In a previous post, I talked about why it’s important for businesses to publish 101-level, kinda-obvious content because that’s exactly the type of information their audiences need.
But that advice begs a follow-up question: Who are these audience members you’re trying to engage with all this content? Aren’t you just trying to talk to potential buyers?
Not always. Broadly speaking, there are three big audiences that a company speaks to:
- The people they sell to.
- The people who cheer for (and sometimes cheer against) the company.
- The people who can create mutually beneficial partnerships.
Let’s break these down a little because each of these audiences require different messages and often their own channels if they are to be engaged.
Customers (Both Current and Potential)
A lot of marketing energy goes toward speaking to the customer audience, and for good reason: That’s where most leads and repeat business come from.
I’m grouping existing customers and potential customers into the same category because they’re just in different stages of the buyer’s journey. Each stage of that journey requires its own messaging, but the goal — conversions — remains the same for everyone you target.
The people who make the customer-support platform Groove understand this very well. Groove’s blog has a bunch of great tutorials on providing top-notch customer support. One good recent example is the exhaustive “How to Deal With Angry Customers” guide.
This kind of content is useful for young companies beginning to think about implementing this kind of software. Those companies are at the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, and they need some 101-level guides.
Groove’s guides are useful also for existing customers. The people who bought Groove’s software will need ongoing support and internal training for new support-team hires. Groove is positioning itself to those customers as a go-to resource because doing so strengthens those relationships and keeps those customers (and their recurring revenue) in the fold.
For this audience, the focus should be on creating in-depth, practical content that helps them do their jobs better.
The People Who Cheer for You
This is a more nebulous audience than the one above. If you’re lucky, there are lots of people cheering for your company:
- Your friends at your co-working space.
- Your followers on ProductHunt and Twitter.
- Your parents.
Speaking to your supporters is ultimately an act of branding. You are reinforcing what your company stands for and why your supporters care.
Once upon a time, there were companies that published long-form content to support those branding goals. OKCupid famously had a very wonky series on how to optimize your dating profile that was based on user data. More recently, companies like Tesla got into the business of “brand storytelling” because they realized they had these huge audiences of non-customers who simply thought that the brand, the product and/or the founders were cool.
The ROI on that kind of storytelling must not have been very good, though. OKCupid has since stopped analyzing user data on its blog, and Tesla’s blog is pretty dry these days.
So, how do you reach non-customer fans? Social media tend to be the best channel for serving this audience. Low-investment content like behind-the-scenes videos or interviews with team members work really well.
What’s more, this type of content speaks to an important segment of this audience: The people who would enthusiastically apply to work for you. Potential applicants definitely want to hear what your company stands for. Several B2B companies — including Boston Consulting Group, Zapier and McKinsey — have found that Instagram is a useful channel for getting that message out.
For everyone in this audience, it’s important to showcase the ethos your company tries to embody with candid peeks behind the curtain. Authenticity will be rewarded; slick production probably won’t be.
Finally, there are non-customers whose professional lives are impacted by your company.
It helps to imagine a brick-and-mortar business first to see how these relationships function. Take a healthcare practice with a handful of locations in central Florida, for example. Nearby lunch cafes might want to see that business thrive because the nurses, doctors and admin staff all reliably come in for lunch several times per week.
Now, imagine that healthcare practice’s blog. A local businesses roundup could do pretty well on that blog. That piece could spotlight 10 of the best healthy lunch cafes in the area. When the post goes live, the practice’s team could reach out to the managers of those 10 cafes and let them know their businesses had just been featured.
This is simple, old-fashioned business networking. It’s a good way to create relationships that lead to mutual referrals in real life, and it’s a good way to earn backlinks to support the practice’s web presence.
That same model works for digital companies, too, especially in industries where channel partnerships drive revenue. That’s why Salesforce has a special Medium blog just for channel partners.
For this audience, look for opportunities to support adjacent businesses. Podcasting is a great medium for this. Podcasts let you have in-depth conversations with supply chain partners, channel partners and any other company you share a platform with. The more networking you can do with this audience, the more referral business you can build.