Hi friends, I am wondering what is the process of identifying content gaps for your target audience? Any kind souls to enlighten me?
I don’t know whether my answer qualifies as “enlightening.” But Wayne’s question got me thinking about how my colleagues and I approach identifying an audience’s content needs, or at least content an audience might value, whether they recognize it as an unmet need or not.
Here’s what I offered to Wayne on LinkedIn, saying that we’ll often arrive at a content strategy going down one or more of a handful of main paths.
1) Audience research
It’s remarkable what you can learn talking to just a handful, even 2 or 3, of the people you’re looking to attract and serve with content. Often you can safely extrapolate the content needs and gaps of a few to the audience as a whole.
2) Editorial board
For some content programs we’ll help our clients establish and manage an advisory board composed of the very same personas we’re looking to serve with content. Then we’ll run potential content topics and advanced asset ideas “up the flagpole” to discover which ones they salute.
In at least one case we built an extranet tool that allowed advisory board members to engage with us online and vote their sentiment on proposed content topics.
3) Ask the sales force or dealer network
Often the people who call on and sell to the audience every day have a pretty good handle on that audience’s pain points and knowledge gaps.
4) Beware format fixation
If you find yourself struggling to think of what sort or articles or white papers would be valuable to the audience, shake the Etch a Sketch and ask a format-agnostic question: What sort of high-value interaction or experiences could you create for them? A widget? A video? A game? An event?
Sometimes the answer isn’t filling a content creation gap. It’s filling a curation gap. An aggregated e-newsletter or blog post once a week, featuring the top 10 links, assets and posts an audience member should know about. That, in its own way, fills a gap.
In virtually every case, begin with empathy. Envision the audience’s mail pile and e-mail inbox. Sometimes an experienced content strategist can make some on-target guesses about what an audience member will find valuable (and differentiated) based on what we imagine their daily information stream looks like.
If they’re a mid-size business CEO or COO in the United States, for example, you can assume they’re consuming the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Inc., Forbes and/or Fortune, maybe Fast Company, some analyst reports and blogs, their industry trade publications, and their local newspaper’s business page. And that’s just before morning coffee. ; )
So where, among all that noise, can your sponsored content be both credible enough, but highly relevant and differentiated, to justify the audience’s time and attention?
Blue Ocean Content Strategy
To some degree, planning to fill an audience’s content gap is a process of elimination. “They certainly don’t need more of this or that. But I have a hunch they’re not getting enough of this, delivered in quite this tailored and focused way for a mid-size business exec.”
We helped one client grow brand awareness nearly 60 percent, and generate tens of millions in new business leads, in just 14 months, largely using this “let’s empathize to envision the content gap” thought process. Sort of a “Blue Ocean Strategy” approach to identifying content opportunities.
Finding and filling an audience’s content gaps can be a frustrating challenge to solve, especially because often they don’t recognize there’s even a gap — until you come along and fill it.
But when you find the answer — or at least AN answer, one that’s highly valued by the audience — frustration quickly turns to fun.
This list of tips on how to think about filling a content gap for your audience only scratches the surface. How do you think about identifying your audience’s unmet content needs? Comments and best practices welcome.
Post first published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s blog, Content Is Marketing.