, illustrating each brand’s own agents. Inside, the content varied depending on the gender of the agent and the investing style and wealth level of that agent’s clients.
Increasingly, targeting isn’t an art but a science, as marketers have hard data about individual characteristics. Still, adds Avram, some marketers give it scant attention as they rush content onto new platforms or strive to get noticed on search engines. “Any program can only be as effective as the insights on which it is based,” she says. “Research-based insights allow you to deliver content that is engaging as it delivers on brand objectives.”