The goal of content marketing is to add value to your customers' lives. But you have a goal, too.

You create content to attract leads, per the advice of some marketing gurus. But after months of busting out new content, Google Analytics tells you that you’re attracting your peers, not your prospects. Uh oh. So, how to market to the right target audience?

That’s the question you should have asked at the beginning of your content marketing strategy. But don’t worry. It happens fairly frequently that a business’s content attracts their peers, not their prospects.

When your content marketing is not targeted

Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.

Avinash Kaushik

Much as I admire Avinash, I disagree with his view on content marketing. A business can create content that scratch the readers’ itch, but it still doesn’t align with their business goals.

For instance, an SEO agency uses content (blogging, video etc) to teach people how to do SEO keywords, what SEO tools to use, how to do backlinks legitimately.

Who do you think their content attracts? People who want to DIY their SEO, not potential customers who are looking to hire an SEO agency.

Actually, that’s what happened to Neil Patel, when his most popular posts drive traffic, but not revenue.

Surely, a certain percentage of readers will realize that it takes more than reading blogs and watching videos to do holistic SEO successfully. They end up hiring the SEO agency instead.

However, the question is: Do the revenue from those readers turned customers offset the cost of creating, promoting, and maintaining the agency’s current content marketing strategy?

To explain, I’m not against attracting your peers. If you want to be seen as the real deal, you also need to win recognition from them. Still, content marketing is a subset of marketing, whose job is to deliver leads to sales.

Marketing is redefining your future: A year from now, what kind of firm should we be? Who do we want to have conversations with?

Mark O’Brien

I believe this is the only reason that marketing exists.

Luckily, the digital marketing world is cut-throat, but it allows you to fail quickly once you’ve realized your rookie mistakes.

Now, let’s dig into the core of targeted marketing through content.

Understand the buying cycle to target your target audience

A content marketing strategy that doesn’t speak to your target audience is useless. To that end, we first need to understand the buying cycle.

No matter what model you subscribe to, there are roughly four stages in this cycle: the unaware, the researcher, the evaluator, and the purchaser.

The unaware prospect

People at the earliest stage of the buying cycle are not your prospects. They are not aware of your business problems, nor are they actively looking for education from you.

Indeed, there are questions about how to put yourself in front of the unaware, but it is not worth pursuing them as far as your content marketing strategy is concerned.

People simply don’t click on a 2000-word article that solves a problem they don’t have.

The researcher prospect

Prospects at this stage has become aware of their business challenges. They are digging for education to apply to their particular business situation. They are prime candidates for nurturing through content marketing.

Okay, you may be asking: “But the majority of researchers are peers”. True, we are back to the problem I pointed out at the beginning of this article.

While there is no telling how many will graduate to the next step of the buying cycle, it is still worth nurturing researchers for the following reasons:

  • Lead nurturing is always a numbers game. We always need a large enough pool before we can coax them to the next step.
  • Researchers who never convert to evaluators still bring in some branding benefits.

When your content adds value to their lives, they will tell your circles about it. Everyone wants to be helpful. If your happy customers is your number one sales person, then your supporters are number two.

The evaluator prospect

Evaluator prospects no longer need education. They have done enough research about their business problems to understand that there are only so much DIY they can do.

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.

Red Ahair

At this stage, evaluators realize that they need to spend some money to solve their pain points. When money is on the line, they are no longer receptive of your content as before.

Thus, your content really hard to convince skeptical evaluators that you have the expertise to solve their problems.

On the other hand, you need to do it in a way that appears generous, not pimping “Me me me”.

The purchaser prospect

Now, this is the job of sales. Purchaser prospects have signaled their interest in working with you.

Like the unaware, purchasers don’t belong to the content marketing strategy. Even a sales pitch happen before an evaluator graduates into a purchaser.

For this reason, you don’t need to create content for purchaser prospects.

How to speak to your target audience

As you can see, there are only two types of prospects that your content marketing strategy needs to speak to: the researcher and the evaluator.

Obviously, both of them belong to the same target audience, but they represent different stages. Hence, we need to formulate our messaging strategy to be able to speak to both.

Messaging for the researcher prospect

When marketing gurus tell you to create content, they actually refer to the researcher prospect as your target audience.

Because researchers are most willing to absorb education, your best bet is to attract them through organic search. You will make heavy use articles, bite-sized videos, podcasts etc.

With that said, how do you know that your content speaks right to them?

  • Determine what keywords and phrases your prospects are searching for that are related to your expertise. If you can’t, or don’t have the time to ask them directly, use a keyword tool like Ubersuggest to find out the search volume of those terms.

Keyword research is not the sole domain of SEOs or paid advertisers. In fact, smart content marketers also need to research keywords to identify what topics are worth writing about.

Ideally, you want to make a content around a topic that:

  • falls within your core competencies
  • answer a part of your prospects’ paint points
  • has a high enough search volume.
Messaging for the right audience

The third bullet point is so important, because your prospects are not knowledgeable. They have a vague idea of their business issues, but they don’t use the right industry terms.

For example, I have a post on serif font categories. I just want to help my readers understand that serif fonts are not homogeneous. They can be further broken down into four distinctive groups, each of which communicates different vibes.

In optimizing my post for search engines, I decided on the keyword “serif typeface classification”. Silly rookie move, I know. The only ones searching for that keyword are designers, and they are not my target audience.

  • Join the platforms and groups that your prospects frequently visit, not the ones for your peers. In addition to gaining new contacts, you will notice the same questions popping up again and again.
  • Identify which platforms your prospect like to consume content. Don’t waste time writing a 2000-word article only to realize halfway that your prospects prefer listening to podcast.

Key takeaway for attracting researcher prospects

Before we move on, please remember that the researcher lands on your website to learn. The thought of hiring you hasn’t even crossed their mind. They still believe they can solve their problems by learning.

Therefore, you have to earn their trust first. Share your insight generously, and put off referencing case studies, your awards, testimonies.

Messaging for the evaluator prospect

Evaluators are still interested in learning, but now they start to become curious whether you have the right approach, methodology, and expertise for their challenges.

First, how do evaluators come across you? They may find you through search engines, but more importantly, after they have read your content targeting researchers.

That means the majority of evaluators are researchers who have graduated. To encourage this conversion, you can design your website strategically to nudge researchers to the next phase of the funnel.

At this stage, SEO is no longer as important as before, and you can scale down on the quantity of content. We need quality, not quantity.

Besides, you can also weave in tactful anecdotes about your unique approach and experience. The best content for evaluators are webinars, white papers, case studies, portfolio pieces etc.

Better still, you can adeptly place a direct call to action, discovery calls, or whatever you name it.

Key takeaway for attracting evaluator prospects

Did you notice that the section for evaluators is much shorter than researchers? That’s because an evaluator-focused content strategy depends so much on the nature of your business, and the preference of your prospects.

In the end, just keep in mind that evaluators are more sales-focused than researchers. Woo hoo, we are veering into the territory of sales.

Wrap-up

It’s time to win your prospects, not peers with an effective content marketing strategy.

Content marketing is a long-term game. Understandably, you want to get the maximum bang for your time and effort.

Attracting the wrong crowd is worthless, but there are so many unknown variables out there. Hence, your best bet is to diversity your content so that you are nurturing both researcher and evaluator prospects.

In other words, always ask yourself: For which buying cycle am I producing content? Then organize content accordingly. And don’t forget to add appropriate calls to actions for each group.

There is no guarantee that a particular piece of content will do well, but this portfolio strategy will raise your chance of drawing the right target audience for your blooming business


How are you? What are you doing to attract a crowd worth keeping? Please share your insights in the comment section below.

Stay inspired. Subscribe to my infrequent newsletters.(You won't regret it).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *