Tag Archives: Research

Don’t Base Your Brand Community on Hope: Research Matters

Don't Base Your Brand Community on Hope: Research Matters

There are two ways to build a brand community: ask for budget, cross your fingers and hope you’re gathering the right people in the right way; or research potential and existing members and leaders in your organization to find out exactly how a community can best serve the needs of

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3 Ways to Get What You Want by Doing Your Homework

"I can't tell you how many cold sales emails I get from people who demonstrate they have no idea what my company does." – Sonia Simone

Polly Professional has a lot going on today. She has a blog post due, a podcast script to write, an employee review to conduct, two client meetings, and she’s meeting her cousin Penny for dinner.

And then it comes. Ding.

An email from Steve Stranger.

Maybe he’s a sales pro trying to set up a “quick meeting to discuss his company’s solutions,” but it’s clear he has no idea what her company does or what Polly’s role is. Or maybe he needs a job, and he figures that being her second-cousin’s college roommate has got to qualify him for something. Or he wants to write for her company’s blog, even though he doesn’t understand the audience or the topic.

Worst of all: Maybe he wants to pick her brain.

Polly grits her teeth and counts to 10, then deletes the message. She considers marking it as spam, but she’s feeling kind-hearted today.

But she is never, ever going to answer Steve’s email.

Why? Because Steve failed to respect her time. He didn’t do his homework.

When you approach someone without doing your homework, you send a clear message: You think your time is more valuable than theirs.

It’s annoying for Polly — but it’s murder on poor Steve. Let’s face it … sometimes we need to ask folks for stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that. Helping one another out is an important part of business.

Steve could have spent a few minutes preparing for that request — and Polly would have been a lot more likely to consider it. Here’s how to do your homework, so you don’t end up like Steve.

#1: Know their work

I can’t tell you how many cold sales emails I get from people who demonstrate that they have no idea — at all — what my company does.

Unlike kind Polly, I often do mark them as spam.

When you’re approaching a person or an organization, take the time to understand their work.

If they have a blog … read it. Not just a week’s worth of posts — really look at it. Have they identified their most popular posts? Read those. Yes, all of them.

Look over their website, their podcast, their YouTube videos, their white papers — any content they’re putting out. If it’s an individual, take a look at what they post on LinkedIn or the other social platforms.

What recurring themes do they address? If their content tells stories … what’s the moral? What do they see as their unique winning difference? What kind of language do they use to talk about that?

What do they do? How does that make money? Who are their customers? How do they serve those customers?

“You can observe a lot by just watching.” – Yogi Berra

And that brings us to the second point …

#2: Know their audience

Taking some time to look through a company’s website and content is pretty common-sense, even if people often don’t do it.

But smart networkers know that it’s just the beginning.

Whether you’re trying to reach a person or an organization, take a look at who their audience is. These are readers if you’re approaching a blogger, viewers if you want to connect with a popular YouTuber, and customers if you’re approaching a business.

Influence comes from an audience. The audience is the battery of the system.

This used to be somewhat hard to do, but social media has made it much simpler.

Do they have blog comments? Read them.

Do they have a Facebook or LinkedIn presence? Tune in to the audience conversations there, not just what the influencer is saying.

And when I say “tune in,” realize I’m talking more about listening than I am about weighing in.

You can socialize later — it’s often a good idea. But first, understand who you’re socializing with.

You’re looking for what’s energizing this audience. What do they complain about? What are they worried about? What do they struggle with? What problem do they turn to this influencer or company to solve? How’s that going?

If you understand the audience, you understand the influencer. If you understand the customers, you understand the company.

#3: Play along

You won’t always have this option available to you, but if you do, take it.

What’s your influencer or organization spending a lot of time thinking about these days?

Do they have a new product launching or a big promotion running? Do they have a book out? Maybe there’s a challenge or a community event going on. Maybe they have a charity they’re doing a lot of work with.

If you can connect what you have to offer with something they care about, it’s a lot easier for them to hear what you have to say.

Please stick with what you can readily find that’s been publicly posted online, though. Homework is good … stalking is not.

Do your homework and stand out

If all of this seems like it would take a lot of time … it probably takes about as much time to approach five people intelligently as it does to approach 100 like a monkey throwing paintballs.

Those five people will be far more likely to actually stop and listen to you, because you’ve respected their time (and your own) with relevant, pertinent communication.

And you’ll stand out … because most of what’s in our inboxes is paintball after paintball.

How about you … any tips you’ve found useful on doing your homework? Let us know about them in the comments …

The post 3 Ways to Get What You Want by Doing Your Homework appeared first on Copyblogger.

How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content

"You don’t just accept whom you find — you choose whom to attract." – Brian Clark

“Hello, I’m a Mac.”

“And I’m a PC.”

You remember Apple’s “Get a Mac” series of commercials that ran from May 2006 to October 2009?

The commercials were short vignettes featuring John Hodgman as the sweet-yet-bumbling PC and Justin Long as the creative, hip Mac.

Those 66 short spots were named the best advertising campaign of the previous decade by Adweek.

The success of the long-running campaign leads one to believe that Apple certainly knows who its ideal customer is. Of course they do … because they chose their ideal customer, right from the birth of the Macintosh itself.

That doesn’t mean that everyone responded favorably to the ads. While researching for this article, I ran across a commenter who maintained that the campaign had “backfired” because the PC character had actually been more appealing to him.

No, the campaign didn’t backfire (no one runs a series of ads for three years if they’re not working). Instead, Apple chose who not to attract as much as they chose who they hoped to convert.

Apple knew they were never going to get hardcore PC people to switch to a Mac. Instead, Apple used these 66 humorous little stories to target those who were more likely to “swing” toward Apple, after being educated about the benefits by the contrast between the two characters.

Sounds like really great content marketing to me. In fact, given the nature and duration of the Get a Mac campaign, it resembled serial online video marketing more than traditional advertising.

So, the first (and most important) step in our 3-step content marketing strategy is determining your “Who.”

Who do you want to attract and speak to, and just as importantly, who do you want to drive in the other direction? It all comes down to your values, first and foremost.

What are your core values?

Apple’s values were well reflected in the Get a Mac campaign — creativity, simplicity, and rebellion against the status quo. These core values were consistently present in the prior “Crazy Ones” campaign, and before that, the iconic “1984” ad.

Some feel that Apple has lost the ability to innovate since Steve Jobs passed. Whether or not that’s true, I think the perception of Apple has changed among those of us who were initially strongly attracted, because their advertising now, for the first time, tries to appeal to a more general audience.

Steve would definitely not approve.

Modern marketing is about matching up with the worldview of your ideal customer. Outside of a monopoly, there is no such thing as marketing that appeals to everyone, and yet, companies still try and routinely fail.

On the other hand, think of Patagonia. The founder of the outdoor clothing and gear company invented an aluminum climbing wedge that could be inserted and removed without damaging the rock face. This reflects Patagonia’s founding core value:

“Build the best products while creating no unnecessary environmental harm.”

Of course, not every company has a core value built into the founding story. Most businesses exist to simply sell things that people want, so it’s up to management to find the core values that they want to reflect in their marketing to attract the right kind of customer.

For example, there’s nothing inherently ethical about ice cream, beyond ingredients. So Ben & Jerry’s adopted the values of its two founders, which had nothing at all to do with ice cream.

Not everyone who likes ice cream necessarily agrees with reduced Pentagon spending and the fight against climate change, but the people who do care about those things turned Ben & Jerry’s into an iconic brand.

It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and light, either. If your core values fall in line with a “Greed is good” mentality, you’ll certainly find people out there who share this worldview. You just have to unflinchingly own it.

You need to understand who you’re talking to, yes. But you don’t just accept who you find — you choose whom to attract.

What does your character look like?

In the Get a Mac campaign, Apple literally created a character that personified what their ideal “swing” customer aspired to be. It’s time for us to do the same.

You can call them personas or avatars if you like — I prefer character. That’s because the first step is the research that allows you to create a fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customer.

As far as fiction goes, we’re creating a character that will be the protagonist in their own purchasing journey that your content will help them complete. Since this journey is based on as much reality as we can glean from our research, it’s more like a fictionalized drama “based on actual people and events.”

When I say the prospect is the protagonist, that means the hero. Your content is a powerful gift that positions your brand as a guide that helps the hero complete the journey that solves their problem. If this sounds like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey to you, nice work — we’ll elaborate on this aspect in the “What” portion of the strategy.

This journey does not take place in the context of you wanting to sell more stuff. It’s understanding how the prospect thinks, feels, sees, and behaves in the context of solving the problem that sets them on the journey in the first place.

And don’t forget about instilling them with your shared core values. Why would this person choose you to assist them on the journey, out of a sea of other choices?

Because you already see the world like they do in an important way, and they’ll pick up on that shared worldview immediately upon coming across your content. Your core values are your secret attraction spell.

Instead of hiding your world views in the hope of never offending anyone, you now realize the power of being loud and proud — and attracting like-minded people who see you as the only reasonable choice.

Now, most people don’t end up using this representative character in their content, like Apple did with Justin Long in the Get a Mac commercials. It’s really a composite to refer back to so that you never lose sight of whom you’re talking to, what you should say, and how you should say it.

On the other hand, the Get a Mac commercials were just two guys standing and talking in front of a minimalist, all-white background. If you’re thinking in terms of online video marketing, you could do a lot worse than looking to this campaign for inspiration.

And think about your explainer videos. Wouldn’t a character that represents who you’re talking to give you an edge over competing marketing approaches?

At a minimum, contemplating the actual use of the character in your content will force you to get things just right. Let’s look at a method for doing that.

You are not your audience

Given that you’re seeking to attract people who share your values, it’s tempting to overly identify with your audience. While you’re going to have things in common, it’s dangerous to think your ideal customer is similar to you in other ways.

You’re a subject matter expert at what you do, for starters, and they are not.

You need to make sure you don’t fall victim to the curse of knowledge, a cognitive bias that occurs when a person with expertise unknowingly assumes that others have the background to understand.

This one assumption alone can sink your content marketing efforts. Plus, you don’t want to assume that the audience shares other characteristics that you have — you want to know, as well as you can, what they’re thinking, feeling, seeing, and doing.

In other words, for you to have the empathy to walk the buyer’s journey in their shoes, you must first see things from their perspective. Then you’ll be in a position to create the content that “coaches” them along the journey.

Let’s take a closer look at empathy, the definition of which consists of two parts:

  1. The intellectual identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
  2. The vicarious experiencing of those feelings, thoughts, or attitudes.

It’s often said you want to enter the conversation that’s already playing in your prospect’s head. By matching up values and worldviews, you’re also aiming to enter the conversation in the prospect’s heart, and that’s how your marketing triggers the right motivation at the right time.

The process we use for achieving this is called empathy mapping. At the foundation of the exercise is this statement: “Our ideal customer needs a better way to ____ BECAUSE ____.”

Empathy maps vary in shapes and sizes, but there are basic elements common to each one:

  • Four quadrants broken into “Thinking,” “Seeing,” “Doing,” and “Feeling”
  • Two optional boxes at the bottom of the quadrants: “Pains” and “Gains”


To get started, you can download and print a large version of the empathy map above here.

The map allows you to easily organize all of your research and other relevant materials. The four quadrants represent the sensory experience of your ideal customer while in the prospect phase.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What does a typical day look like in their world?
  • How do they think about their fears and hopes?
  • How do they feel about the problem your product solves?
  • What are they thinking when they resist solving the problem?
  • What do they hear when other people solve the problem?
  • Whom do they see as viable options to solve the problem?
  • What do they see when they use your product? What is the environment?
  • What do they say or feel when using your product?
  • What are their pain points when using your product?
  • Is this a positive or a painful experience for them?
  • Do they hear positive feedback about your company from external sources?
  • What do they hope to gain from using your product?

Jot down needs and insights that emerge as you work through this exercise. Then simply paste those notes in the proper boxes on the large empathy map.

At the bottom of your empathy map, you can also draw two boxes: “Pains” and “Gains.”

In the “Pains box,” you can put your customers’ challenges and obstacles. Ask, “What keeps my customer up at night?”

In the “Gains” box, include the goals your customers hope to accomplish. Ask, “What motivates my customer to solve their problem?” and “What are their hopes and dreams?”

Now … describe your character in detail

You’re now ready to create a written composite of your character. Some people do several paragraphs, or perhaps a page of description. You, being the smart person that you are, might consider taking it further by creating a character bible, just like novelists and screenwriters do.

In this context, a character bible is a detailed outline that lays out everything about your prospect in one place, so you can easily access their personality, problems, and desires. It may seem like a lot of work, but you’ll be happy you did it once you start coming up with the “What” and the “How” of your content marketing strategy.

Next week, we’ll look at figuring out “what” information your prospect must have to complete their journey with you. You’ll go from stepping into your prospect’s shoes to walking the buyer’s journey with them.

The post How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content appeared first on Copyblogger.

Struggling to Write for Technical Experts? Try These 3 Powerful Content Marketing Practices

tips for top-notch technical content

Engineers and other technical experts take to the web to educate themselves on their options now more than ever before.

When sifting through online content, engineers and other experts in their fields want facts, not a hard sell. They’re conducting serious research.

In fact, according to a study by CEB in partnership with Google, 57 percent of the B2B purchasing process has been completed by the time someone contacts a salesperson.

So, as content marketers, we need to give them the information they need to make smart purchasing decisions. But engineers have already studied for years to accrue their subject matter expertise. Can marketers actually talk intelligently to them online?

A marketer’s challenge lies in extracting the best information and translating it into relatable content, while not sacrificing accuracy in the process.

Journalists like Ed Yong and Carl Zimmer bring cutting-edge science to the masses on a regular basis, and content marketers can follow their leads.

Here are three content marketing tips that non-experts can use when writing about technical subjects.

1. Gather facts from experts

When you interview experts within your clients’ companies and mine their heads for their hard-earned knowledge, you’ll find that many of them love to be asked about their fields.

It’s not every day a layperson asks a metallurgist about induction furnaces or an architect about designing aircraft hangars.

Fair warning: At first these interviews might be overwhelming or intimidating. Marketers often feel afraid to ask “dumb” questions.

However, a state of “non-knowledge” is a great place to start. Admit to your expert that you’re not too familiar with their topic, and they’ll realize that they need to start at the beginning.

Ask them to use long-form phrases instead of acronyms, and never let them gloss over something you don’t understand just to keep the conversation flowing. Asking for clarification shows how closely you’re following along.

Pro tip

Get approval from a company’s communications or marketing department before talking to any technical experts. You want to make sure they don’t divulge any proprietary or protected technical information that could get them in trouble.

Once you’ve written your content, have the company’s legal team review and approve any information that will be published outside the company.

2. Supplement your interviews with your own research

Read what’s already been written so that your target audience doesn’t have to, and synthesize that content in a way that is straightforward and easy to understand.

Google Scholar and government websites are resources you could use to conduct your own research.

For example, if new EPA rules affect how your client engineers their generators, go right to the source. Government agencies will have published those rules, so familiarize yourself with them and learn how they’ll affect your client’s customers.

3. Clarify and satisfy

It’s a content marketer’s job to simplify ideas so that they’re accessible, but not so much that they’re inaccurate.

Metaphors and storytelling are great techniques to incorporate into your content.

Can you make a connection between something complicated and something that’s encountered by most people on a regular basis?

You also want to consider the different types of people who may read your content. Will highly technical engineering content resonate with your target audience? Or do you need to produce content for a decision-maker who’s considering how an investment will affect the bottom line or deliver ROI?

If both types of people are part of your audience, consider how your content marketing strategy can satisfy both perspectives.

The power of education

When writing online content for a technical audience, it’s imperative to keep your overall goal in mind.

You want to cultivate trust by providing education — not by being a pushy salesperson.

B2B content marketing that informs helps marketers give technical audiences the content they’re looking for. And they’re likely to remember where they got that help when it comes time to buy.

Do you write for a technical audience? Share your methods in the comments below.

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‘My Dog Hates Hugs’: How Marketers Can Deal With Viral Research

'My Dog Hates Hugs': How Marketers Can Deal With Viral Research

Studies can take the internet by storm, sounding alarm bells about the next major (or minor) catastrophe that will befall the human race. Sometimes it’s serious: a scientific study recently confirmed the link between wireless devices and brain tumors. If additional research confirms this data, it could mean serious

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Time to Straighten Our CX Priorities?

Time to Straighten Our CX Priorities?

Customer experience is fraught with seeming contradiction. We're told incessantly how important digital and mobile marketing is. Heck, Facebook recently found that mobile video is far more engaging than good, old-fashioned TV! We're told customers listen less to businesses and more to themselves, peers and trusted influencers.

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