Underperforming content is a big fat time waster.
But content doesn’t underperform all on its own – there’s usually a very good reason why it’s not getting you the results you want.
The biggest culprit?
When content is created based on assumptions, over solid customer insights.
I probably don’t need to remind you of the famous saying about the word “assume”.
The general gist is that assuming anything makes a fool of both the person doing the assuming and the person on the receiving end.
In this case, that means you and your customer.
If you’ve ever had a great content idea come to you, put it into action, and it’s been met by tumbleweed – you’ve probably been assuming a lot more than you should.
You probably thought you knew what your customers’ biggest pain points were.
Maybe you thought you knew what their interests were.
Maybe you thought you knew what kind of content they liked consuming best (because you like consuming that type of content best).
The thing is, the best content and content strategies are built on actual customer needs, desires, and pain points. Not just on a whim or an idea you thought might hit the mark.
The best content is demand-led, not assumption-led.
Which is why it’s crucial to get deep inside the heads of our customers.
“Okay, great, but how do I do that bar getting my customers in a windowless room and interrogating them?”
Let me introduce you to the Outside-In Approach…
How to find out what your customers really want
The best place to start is with implicit and explicit data collection.
This does mean talking and listening to your customers, but interrogation doesn’t have to come into play.
There are much better, easier, and less scary ways to find out what your customers want from your copy.
1. Glean info from audience insights
Digging into your audience insights will reveal quantitative data about what your customers like to read and interact with.
It won’t tell you why they like that content or the pain point that’s driving them to seek content like this, but it will tell you what content gets read the most and where your customers arrive at that content from.
How to read your audience insights:
- Log in to Google Analytics
- Click on your most popular posts and filter them by a certain timeframe
- Make a note of any themes and similarities between your top pieces of content
Not a Google Analytics pro? Don’t worry, the basics are easy – especially with this handy tutorial from Moz.
2. Use the words your customers use
There was a trend a couple of years ago that saw brands replacing the word business with “biz” (shudder).
It came out of nowhere and seemed to spread like a disease through several industries.
Such a marmite phrase has the potential to really turn off customers if they don’t like it. And this is the same with any words and phrasing that you assume your customers will be familiar with and resonate with.
Instead of following the crowd, mimic the language your customers use in real-life communications so you can be sure you’re using words they recognise and resonate with.
We call this voice-of-customer data.
Here are some ways you can swipe the exact words your customers are using to weave into your copy:
- Scour customer support emails for phrases customers use to describe your product or industry
- Dig into forums to find out how customers are referring to relevant pain points and solutions
- Ask open-ended survey questions and mimic the phrasing customers use
Take a look at this example from Adobe’s support community.
Adobe’s support community is full of real-life language from its users. Notice the questions this customer asks, what problems they’re facing, and what exactly it is they need help with.
This way, you can mirror their language and your content will instantly feel more relatable and engage them faster.
3. Keyword research
Understanding what your customers are searching for will help you identify the most important topics to them.
You might think they’re all about “red ballet pumps”, but keyword data might show that they’re actually all about “green court shoes”.
Running keyword research will reveal the short and long-tail phrases your customers are literally typing into Google.
Here’s how you can run keyword research effectively and efficiently:
- Use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush to find high-volume keywords for your industry
- Determine what keywords your competitors are having success with by entering their URLs into a keyword research tool
- Dig into your Google Search Console to see what keywords your site is ranking for already and where there’s room for improvement
- Use a tool like Keywords Everywhere to find relevant long-tail keywords and questions that your customers are asking
You can also use a question-and-answer tool like AnswerThePublic and check out Google’s in-built “People Also Ask” section in the search results.
Take a look at that in action here:
Simple, but effective – am I right?
4. Surveys, focus groups and interviews
There’s no better way to find out the kind of content your audience actually wants than to get it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Strengthen your relationship with your customers by hopping on a call or running a survey to find out what kind of information they want to see from you.
Instead of guessing or assuming that the keywords showing up in keyword research tools are relevant to your audience, literally ask them what they want.
This is such an underrated way to find out what your audience wants, but it’s incredibly effective because you’re hearing it straight from your customers.
Here’s how to get the low-down from your customers:
- Create surveys you can send out to your email list and share on social media
- Run focus groups where you can deep dive into the needs of your customers
- Set up a handful of buyer interviews with your best customers to find out exactly what content they want to see from you (you can use these to capture voice-of-customer data too!)
Don’t be the brand that assumes. You’re better than that
It’s really easy to assume you know what your customers want.
Especially if you identify as one of them (that is, you identify as a target customer of your product).
But thinking you know them and their needs can be detrimental to your copy and content. Instead of assuming and basing your strategy on your needs, take some time to get to know your customers, their pain points, and interests.
When you do this, you’ll be in a much better position to create powerful content that resonates with them and keeps them coming back for more.