Why Audience Segmentation Will Save Your Content Marketing Program From Failure

Reliable, sound and detailed insights about your audience predicates a high performing content marketing program. Without access to this mission critical information, we lack the necessary data to make informed decisions that will result in meaningful interactions with our customers.

Imagine an interior designer creating a theme for your new house without understanding your vision or taste. How would you feel about your investment advisor allocating your money without first learning about your goals or appetite for risk. Would you allow your travel agent to book you on a trip not knowing about your interests in rest, activity or adventure?

Likely not, so why would you treat your content marketing program any differently? Without detailed insights about your audiences, what they like to read, where they like to read and how that impacts their decisions relative to your brand, you are unable to build a customer-centric editorial strategy.

For most of us who are active content marketers, we have dealt with the perplexing challenge of building predictability into the content creation process. Have you ever wondered why a particular piece of content performs exceptionally well one week and something similar on the surface completely bombs the following week?

Our natural response would be to assume that there was something flawed about the editorial nature of the second piece of content. What if the challenge was further compounded by the notion that you are speaking to multiple audience segments and you mistimed the publishing period, reaching the completely incorrect target?

As an example, at Atomic Reach our audience consists of bloggers, publishers and content marketers. All are in the business of producing high-quality and relevant content, but their needs from the information we provide or stories we tell are quite different. As such, if those two pieces of content were both written for publishers but we pushed the second article to a place and time when bloggers are interacting with us, then of course it will fail regardless of the content's quality.

Furthermore, the notion that our target segments represent groups of buyers reflecting multiple classifications complicates the challenge.

Consider an interior designer trying to segment on a demographic basis when it is plausible that a first time home buyer in their early 20s may have the exact same taste as a third time home buyer in their early 40s. That is not to say that demographic data is not valuable. When used conjointly, demographic information is a critical part of the targeting and segmentation mix, but in isolation communicates just part of the story.

For marketers, psychographics provide a useful layer of information. Psychographic analysis is the practice of “classifying population groups according to psychological variables (as attitudes, values, or fears)”.

Demographics tell you a little about the who and psychographics tell you a little about the why. From a content marketing perspective the story is still incomplete.

We make dozens of choices daily, many initiated in response to questions being asked of service providers who are able to cater to our needs because they have invested the time to understand who we are and what we seek.

Consider three individuals in a technology retail store, each interested in purchasing a laptop (I know, why are they in a store and not buying online?) but let’s put that aside for now.

Buyer one is a 21-year old male artist, feels that hardware design is important and is starting a career in graphic design. He is a first time buyer and the volume of choices is overwhelming. For this exercise let’s assume that buyer one is a Suspect and will take time researching before he decides on a laptop.

Buyer two is a 23-year old female, is also an artist, started taking graphic design seriously as a teenager, cares about hardware performance over everything, is an experienced designer and is not as price sensitive as buyer one. She knows a lot about technology and has very specific buying needs in mind. She is ready to purchase, making her a well-informed opportunity.

Buyer three is a 40-year old male, a senior business development executive at an advertising agency, feels that hardware design is important, is price conscious, wants a light-weight, high performance machine, but is not very technically inclined. He too is information seeking and equally confused by the overwhelming number of choices as buyer one. While the data suggests that he is in the same category as buyer one, his age (demographics), tastes and needs (psychographics) demonstrate that he likely fits into a completely different segment.

Interactions in these circumstances are inherently more successful than an online environment, resulting from the nature of the physical context:

face to face. By asking a few basic questions, the sales representative can quickly assess the buyers’ needs and determine where they are in the purchase cycle and the appropriate course of action.

Imagine what could be accomplished from a content marketing and targeting perspective if you had access to information of this nature. At Atomic Reach we refer to this data layer as Audience Sophistication. While we believe that traditional data sets are important, we prioritize audience sophistication over everything when developing our content marketing and targeting strategies.

For those new to the practice, Audience Sophistication stratification is a science, analyzing and grouping your respective audiences based on the sophistication levels at which they engage with your content. As an example, we map our audience across four different sophistication levels:

  • General
  • Knowledgeable
  • Specialist
  • Academic

Based on the analysis of their level of knowledge relative to the content we are producing, we worry less about the demographic data. This is because we learned that when it comes to content consumption ones age or gender does not have any bearing on the level of knowledge one might have. Furthermore, we are able to map sophistication bands to our sales funnel. As an audience member increases their preferred sophistication reading band, the closer they become to a legitimate prospect. General audiences are typically Suspects who are in the education process, while Specialist audiences are typically ready to purchase or repeat buyers. Equipped with this information we can begin to make informed decisions about how we produce our content relative to the intended target.

The benefits of this approach are numerous:

  • By prioritizing audience sophistication we are establishing a new lens through which to view our audiences and their relationship to our content and brand
  • We can begin to segment our audiences based on how they read, where they read, the topics they find most engaging and map those interactions to our sales funnel
  • We are able to become more sophisticated and targeted about the social network location, day of week and time of day that a target audience is present
  • We benefit from being able to replicate our editorial style specifically for the target we are pursuing, thereby, building performance predictability into the tone and structure of the content during the creation process

While these are just few of the benefits and are the ones that will drive time and cost out of your content production environment, the performance results are equally compelling, significant increases in pageviews, unique views, time on article and social interactions.

Consider this article as a case in point. If you are still reading, you are likely an experienced and astute content marketer, perhaps a member of the Content Marketing Institute, seeking technologies that will ingest more science into your content model and ultimately, help you drive more inbound leads from your content marketing efforts.

In case you are wondering, this is an optimized article geared towards a Specialist audience and receives a Score of 75.

Tags: analysis, audience, audience segments, audience sophistication, content marketer, content marketing, Content Marketing, psychographics, segment, Social Media, Target Audience