Audience profiling for content marketing

Author: Anna Hern Ridgemount

If you want to engage your audience, first you have to find them, then you have to tell them something they want to know. Audience profiling has never been more important.

If you come from a media relations background, as I do, you will recall the days when audience profiling was pretty much a task left to the magazines. Want to reach architects? Or Plumbers? Or Housebuilders?

There is (or was) a publication for pretty much every speciality and our job was to figure out how to get the best exposure in those publications.

Getting the subject area topical and the tone of voice right was something you could rehearse with the editor and a good editor will tell you pretty immediately if you’ve got it wrong. Good editors can also be relied upon to give short shift to inexperienced PR people and ensure that low-quality content does not get in front of your audience.

In an age of digital communication much of this is changed. If you’re using social media or even PPC (and why wouldn’t you?), you will get the best targeting if you look for people as individuals, rather than relying on a much broader grouping based on occupation or professional qualifications.

Building the persona

Our content marketing campaigns all begin with detailed audience personas, hopefully informed by some robust market research. We need to understand the sort of people we want to talk to: what do they like to do? What are their brand affiliations likely to be? What will be important to them and what information sources have influence?

Market research uncovers much of this information, which is then collated into a series of personas. These should reveal the very different motivations of, for example, a 26-year-old part II architectural trainee over a 56-year-old practice partner. Both are architects but living very different lives (let’s call them Sarah and Julian).

These personas are used as a shorthand for targeting. One message or story, for example, is particularly relevant to Sarah – so we build our target audience based on her affiliations.

And yes, by the way, it is possible to find architects on Facebook, or Pinterest or Instagram, provided the targeting is detailed and precise.

Tailoring the story

Once we are confident that we can find our audience, then we use our profiling to tailor the story specifically for each persona. Finding the subjects that will be relevant and useful, writing in a tone of voice that is engaging and with the right level of technical detail is essential.

We frequently have a single commercial message that we want to communicate (let’s talk zero carbon, for example), but the way that is expressed and the context in which it is set will be very different for a metropolitan quantity surveyor to a regional housebuilder operating in rural Devon.

Get the targeting right and you will see the results pretty quickly. Don’t be blinded by the big numbers, we’re not necessarily looking to attract thousands of people to our website.

What we are more likely to be seeking is the genuinely interested who stay on the site, spend time reading the story you wanted them to see and then meander around looking at other relevant content; and you achieve this most effectively by putting in the hours to understand your audience thoroughly.

Anna Hern is Managing Director at Ridgemount.