By Joe Pulizzi published June 16, 2014

If Your Content Marketing is for Everybody, It’s for Nobody

audience-for-content-marketingQuick test: Who’s the audience for your blog? How about your eNewsletter? Your podcast? If you are like most enterprises that sell multiple product lines to multiple audiences, you may have two, three, four or more different audiences you are trying to target with the same content initiative. How’s that working for you?

Two case studies

Large technology company. While Robert Rose and I were in Toronto for the LinkedIn Content Marketing Master Class, one attendee had a question about buyer personas. More details revealed this large technology company (a Fortune 100 company) had precisely 18 different audiences they were targeting with their single blog. Needless to say, the blog wasn’t working very well for them.

Forbes.com Who is the audience for Forbes? According to Forbes Media, the site targets the world’s affluent business leaders with insights and information. OK, that’s a bit broad, but I can live with that. But with a quick look at Forbes.com articles, it’s clear to see that Forbes.com targets the audience known as “the entire planet.” Not only can you find what to wear to a regional small business conference, but you can also find which historic cemeteries have outdoor music performances. Hmmm. Even worse, while some content of Forbes AdVoice (its native advertising program) is relevant, much of the paid content is pretty useless for just about everybody. I believe this is why Forbes is having a tough time selling the company. Forbes is asking for an estimated $400 million for the brand, but reports are that is an unrealistic number.  Why? Because it’s incredibly hard to monetize an audience of everybody.

Four questions

Whether your goal is to sell more software or advertising, you need to get focused on your core audience. If you haven’t already, answer these questions and make sure your entire content marketing team pastes them to their foreheads.

  1. Who? Who is the audience for each piece of content (fill in the blank, i.e., blog)? Who is the specific buyer persona you are targeting with this platform?
  2. Why? Why are you doing this? What is the behavior change that you must see to call this content initiative a success? (Do you need to drive sales, save costs, or drive customer loyalty?)
  3. Outcome? What’s in it for the reader? How are you making their lives better or jobs easier in some way? What’s the pain point you are solving for them?
  4. Replacement factor? If you didn’t provide this kind of information for your audience, would they care — or notice? Could they find the information elsewhere? Is what you are saying really that important?

While all these questions are important, if you have multiple responses to “who,” the other questions are almost impossible to answer. Having multiple audiences waters down the content, has less impact and will be almost impossible for you to accomplish your marketing goals.

Two that do it right

Indium Corp.: Indium Blog.

Audience target: Engineers with questions around industrial soldering equipment.

Indium Blog Indium has become the de facto expert on all things industrial solders because that’s all they cover–specifically for engineers.

OpenView Venture Partners: OpenView Labs Blog

Audience target: Growth-minded entrepreneurs seeking early-stage funding

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 4.42.47 PM

This “value-added” venture-capital company commits a number of internal resources to becoming THE resource for early-stage company executives.

Next steps

Don’t get overly complicated with the solutions. This is as simple as doing the analysis, getting your team together and discussing.  Many times, branded content initiatives start with a singular audience focus but expand over time to multiple audiences. If that is the case, start with your poor-performing initiatives first. This fix may be that you focus on your core audience, and use another platform or initiative to communicate with your secondary audience.

And one last reminder: You may not need a content marketing initiative targeted to every audience.

Good luck and stay focused.

Ready to make content marketing an integral part of your business operations? Download our workbook to learn how to Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi