Serving your audience

Make content for people to love, not for consumers to consume

If I asked you how your business stands out from your competitors, you’ll probably tell me about the things that are easy to explain, the tangible things. You might say that you have the newest, most modern equipment, or technology, or that your location is the best, your coffee’s the best, that your products really help people etc. And you’re probably right, and while these features are no doubt important, they’re not the only reason people do business with you.

There are a whole heap of other reasons that people choose you over your competition that have nothing to do with the ‘what’ of your business and everything to do with the ‘why’. These are the emotions that really drive customer’s decisions and keep them coming back. Reasons like trust and the way they feel when they experience what you sell.

It’s the same with the content you produce. Building relationships & earning trust are two of the main outcomes of producing great content. That’s because it’s a way for people to get a ‘feel’ for what it’s like to do business with you before they actually make that decision (and indeed content is often used to make that decision), and to continue to nurture those relationships for the long term.

Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.

People aren't going to do business with you if they don't trust you, right? But how can you earn their trust before they buy from you? It's not enough just to be seen, you really have to find ways of expressing what it means to do business with you *before* they make that decision. This is one of the main reasons we produce content for our businesses.

So with that in mind, you can see how important it is to appeal to your audience’s emotions when you’re making your content. Just listing off the features of your product or service isn’t going to cut it for long. To stand out and build relationships based on trust, you have to produce content that people love. Invoke the emotions you want people to feel when they do business with you. Things like excitement, comfort, trust, inspired, warm, cool, fun, happy, accepted, wealthy, clever, smart, capable, hero-like, generous, cultured … whatever’s unique to your business and your customers. Think of ways to express those feelings, not highlight more ‘stuff’.

Great content is subjective - not everyone is going to agree on whether the same piece of content is great or not, and not everyone will feel the same emotions when they experience it either, that’s fine. The important thing is that your audience thinks it’s great for their own reasons, and they come to see you as giving them ‘that’ feeling.  That is, they begin to feel familiar in associating that feeling with your brand.

Producing content that people love is an amazing opportunity to stand out and grow your business through the rewards that come from trust. Think about this when you’re checking ‘content’ off your task list and take a bit of time to think about how you want your customers and potential customers to feel because of it. Remember that trust drives revenue and emotions are key to earning it.

 

I hope YOU loved THIS piece of content and that it gave you some inspiration maybe about how to approach your content a bit differently. And hey, as always, if you need a hand getting your head around content, or coming up with a strategy and schedule, send me an email (andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com), or fill out the form on the work page and I’ll contact you, or connect with me on social - just click your button of choice.

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

Andrea

Stuck for what to post? Educate. Share what you know.

We all get stuck for what to post from time to time. Maybe it’s a blog post, maybe it’s a an email article, or maybe it’s just a plain old social media post … that you don’t want to be either plain or old, but the ideas just aren’t flowing.

Allow me to suggest you create a post that educates your audience on an aspect of what you do, or of the industry, or niche, that you’re in. Sharing knowledge can be very valuable, interesting and entertaining to your tribe, plus it helps establish you as an expert, which nurtures trust.

Some businesses are blessed with what seems to be endless opportunities for interesting content, while others constantly struggle to find an even remotely interesting angle to what they do. But either way, content that educates your audience is definitely something you want to include consistently in your content mix.

Take a florist, for example. To me, florists are surely one of those businesses that are have endless opportunities to create beautiful and engaging content. The images alone are drool-worthy, not to mention the scope for ideas, what’s in season, new trends, colours, special occasions, etc. Sure, but they also have to be careful not to blend in with every other florist too, right?

Knowledge sharing posts that educate an audience are a great way to keep a florist’s content mix from looking the same as every other florist out there, and this could apply to your business too. Once or twice a week, post something that’s designed purely to help your audience. Make it easy to understand and something that real value can be found in.

For example, a 3-step process to make your flowers stay fresher and last longer … and explain *why* each of these steps are important. There must be tonnes of useful information and ‘hacks’ a florist could offer their audience and in doing so, they’re not just looking pretty, but providing value and being of service. How can you do the same?

Educative posts are brilliant for all business-types, but those that tend to be less exciting, let’s say, can really stand out and set themselves apart by offering value in this way. Take a plumber, or an electrician, for example - there are plenty of creative ways to build a brand in these fields and offering useful knowledge is certainly one of them.

Think about ways you can share your special knowledge with your audience and when you do, remember that the goal is to be of value and for the content to be useful. It’s not going to be of any use to anyone if it’s too complicated for a layperson to get their head around, if it’s full of industry-specific jargon that makes no sense to anyone other than other plumbers/accountants/lawyers/florists etc, and if it’s too long to be consumed quickly. Get into your customer’s shoes (or head) and ask yourself how this would be useful to them, and how will they get the most out of this?

  • Be of value & make it useful

  • Keep it simple

  • Don’t use jargon

  • Explain why

  • Make it easy to consume

TIP: A short video demonstrating a simple procedure might be easier for someone to grasp than a 4-page instructional PDF … and video just happens to be a lot more engaging, so that’s a win for you and them.


So add some education and knowledge sharing into your content mix. You know stuff that is incredibly useful to your audience, so share it. They’ll get great value out of it and you’ll earn their trust as someone who knows what they’re on about and is willing to share it.

 

Thank you for reading - I hope you found a bit of inspiration in that. If you'd like some help with your social media, please email me at andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com for a free 30-minute consult/chat/lightbulb session, or connect with me on social media (buttons below) - I'd love to help you out with what I know.

Have a great day,

Andrea Kelly

Tell me again, why exactly is defining your target/audience so critical?

It’s critical because it’s deep and the deeper you can go, the better at providing a service or making a product that not only solves a real problem, but in doing so enables you to make deeper human connections that lead to a sense of identification and belonging, and foster genuine loyalty.

It’s incredibly easy to mistake defining your target market purely as a business function. The thing is, it is a business function and an incredibly, undeniably critical one, but one nonetheless that’s based on human behaviour and emotion. After all, there is no business, no such thing without human behaviour. For all the ideas, products and services in the world, none of them make a business without human behaviour. And human behaviour is governed by relationships and emotion.

The reason it’s so common not to give proper gravity to defining and understanding your market or audience is because business and commerce have become bigger, or seem more important than the underlying drivers. ‘Business’ in that regard has become very corporate, clinical and technical, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be both intimidating and confusing. In small business, we often develop a mindset and expectations that our business is just a smaller version of those big businesses, those corporate players. In some ways that’s true, but one of the dangers of that kind of thinking is that we can overlook the fundamental realities, like actual relationships with customers, for the ticking of boxes on a business plan template.

On this I’m speaking from experience. With a formal education in business and marketing, you would think that I’d know better than to skim over this point, but I did exactly that. I was so keen to get started on doing the work and building my business, that I wrote a few things down, ticked the box, so to speak, and moved on to the ‘real’ stuff. And then it wasn’t long before I got stuck, became lost and confused and had to come back to this fundamental step. The one advantage I had was that I knew what the problem was. Many people won’t and they’l flounder around trying one thing after another, wasting time and energy trying to figure out why nothing seems to be working and why they’re feeling so miffed.

So let me try to explain it this way;

1. All business direction, marketing, branding, positioning and communication is a form of human connection.

Whether it’s a commodity, like selling gravel to construction companies, or a customised consulting service,  the reason customers and clients choose to do business with you is because they perceive your business/product/service to be a good match for whatever their problem is. That is, they’ve made a connection between what they need and what you have to offer.

2. All human connection is a product of the way we feel.

That seems pretty easy to understand for a customised consulting service say, where how we connect or gel with that consultant has a massive impact on how likely we are to engage their services, but the same principle applies to commodity-type products. We have tangible needs that have to be satisfied, like price and speed of delivery, but we also rely on our perceptions for how well we believe our needs are met and the satisfaction of quality. You can tick all the boxes for a great product or service, but if a customer perceives your business to be disorganised and unreliable, then it’s through those eyes their final decision will be made - the way they feel.

3. The way we feel about a brand/product/service is determined by the way we experience it.

Talk is cheap and what you say, especially about yourself, isn’t enough. You can say your gravel is the cheapest, and it might be. You can say it’s the best quality, and it might be. You can say you achieve fast and reliable deliver every time, and you might, but if your website is a mess and the person who answers the phone in the office sounds like they’d rather be anywhere else, but there, it’s highly likely that potential customer will never find out.

And that’s for a commodity - think again about the consultancy or any sort of personalised service. The sakes are even higher because that potential client is looking not only for their needs to be met, but they want their values to be matched. They’re making a judgement call and they want to feel good about making the decision to work with you, to buy your product. It’s not a check-the-box situation, they want more - they want to feel like you’re the perfect solution and they’ll make that judgement according to the way they experience your brand/product/service. They’ll be looking for evidence of your values in everything you do, in every touch-point with you and your brand. They want a certain kind of experience and you need to know what that is is you’ve any hope of providing it.

4. Our experience is determined by how well a brand/product/service matches our world view and the things that matter to us.

Our world view is like the filter through which we judge and value things according to how well they appear to match our own values and the value we place on the needs we want to satisfy. Gravel might just be gravel, but does that mean you don’t have to worry about values, just because it’s ‘just gravel’? No, because there are plenty of other places to get gravel. After all, it’s just gravel. But if you understand why your customer needs the gravel and that it’s important that he can trust in your delivery efficiency because that’s what he’s promised his clients, then you have a chance to make a difference. It’s not up to you to decide what gravel means to him, it’s up to you to understand his world view and how gravel fits in.

To deliver the kind of experience your customers want, you have to understand how they think, what they value and how they want to feel. Yes, they want your product or service to do certain things and match certain criteria, but they also want to feel a certain way as a result of engaging with that particular brad/product/service. You have to understand what they value and why they value it so that you can communicate an understanding of, a match between you, your brand and their world view.

 And when you think of it like that, it’s pretty clear that it’s not a check-box on a business plan template, right? Or rather that there’s a lot more to it than a mere check-box would suggest. Yes, it’s deep and yes, it can definitely seem daunting. And absolutely yes, it can be very tempting to skim over, but can you see how important it is not to skim? Can you see how important it is to take the time to go deep?

 

The more you know about your ideal client or customer’s world view, their values, their preferences, their desires, the more you understand about how they want to experience your kind of product or service, the more you know about how they feel, the greater connection you’ll be able to make with them. Connection is the aim, not because it’s a business function, but because it’s what we humans seek, it’s how we’re wired. And we’ve figured out along the way that without that connection there is no business, and seeing there’s no connection school or degrees, only business school and degrees, we gave it a business term and put it under the heading of ‘marketing’. I’m not knocking that at all, it makes sense, but if you’re going to make it work, then you have to understand that it’s a human thing first, and a business plan heading or check-box second.

 

I hope that makes some sense to you. It really bugs me when really smart small business owners, who are really good at what they do, second-guess themselves about what they know to be true because of intimidating business and marketing jargon. It makes me weep to see these bright sparks waste hours cranking out some meaningless business mumbo-jumbo trying to smarten up their act, become more ‘professional’, when the real answers, with the real feeling and the real knowledge of what they actually do and who their actual people are is so much more valuable. Business, commerce and marketing are just frameworks to explain, test and implement commercial outcomes, and we need them, they’re fascinating and very useful, don’t get me wrong, but underneath all of the terms and the systems and concepts is, first of all, human connection.

 

Back yourself and what you know to be true. Serve your people better than anyone and have a brilliant day.

Andrea

Content marketing mantra: Produce high quality content that's meaningful to your audience - an unwanted epiphany

This is like the foundational tenet that we hear so much, so often, that we run the risk of taking if for grated that we actually know what it means and are delivering it. It came as a shock to me personally when I realised that actually the truth is that I hadn’t been doing this so well. Not well at all in fact.

 

It’s not the first time this has happened in my life around something I really care about. One of my most significant ‘growing up’ lessons (and just to be clear, this did not occur in adolescence - I was already well and truly a "grown-up", at least in age) was realising the difference between logically understanding a concept, a life truth, a principle, and actually doing it. For me, it was all about accountability. I knew what accountability meant logically, and if fact, I loved it. It made so much sense to me, really resonated, and I’m sure I preached to more than one other person more than once about all I understood about accountability. But then one day when my Iife had reached rock bottom, I realised that for all my understanding and resonance with the principle, I’d done bugger-all of it myself. Understanding is only one half of the equation.

 

I think this is a common pitfall and a reason people get stuck in so many areas of life. Some principles or high-level concepts are so familiar to us, so drummed in, so ubiquitous to us that we actually confuse our knowledge and understanding of them with actual implementation. It’s kind of like a marriage, or family that we see every day. We know we love them, we know this so confidently and unquestioningly that we may forget to explicitly communicate that, or worse still, treat them in a way that communicates the opposite message.

 

In the same vein, how many times have you heard that the first step to content marketing is to produce work, or content, that’s top quality? That it needs to be of a high standard to stand out from the crowd, from all the other content. That not only does it need to be high quality, but something that your audience really wants, loves, needs. That it’s actually useful to them and solves a problem for them. You hear it all.the.time. right?

 

Well I can only truly speak for myself, but I know that not only have I heard that so much, I also really, really care about it and believe it underpins connection, authenticity, brand and all marketing. I love that stuff, it’s my thing … But I had begun to take that I knew what it meant for granted so much that I believed I was doing it and was therefore ready to move on to the next thing. I’d begun to see quality as a check box. Tick, yep, done that, got that, what next?

 

Ok so for a start, any lesson that’s worth learning tends to be an ongoing practice, not a one-off check box. Take getting fit as an example. Clearly understanding the importance of exercising is not the same as sticking to a fitness regime. Sure, you have to understand its benefits first in order to be motivated and committed to doing the work, but understanding is not enough. You then have to do the work - you have to go for that run, Crossfit, yoga, whatever it is. But then there’s more - you have to keep doing it. You have to incorporate that principle of fitness into your life not just in resonating thoughts, but in action.

 

Producing high quality content therefore is not a point you get to and from which you move to another stage. Sure, once you’re producing high quality content, you have options and things you can do with it, but high quality is not a static thing - it’s something you have to continually strive for. Something you have to practice on an ongoing basis and, I don’t think it’s unfair to say, something that you have to keep improving on.

 

I didn’t know that I’d got off track and I certainly didn’t expect an epiphany in this form, but I got it just the same. I realised, sadly and painfully enough, that I had ticked the check box for quality and moved on to tactics. I hate this! I bellow on about it all the time to other people - DON’T DO THIS!!! Especially in marketing - I’m passionate about this: unless you have found your reason, your why, and are producing work of a high standard that people actually care about, then all of your marketing efforts will come off as tacky, slimy tactics that will get you nowhere.

 

What I didn’t realise is that quality and tactics can both be represented on a sliding scale, from really, really poor, to really, really good. And that even though I wasn’t all the way down the poor end on either, I wasn’t as far as I could be towards the truly excellent end. Which is actually fine, but what’s not fine is that I subconsciously ticked the box and therefore wasn’t going to move. My blog posts were ok, they were getting some attention and I wasn’t embarrassed about them. My website was/is ok - I mean I have one, it’s up, which is better than nothing, but I wasn’t proud of it, am not proud of it. It can be a LOT better. But because I checked the box, I had begun to see the ‘just ship it’ principle as a tactic. I believed I had enough quality to just publish and that publishing regularly, shipping it, and pushing for exposure was the focus.

 

‘Just ship it’ isn’t a bad principle, nor the most sinister tactic if that’s how you’re using it. There’s a lot worse you can do on the crappy tactics scale, trust me! But because I thought I’d got the quality thing down alright, I was putting a higher emphasis on a lower principle. The quality will do, just get it out there. And when you do that, you always have to come back and take stock and re-callibrate.

 

Quality and making stuff that actually helps people has to be part of your process. For quality, you have to have a target you’re striving for, something you want to get to one day, and you have to find ways to take steps towards achieving that or becoming that TODAY. And tomorrow, and the next day. It’s the accountability thing again - you actually have to DO it, not just understand it. And making stuff that actually helps people is a part of that quality. Quality’s not just how well you write, or how lovely your layout and images are - sure, they’re important, no doubt and I for one am, at least from today(!), committed to constantly improving these aspects, but a big piece of quality is how well you serve people. If your audience just wants a beautiful reading experience, then understand that and aim to nail it. If they want things they can take away and put into action right away, well you have to do that too. Sometimes they want both, but knowing that is key to producing quality.

 

Making stuff and writing about things that are interesting and which actually help people isn’t really for you to decide either. I’m interested in marketing, could talk all day about it, but I know that the people I really want to help and connect with and make something useful for don’t like marketing. No they don’t. They find it overwhelming, they find it sleazy and frankly they’d rather have nothing to do with it. What they care about is being a doula and helping women birth naturally and mother gently, or making natural skincare products that don’t harm their families or the environment, or selling enough of their dreamcatchers so they can justify doing it all day long because they love it so much. Marketing to them is a necessary evil and I want to be the one who can show them that they can do it effectively in a way that feels right to them - sans sleaze! Whether or not I can pull that off depends on how well I understand them and the effort I put into producing things that represent real value and real quality to them.

 

Significant pieces in my epiphany:

1. Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

This book arrived in the post on Tuesday.

It’s been on my ‘to read’ list for ages, but my husband recently ordered it for me and it arrived Tuesday.

I read it that night. It confirmed a lot of what my soul already knew.

2. On Wednesday I read a Content Marketing Institute article about growing the Canva blog.

I don’t usually pay too much attention to articles like these because I find that they can often be more overwhelming than helpful, but not this one.

Again, it seemed to tap into something I was already thinking about and was particularly piqued after reading ‘Turning Pro’ the night before.

It put rock solid fundamentals before any sort of tactic. I found it confronting, but undeniable.

Read the article here.

3. After reading this article, I went to the Canva blog - I wanted to see what he was talking about.

I regularly use Canva, but I’d never read their blog. Now I know I’ll never miss one.

There’s a line in the CM Institute’s article that asks, ‘What do you want your blog to be when it grows up?'

This is it. I want my blog to be like the Canva blog - excellent quality, far and away better than the usual, it’s long, long form writing, there’s lots if images - it’s beautiful in every way, not just superficially.

Have a look at the Canva Design School blog here.

4. Ice to the Brim

On Thursday I went to this site and completely fell in love with it.

This is what I want my website to be when it grows up.

It’s beautiful, it’s purposeful, it’s personal, in fact it oozes personality and it makes me feel like I’m at home - I want that at JamTree.

Go see what I'm talking about and meet Chase Reeves here.

5. Fizzle’s 9 Stages of Small Business

I’m going to use this as a roadmap to go back and spend the time to get these steps right.

My foundation wasn’t sure enough so I had to have an epiphany about that, but it’s ok because now I can do it properly.

If you haven't heard of Fizzle, I highly recommend you change that here.

 

Today came the culmination of an unwanted epiphany that started on Tuesday, so today I draw a line in the sand and share with you the places I want to go and the things that I am going to do differently to get there. I don’t know if this post will represent any of the quality and usefulness I’ve been talking about, but if nothing else, I’ve shared a point in the road I’m on and I hope that in some small way, it gives you the courage to reconsider, reevaluate and perhaps take comfort in the fact that just because your road is wiggly and windy with a few wrong turns, you can still learn and you can still turn it into a positive. Keep moving forward, keep striving for quality, keep seeking to understand both yourself and those you want to serve.

I don't know how useful or high-quality this post really was today, but I promise you this - I am on a mission to walk the talk and learn everything I can so that I can be the producer of quality, helpful content that helps you do the thing you love.

Take care,

Andrea 

Photo credit: 'You Can't Depend on Your Eyes' by Brian Talbot via Flickr

Why it makes sense for small businesses to target a niche they’re part of.

I’m developing a marketing plan for a friend and client at the moment, which is a lot of work, but honestly something I really love and have great fun doing. The best thing about diving in and doing the work for real, rather than just philosophising and talking about it, is the things you learn, the light-bulb moments. Figuring out what makes sense for him and developing a bespoke plan that works with his strengths and values, and connects him to his market, is my favourite thing.

A big part of my focus when I do this work is defining and analysing the target market; identifying the positives and the negatives, and developing an avatar that represents the common thoughts, feelings, values and aspirations of this group. He had indicated who the majority of his clients were in terms of their demographics and on exploring this, I found a lot of great reasons this was a good market to focus his appeal and communications on. But there was one reason that stood out head and shoulders above them all - he was part of this niche himself.

Bang! My client IS one of these people! So not only do they exist, which we already knew, and not only are they a viable niche for other compelling reasons, but he knows exactly how they think, the challenges they face, the things they care about, the pressures they live with, and the things they value and are striving for. Market research right there at your finger tips, on tap, real time.

The whole point of defining your target market and drilling down into as much detail about their psychographics (the things they care about) as possible is to communicate in a way that appeals to them, in language they use, in places and ways they’re already in and are used to. If you have something that could really be useful to a group of people, you need to know who they are, where they are, how they speak, what they care about and what compels them so that you can earn their attention and get them to listen to you. This usually takes a lot of research and dedication indeed - it’s hard to understand people who are not like us, especially when you’re talking in terms of statistics and demographics. But on a human level, we’re very adept at understanding each other and gravitating towards those we perceive as being similar to us, as understanding us. That’s why it makes a lot of sense for small businesses to target niche markets that they too belong to.

1. It’s easier to understand a niche you’re part of.
This means it will be much easier find your voice and serve them better … because you know what they’re all about. Like my client, he has market research on tap because he’s part of that group and therefore also has access to friends who are too. Gold.

2. You’ll enjoy your marketing a lot more.
If you’re part of that group and your focus is on serving their needs ridiculously well, then you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more and it will feel a lot less like work. Marketing is less likely to be icky and burdensome and your work itself is more enjoyable spent with people you identify with in a way that goes beyond a business decision.

3. Small businesses have limited resources; time, money and energy.
Honing your target to one that you’re part of and understand intimately is less of a drain on your precious resources because your message, your products, your customer service are all going to be much more efficient.

4. Focusing on a niche you know doesn't have to exclude or alienate others
… but your focus on this one group means you’ll do a better job for them specifically and this is what you’ll become known for. Clients who don’t fall into this group may also be attracted to you, and your products and services will probably serve them just fine, it’s just that you’re not wasting time and energy trying to change your message to appeal to all sorts of groups. Remember that trying to appeal to everyone dilutes your brand and awareness, and leaves you appealing to no one.

5. You’ll do better work.
When you really ‘get’ who you’re trying to help, communicate with, make something for, it makes the work you do much less of a struggle, much less forced. And when there’s less struggle and more flow, you produce better stuff, serve better and stand out more.


And I have also found this to be true personally - I’m definitely part of my niche. When I first began to explore my marketing philosophy and who I wanted to work with, I resisted the small business pocket. I had great aspirations for writing and developing my own brand and I wanted to work with my heroes and role models, except it was difficult to work out exactly what I could offer them, so I settled on trying to be like them. But then I came to realise that although those aspirations still stand, it takes years and years to build a thing like that - there is no switch that circumvents time and hard work.

That’s when I discovered that I was in many ways my own avatar - I was part of my own niche and that’s where it made most sense for me to be. Not only because I’m part of it, but because I have friends who are part of it too and I care about the challenges they face and the dreams they have. I know them personally and I have them on hand to ask and to serve. I also love them and the courage it takes to go after a dream, beat your own path, make something that’s truly your own, and put something you really care about out there into the world and run the risk of it being rejected and failing … or embraced and loved.

You don’t have to serve a niche you’re a part of, but if you’re in business for yourself and you haven’t really targeted a niche and honed your offerings just for them, then I hope you’ll consider one you already know something about. The better you can understand, communicate and serve, the better your work will be and the more you’ll stand out.

Photo credit: "Caitriona Jennings (Rathfarnam AC) won the Flora Women's Mini-Marathon" by William Murphy via Flickr

But I'm a small business - why do I have to worry about my target market?

Maybe you’ve heard it before, maybe you’ve even thought or said it yourself - why do small businesses need to worry about target markets? Isn’t that something the big corporates do? My target market is anyone who needs widgets (insert coffee, art supplies, financial services, musical instruments, skincare products, whatever it is you do), and my widgets are the best, so I can help anyone. Meerp. Buwmp bouw. Not quite.

 

Ok so let’s just get this straight. Target marketing is not just some fancy marketing voodoo for the big corporates that some suited team of marketing consultants present to boardrooms in flow charts and info graphics. Targeting your market, or in other words, targeting your ideal customer is really important for small businesses too and I’m about to tell you why without the jargon and corporate speak.

Serve your customers better than your competitors do

So when you’re in business, you’re trying to deliver your customers something that they need or want. Chances are that you’re not the only place they can get that product or service either - it’s likely you have competition and your customer has other options. In order to compete therefore, you’ll be aiming at serving your customers' needs better than your competition does. Simple, right? Well it is, but this is where all sorts of marketing terminology usually steps in with a whole slew of jargon, statistics and graphics that basically try to convey this simple truth: if you’re going to serve your customers better than your competitors do, then the more you know about them, the better the chance you’ll have of achieving that.

Understand them

What happens when you start to drill down into the details of who your existing customers really are and who your ideal future customers should be? Well most likely you’ll find  you’re not actually serving the whole widget market. You’ll find that your customers have things in common; needs, preferences, values, problems. It’s in this detail, in this level of paying attention that you find what to hone in on. What makes them tick and how you can do things to better meet their needs. Now you can really start to see how you can blow their minds by doing a better job of being who they need you to be for them because you understand them.

How do they want to feel?

Now you’re a widget company that services the pink widget market. Sure, others who are not part of the pink widget market might also be satisfied with your product, but you know that the pink widget market needs pink widgets, they need them within 24 hours of ordering, they value and rely on great customer service and they’re happy to tell their friends about your widgets on Facebook. With this information you can start planning and prioritising your business practices and systems to make sure these pink widget customers feel the way they want to feel.

Serving well is how you stand out

This has never before been more critical for small business and never so achievable. The advent of Web 2.0 and the evolution of the digital world, the advancement of the smartphone and hand-held devices coupled with the interactive nature of web property, particularly the social platforms, means that we are all far more technologically connected than at any other point in time. It also naturally means that business no longer needs to rely on their face-to-face and in-person relationships, nor are they constrained by their geographical location in relation to their clients.The flow-on effect of this for small business is that although they have access to a greater number of potential clients, so do their competitors, and potential clients also have access to unlimited information pertaining to your particular industry. Therefore it’s never been more critical for a small business to know who they’re serving and serve them extremely well.

Make them feel like they matter

Have you ever heard that saying that if your try to serve everyone, you end up not serving anyone? It’s true because now that we all have so much accessibility to so many products and services, the way we choose who we’ll do business with and give our attention to are those who make us feel like we matter. Brands with personality, great products that feel like they were made just for us, backed up by great customer service and the feeling that we’re understood and cared for. This is how we choose and it’s how small businesses can stand out and compete with the bigger brands who, for all their resources, may just be struggling to reverse engineer that human element, that human desire to feel like we matter.

It's not for everyone, but it's better to those who count

Find out what your target market wants and go out of your way to over-deliver that with spunk, personality and care in a way that resonates with them. You’ll only be able to do this if you take the time to find out who they are and what they care about. It goes beyond you and your product and service, and spreads into a whole context for how you and the thing you do exists within their lives and their stories.

This is target marketing

This is how you will stand out. This is how you will be chosen and spoken about. This is how you will gain loyalty from the people you serve and how you will iterate and improve your business well into the future independent of what your competitors do. This is how you create a brand that sticks and stands the test of time - pick your thing and do it extremely well, the best. And the key to achieving this is in understanding your ideal customer so well that you can see the world through their eyes.

 

So no, it’s not just a corporate marketing buzz-word, it’s the fundamental key to small businesses standing out in a crowded world where trust and attention are our scarcest business resources. Small businesses have limited resources - don’t waste them. Take your time to identify and understand your ideal customers and focus everything on caring just for them.

I hope you enjoyed this article and have some extra oomph to go out and get really clear about the people you serve. Tomorrow I'll be talking about the advantages of being part of the niche you serve as a way of understanding them better and therefore better meeting their needs.

Catch you tomorrow,

Andrea

Photo credit: "Gift" by asenat29 via Flickr 

Go pro - plan your social media content for better quality and engagement

Ok so it may seem a little counter intuitive to plan out your social media content. I mean after all, we want authenticity, we want your real personality to shine through and we want to respond and engage with our audience. Spontaneity kind of comes to mind in that context, right? So why does planning your social content contribute to achieving all that and more?

Here’s why;

Consistency

If content is king, then consistency is queen. You need to achieve consistency both in terms of the content itself and in terms of when and where you post.

Yes, consistency is an absolute priority. The way you write, the kinds of things you post and share, your tone, images and themes need to be consistent with who you are and with your brand. Consistency of message deepens brand awareness and consistency in when and where you show up with that message is critical in your audience learning to trust and engage with you. Quite simply, a plan takes care of what you’re posting and when you’re posting it so your audience can rely on you.

 

Quality

Planning as a form of quality control means that you have the opportunity and are more likely to create content ahead of time. This means that instead of either just trying to pump something out to a deadline without proper attention to quality and detail, or going the other way and posting periodically and haphazardly, you can properly create and review drafts in advance of when you want to post it. It also means that because you know that post or group of themed posts is coming up, you can start researching your piece in more depth to make sure it’s accurate and highly relevant.

 

Flexibility

Planning gives you more flexibility, not less. By following a plan and seeing how you put things together, you’re also able to respond and tweak them much more easily. For example, you may have scheduled 2 inspirational quotes per week, but have noticed that they get a lot of likes, comments and shares. You can then easily review your plan and change inspirational quotes up to a daily post. This is much harder to do without a plan as the blueprint.

 

Themes

This is related to consistency and quality in that having a plan enables you to see the overall flow of your content so you can make sure it has flow and makes logical sense. A plan will show you that spending a week talking about and sharing content on a particular topic is the perfect pre-cursor for a related, more in-depth discussion the following week. It also helps you plan the right proportions of different types of content within the context of an overarching topic. This not only allows you to get into the groove of that theme and produce better work, but it’s more logical and enjoyable for your audience to consume.

 

Efficiency

When you plan, you can batch. That means that instead of spending time all over the place preparing and posting your content, you can create a whole heap of posts in one sitting so then all there is to do is post them. This is good for time efficiency, but it’s also good for getting in the zone and being consistent with your tone and your theme. When you can sit down and create a whole week’s worth of posts, you can often achieve a really good flow, which not only makes it more enjoyable, but often allows you to create better quality work. Plus, if you batch your posts, you can also then use a content scheduler to publish them at whatever time you choose. Many platforms, like Facebook, have this function built-in, but you can also use additional products to post across platforms … but that’s another topic for another day!

 

Curation

You’ll often find that you want to link to someone else’s work, or share examples from others about your topic and planning allows you to do a better job of it. You can spend proper time researching and curating supporting articles and other sharable content to support your own ahead of time rather than flying by the seat of your pants and scrambling to find a piece, any piece, that supports your theme.

 

Engagement

By using planning to leverage the above benefits, you’ll not only see more engagement from your audience, but you’ll have more time to spend engaging with them and responding to their comments.

 

Your content plan can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like it to be or have time to make it, but the main thing is that it gives you that bird’s eye view to create and share content that’s valuable to your audience, consistently. Take some time to map out just one week’s worth of content today - give it a go and see what a difference it makes and how it ups your game.

How serving your audience on social media earns trust and engagement

Approaching your social media activities in a way that seeks to serve rather than broadcast, share rather than sell and give rather than gain is what fosters connection, trust and engagement. People are using the internet, and social media in particular, to seek out their tribes, to find the places they belong, have the conversations they want to have, learn about the things that interest them and support the causes that mean something to them. For the most part, we’re ‘over’ being sold to and have learnt to tune out. We’re hard-wired to connect and belong and we’re using that instinct to filter out the noise. Being of value to your audience through serving them is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s the currency of the day.

So how exactly can you serve your audience?
Here are a few suggestions to get your own ideas flowing;

Educate
It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, there's always an opportunity to educate your audience about the things you know about. It doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be specifically about your product, but informative pieces relevant to an industry and related to your products and business can be very valuable and engaging.

Here’s a great example of an engaging educative post ...

Ask their opinion
There are lots of different ways you can serve your audience and the better you know them, the better you can serve them. But did you know that getting to know them is a form of serving them? Not only do people love to share their thoughts and opinions, but their answers will make it easier for you to serve them better in the future. Win, win.

Pat Flynn does this really well in this example ...

Industry news
Sharing news about the industry you’re in can also be a great way to foster engagement if a broader context is of value to your audience. A good example of this is for tech companies where broader trends are useful to keep up with, but again, it can work for all industries.

Customer stories
Making your audience the hero and showcasing your customers’ own stories could possibly be one the best ways to serve them. Remember, we’re all trying to find our tribes and feel like we belong. By telling your customers’ stories, you deepen your own brand story. Everyone wants to matter.

Inspire
Inspirational quotes are big on social media and the reason for this that again, people are seeking connection and belonging, and relevant quotes taps into that … and quotes go really well with beautiful images. Images rock on social media, we love them. Choose quotes that are relevant to your theme, to your customers’ journey and which are in alignment to your brand message.

Be personal
Offer a few personal posts that show your personality and remind your audience that you’re a real person. It’s often been said that people get the most engagement from their audience from their personal posts. It’s up to you how you do this, so just have a go and see what happens, see how you feel. Have fun, but stay professional and appropriate, of course!

Downloads, gifts and useful stuff
A great way to serve your audience is to give them things that you know they’ll find useful. Depending on your business, they could be things like templates and checklists to help them with something, maybe a how-to video, a free sample. Give without a hook, give what you know they’ll love.

There are so many things you can do to serve your audience, so I guess this is a good time to remind you not to be overwhelmed - you don’t have to do it all. The most important thing is that you nurture the mindset of serving your audience through social media, find some things you feel comfortable with and which fit your brand and your business, and do them well. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect and it should always be something you’re listening to and responding to. If you notice something’s working, or not working, increase or decrease it, make it better, ask the question - serve them! Being of value to your audience means making them the hero by educating them, inspiring them and listening to them.

Thank you for reading, and now that you’re ready to serve, your next step is to create a plan. Why? I’ll tell you all about that in tomorrow’s post.

Take care, serve hard.
Andrea

Resource credit: Thank you to Amy Porterfield for the images and guidance from her article, "Top 20 high engagement Facebook posts". You can download that article from http://www.amyporterfield.com/2015/02/48-2015-facebook-engagement/

Photo credit: PicMonkey.com