Who are you attracting?

Searching for information on digital marketing might leave you with the impression that the point is to generate as much traffic as possible. That may be true if you’re marketing a consumer product with a target market of, well, everyone. What if you’re a business marketing to other businesses in a narrow category of products or services? The answer is widely shared but, oddly, rarely stated in the negative. Many inbound marketing and content marketing experts and vendors promote knowing your audience and targeting them precisely with both your marketing selections (pyscho-demo-geo graphics, placements, etc.) and your content (writing for someone is more powerful than writing for everyone).

Should your content purposely drive away visitors that are not your target market though? Some say no because you never know who may become a prospect. If your offering has sufficiently broad potential uses, then you may well want to be inclusive. If your product or service is for very specific buyers for very specific uses it is worth considering how you can use content to qualify prospects in and others out. For one thing, you don’t want to pay for paid search or digital advertising clicks from non-buyers. Equally important, you want to develop a relationship with target buyers through conversation in their language, with examples of customers like them, for uses like theirs. Content that specific will inevitably leave others out as they fail to find themselves and their needs in your content. The alternative of making your content so broad that it invites more visitors in but leaves them unsatisfied when they get there is not a great way to win conversions and sales.

When you evaluate your traffic through analytic data, are there signs that your content strategy may need adjustment? Analytics can’t tell you in quantifiable terms. You need to compare different content with your knowledge of meaning. Experiment, measure, adjust, repeat. Does more specific content consistently have greater engagement than broader content with your audience all else being equal? Do two ads that lead to the same landing page draw equal traffic but very different bounce rates and conversions? What’s different about the ads?

Inbound Marketing Rx for success

Outstanding inbound marketing is not possible until you can wrap your head around the audience’s point of view and needs. It is that simple. Break away from your company and your products long enough to understand what your prospects need to find and engage with your brand and products.

There is an overwhelming amount of content available to help you be a good inbound marketer. David Meerman Scott’s “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University are great resources. There are loads of books in paper and electronic formats. I’ve found something to learn in every thing I’ve looked at even if a few of those lessons were what not to do. I didn’t find as much information about actually making the shift from me-out thinking to you-in thinking. It is harder for some of us than others but we can all do it.

Here’s my prescription for starting to shift your point of view:

For a day, a week or longer, keep a log of the websites you find. These are new to you sites that you find through search, links or even offline ads. In the log record:

  • the site name and URL
  • what you were looking for when you found it or whether you didn’t know you were looking for it until it found you
  • whether you stayed on the site or left pretty much right away
  • if you stayed, what made you stay; be specific as to phrases, style, images, etc.
  • if you left, do you know why?
  • what you clicked on while you stayed

After you have a reasonable list in your log, go back to the sites and examine them more deeply. Do your notes still make sense or can you discover more or different reasons why you stayed or left?

Next I will tell you what you’re looking for and why this is important but please don’t keep this in mind while you do the exercise. You might even want to leave this site right now and come back after you do the exercise to read the rest of the article.

When you review the log and consider the reasons you left or stayed are there any common reasons? Did some sites seem to speak to or even with you while others spoke at you? Were some written for you and your interests while others were all about the company and the product with no regard to what you’d use the product for or why you might need it?

Ideally these are the kinds of differences that appeared to you when you reviewed the log and re-examined the sites. If so, congratulations, you’re on your way to the kind of perception about visitors that leads to good content marketing and enables inbound marketing. If not, evaluate the sites further and review some of the sites in your existing bookmarks thinking about how you found them originally and what made you bookmark them. Be conscious of who they seem to be speaking to.

The journey is far from over. If the site speaks to you and those just like you but no one else, it isn’t a great site. Think about who the buyers and other influential people are for their product, service or activity and try to identify several personas that they need to address with their content. Is there something for each persona on the site? Is it easy to find based on how each persona would search for it? Does each page lead into the buying process?

This exercise was really about making the mental adjustment to try to see as the buyer sees. There is much, much more to inbound marketing, content marketing and social marketing. As Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s John Dragoon likes to say, “it’s all about the conversation”. Inbound marketing only works when you know who you are talking to, what they need and where to take the conversation.