Editor’s note: You’ll certainly have heard the following advice, commonly given to bloggers — “write for your ideal reader.” But the truth is, your most valuable readers won’t have identical needs. And if you ignore one important group, your blog growth could stall. Pamela Wilson’s new book is not just a must-read for content marketers; it’s invaluable for bloggers too. In this extract, taken from “Chapter 4: Matching Your Content to Your Customer’s Journey”, she explains how to pitch your content at different experience levels to attract a healthy mix of readers and avoid depriving your blog of the “oxygen” it needs to grow — new fans.
Prospects and customers go through a process of getting to know your business until they feel comfortable opening their wallets and doing business with you.
It’s called a “customer journey.” Although many have tried to map it out and identify key steps along the way, the reality is that the journey taken will look a little different for each person.
Customer journeys are as different as the people who take them.
Content marketing is designed to facilitate this journey — no matter what it looks like — by offering up the right information every step of the way.
I want to share a way of thinking about the customer journey that the Copyblogger editorial team has developed as we work together to produce the Copyblogger blog. We took a step back and looked at how we could best serve our entire audience: the ones who were just finding Copyblogger and the ones who’d been reading for years.
We developed a technique for classifying the content we create, and it has been enormously helpful in guiding our topic choices and developing an editorial calendar that meets the needs of the people who come to our site.
This classification system will ensure that you deliver the content your prospects need to understand your topic, develop trust in your business, and feel comfortable entering into a business relationship.
Identify and Write to Your Customer’s Experience Level
The editorial team identified three labels we use to pinpoint who we’re writing for when we create specific content on our site. Pay close attention to the questions associated with each label. That’s where the magic happens!
Beginner, or What is ___?
Your beginning readers comprise a vast audience, and it’s important to serve them well.
I’ve seen it many times: a content creator picks a topic and begins writing about it consistently over time. Researching, writing, and teaching a topic inevitably leads to a more in-depth understanding of it. As their knowledge deepens, their content becomes richer. But they “forget” what beginners want and need.
This is a mistake. Many of your prospects will find your site because they do a web search for something they’d like to know. They find your content because it answers their question. And they stick around because they see that your information is consistently helpful.
These beginning readers are ripe prospects who you can move along a customer journey using your content. To write content that helps them, think about your main topic and all the related subtopics. Here’s an example:
You write about learning to run for an audience of readers who’ve never run before. Many of the people who come to your site will be complete beginners — people who need to know the basics. They’re asking…
Post ideas to answer the What is ___? Question:
- What could running do for me?
- Do I have to run fast to be considered a runner?
- What is the difference between a regular sneaker and a running shoe?
- Why is proper training necessary?
- What is a realistic schedule I can use to go from no activity to running a 5k race?
- What are warm ups, cool downs, and sprints, and why should I do them?
Beginners have questions — lots of them. And some of them are so basic they might be embarrassed to ask them if they were standing right in front of you. Guess what? That’s why they’re doing a web search!
So make sure you provide plenty of content that answers the “What is ___?” fundamental questions that are running through your beginning readers’ minds.
Intermediate, or How Do I Do ___?
Your intermediate readers have gone beyond the basics. They’ve found answers to their “embarrassing” questions. Now they’re working to achieve mastery. They have a vision, they’re working toward it, and they’re looking to your content for help.
Intermediate readers are voracious consumers of “how-to” style content. They want tips, checklists, “ultimate guides” and step-by-step tutorials. And when you deliver this kind of content to them, they’ll save it, re-visit it, and share it with their friends because they found it useful.
Let’s take another look at our website about helping non-runners learn to run. They’re asking…
Post ideas to answer the How do I do ___? question:
- What kind of shoe offers the best support for running hills?
- How can I find running buddies in my community?
- What should I do about dogs that approach me while I’m running?
- What are the best apps for mapping my run?
- How can I stay hydrated when I run in the heat?
- What’s the best way to control my body temperature when running in the cold?
Advanced, or How Do I Get Better at ___?
Advanced readers have the basics down pat. They’ve also mastered intermediate-level questions and know “how to” do most activities and tasks associated with your topic.
When they get to this point, they morph into advanced readers. And they’re still looking to you and your content to guide them on their journeys. After all, you’re the authoritative voice who got them to this point, right? Your site is their preferred place to learn.
Advanced readers want to improve their performance. They know how to do the basics. Now they want to get better, faster, and more efficient. They’re asking…
Post ideas to answer the How do I get better at ___? question:
- How can I increase my stamina so I can run longer distances?
- What’s a good strategy for winning a 5k race?
- How can I keep running even in my 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond?
- What’s a reliable training regimen to increase speed?
- How can I adopt a winning mindset on race day?
- Where can I find safe and fun running routes while traveling?
What Percentage of Your Content Should You Write for Each Group?
Oh, I’d love to give you a formula here. I really would! But this is something you’re going to have to figure out for your own website and audience. A few guidelines:
Write mostly for beginners. The beginner audience is massive, and reaching out to them will help you bring in a steady stream of prospects who will be forever grateful you were there for them when they were asking their newbie questions.
Listen carefully, and note what people are asking about. If you notice lots of comments on your site or on social media platforms that feature intermediate and advanced questions, write content to answer those.
Notice objections and write answers to them. Any time you make an offer, people will find all sorts of reasons not to buy. When you’re writing a sales page, for example, you’ll want to be sure you’re answering those objections and providing reassurance in your copy.
But your regular content can answer objections, too. As a matter of fact, using content this way makes it much easier to sell something once you’re ready because you’ve responded to questions and met objections slowly and naturally with the information you’ve shared over time.
Using our example above, a few objections — and the content that will answer them — might be:
Objection: I’ll never be a runner: I’m too out of shape.
Content: 5 Inspiring Examples of Great Runners Who Don’t Look Like Typical Athletes
Objection: I don’t have time to run.
Content: A Simple Way to Run Daily and Still Have All the Time You Need
Objection: Others can run but I’ve tried, and I know I can’t do it.
Content: 3 Surefire Ways to Ease Into Becoming a Runner — Even if You’ve Failed Before
This approach to content — thinking in terms of beginner, intermediate, and advanced — will influence the topics you cover and how you deliver your information.
Matching Your Content to Your Customer’s Journey: A Checklist
- Serve up content for every step of your prospect’s journey. Make sure you have plenty of content for beginners and ample content for those who are at an intermediate or advanced level.
- For beginning readers, answer What is ___? Beginning content defines a topic and helps web searchers expand their understanding of the basics.
- For intermediate readers, answer How Do I Do ___? Intermediate readers want to know how to apply what they’re learning to their lives and situations. “How-to” content fits perfectly into this category.
- For advanced readers, answer How Do I Get Better at ___? Advanced readers crave mastery. What content can you create that will help them get really good at your topic?