How to Target Your Content Marketing

If your content marketing is for everybody, the reality is it’s for nobody.
Doodle off a target with arrows

There’s a saying in content marketing circles that’s pretty common: If your target audience is everybody, then your target audience is nobody.

It stems from similar-minded sayings in popular culture: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time” or “You can’t be all things to all people.”

And it makes sense because as information and content consumers, we crave uniqueness. We want to know the information we’re consuming is highly relevant to us or someone like us. In fact, this isn’t just related to content. How many of us who have siblings were ever excited to receive a hand-me-down? Probably no one.

Tips to Create a Targeted Content Marketing Strategy

If you’ve begun to grasp that content marketing is most effective when it has an audience and purpose in mind, then great! What’s next? Well, you need to sharpen your content strategy and ensure it will make a mark in the way that you desire.

Here are a few steps to help you get started.

• Define and document your brand goal.

This can be your overarching brand’s goal or your media brand’s goal, but you must be clear and intentional about the impact you hope to create for your brand. For example, with CDW’s BizTech property, we crafted a simple tagline: “Technology Solutions That Drive Business.”

BizTech logo and tagline

We further elaborate on our media brand’s purpose on the About Us page by saying: “BizTech explores technology and business issues that IT leaders and business managers face when they’re evaluating and implementing a solution.”

That means for us that we’re clearly focused on the intersection between business and information technology. We are not a straight-up business publication, like Inc. or Entrepreneur, nor are we just a technology publication like TechCrunch or MIT Technology Review.

• Create audience personas.

There is plenty of valid debate on the value of crafting personas because the reality is, you don’t want to box yourself into creating content for an imaginary person who doesn’t exist or represent the complex, nuanced realities of real people.

That being said, you should have job titles, ages and some behavioral-based descriptions—the demographics of your target audience—as you build out your content strategy. If your content strategy for a 20-something IT professional at the start of his or her career is the same as your content strategy for a seasoned CIO with 20-plus years of experience, it’s unlikely that your content marketing strategy will be effective for both.

It will either resonate with one or the other, or worse, neither.

• Develop and refine your channel strategy.

Once you’ve determined who you want to reach, you must then determine how you will reach them. This means looking at print, web, social, email and video.

When you talk about a channel strategy, your audience personas will influence the resources and energy you place in reaching those people on specific channels. Sometimes it means excluding a channel entirely, or sometimes it means using a channel more sparingly.

For example, the default approach for millennials is to go all-digital because there’s a belief that this audience is nearly allergic to print. But that’s not really true. Highly millennial-focused brands like Airbnb and Uber, in fact, have print magazines that they put out as part of their marketing mix because print, even with millennials, carries a certain amount of authority to it that digital does not.

You must pick your channels based on the persona goals and behaviors you’re knowledgeable about and ensure that your choices ladder up to your brand and goals and business key performance indicators.

• Make measurement a priority.

Setting a target audience is great, but without a way to measure and validate or disprove your targets, you might as well be paddling without oars.

Every persona and content strategy must be measured, and the data must be reviewed on a continual basis to allow for experimentation and iteration. If your target audience for your hardwood floor cleaning brand is millennial moms between the ages of 25 and 35, but you find that your Snapchat-first content strategy isn’t resonating, you need to be able to pinpoint why and pivot accordingly—and before you waste too much time or resources.

So What Is Targeted Content Marketing?

Now that we’ve provided a general overview on how we can craft our marketing in a targeted way, how do we define targeted content marketing? As of now, there’s no industrywide definition.

At Manifest, targeted content marketing is content marketing that has a defined audience or audiences, clear brand or business goals, and a differentiated channel mix and content strategy that all work in sync.

“Setting a target audience is great, but without a way to measure and validate or disprove your targets, you might as well be paddling without oars.”

A one-size-fits-all content marketing program that has different paid media targets might be efficient to produce and actually reach different people of different ages, genders or income levels, but it is NOT a targeted content marketing strategy if the content being distributed isn’t altered or uniquely produced for those audiences.

This idea of striving to produce content for the right person in the appropriate context is not new to content marketing. As a subdiscipline within marketing, content marketers are used to searching for riches in niches. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s “2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America” report, 60 percent of the content marketers surveyed said they always or frequently “prioritize providing the right content to the right person at the right time.” 

How Can Content Influence the Buyer Journey and Resonate?

At a high level, we use a content strategy framework at Manifest that we call the EAC model: Educate, activate and captivate.

At the educate level, we produce always-on content—content to inform and educate the audience on a topic or subject matter.

Activate content aims to get that educated audience to take some kind of action: for instance, sign up for a newsletter, make an appointment or buy something.

Lastly, captivate content is meant to delight a broad audience with high impact. That usually implies some kind of special campaign that happens a handful of times a year.

Because nearly all buyer journeys are no longer linear, you can’t say that conversions or sales only happen at one level or the other. The reality is that an educate piece of content might inspire someone to buy a product that they haven’t heard of before, and an activate piece of content might only move someone to download an e-book.


The percentage of content marketers who say they always or frequently “prioritize providing the right content to the right person at the right time” 

Source: Content Marketing World, “2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America," September 2019

But more than any one metric, you want to strive to have a sense of how your content is resonating with your audience. You measure that resonance through a variety of metrics such as time spent on page, pages per session and any number of conversions (though not just a sale). But you also need qualitative inputs such as readership surveys, social polls and more to truly get a sense of what’s going on with your content.

You’ll know that your content is resonating if you can get your audience to either come back for more or take that anticipated action you’d like them to take. In content marketing, the name of the game is all about relationship building, because unlike our traditional marketing counterparts, we don’t just want the one-off transactions.

Content resonance is our way of ensuring that the relationship is vibrant, thriving and still of value to both the marketer and the audience.

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