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Audience Research Led to Tattoo-Worthy Content Marketing

How do you make amazing content campaigns? The answer is deceptively simple: Start with your target audience. More specifically, start with a deep understanding and awareness of your target audience — i.e., customer research.

Unfortunately, not everyone does this. It turns out, if you’re doing customer research, you’re in the top 35% of marketers. A 2018 CoSchedule survey of 1,500 marketers found that 65% of marketers do not conduct customer research. But those who do are a staggering 303% more successful.

Marketers who do customer research are 303% more successful, according to @CoSchedule #Research via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In this post, learn how we used audience research to turn a boring topic into an effective content campaign that brought leads, generated awareness, and ended up permanently tattooed on a customer’s arm.

Audience research allowed us to create impactful messaging, find the right channels, decide on a distribution strategy that worked like a charm, and create a campaign success confirmed in ink. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Are motor oil warranties interesting?

Safe bet, no. Warranties for motor oil are not interesting. At least, that was our team’s first take when we assembled in the boardroom on a chilly, early spring day to hear the news: Warranties were ruining business.

We sold after-market motor oil. Unfortunately, dealers selling shiny new motorcycles, snowmobiles, or ATVs were giving brief but persuasive lectures to customers about how third-party motor oil could hurt their engines.

Those claims were invalid, and, quite frankly, against the law (See: Magnuson Moss Warranty Act). To overcome that wrong advice, we had to get through to our audience members and educate them on why warranties from after-market motor oil vendors are essential and why they should care.

Appeals to logic wouldn’t help. We had already published many studies on how more effective our oil was compared to other brands. This was not a problem to solve with the engineering team’s charts and graphs.

We pulled up our warranty page on the screen and sighed. It was boring and read like the legal department wrote it.

Ye old warranty page

We shifted our focus (only too gladly) from the page. Instead, we asked who would read it? Who would care deeply about the warranty? Not because they had a law degree and wanted to cozy up to legalese, but because they cared about what the warranty stood for – namely, protecting their very new, very expensive motorcycle.

TIP: If your content is about your brand and how awesome your product is, it won’t resonate. Take yourself out of it. Your customers care about their pain points and problems, not yours. Focus on them. Challenge yourself by asking who would care about your message and why?

Take your brand out of the conversation. Focus on your customers’ pain points and problems, says @daisyquaker via @CMIContent. #ContentStrategy Click To Tweet

Understand the target audience

Our core audience was typically middle-aged, and loved riding snowmobiles in the winter and motorcycles in the summer, and going to rallies and car shows. This audience watched the Engine Masters Challenge and knew names like Bryce Menzies or Kenny Hauk.

Changing oil was not a chore they had to squeeze into a Saturday. It was an emotional experience that reflected their values, whether that included DIY maintenance, working with their hands, or caring for what they owned.

Some people were die-hard nerds (yes, there are hugely popular motor oil forums on the internet), while some just cared about having the coolest, loudest, “baddest” motorcycle at Sturgis (a motorcycle festival that draws over 250,000 riders). They loved the open road, exploration, and adventure. Taking care of their engines was part nostalgia, part rebellion, and part Zen.

We knew they wouldn’t spend a minute reading the warranty page unless we paid them.

TIP: Get to know your audience. What makes them choose your brand or product? How does it fit with their worldview? What does it enable them to do? Mine your customer’s world for key phrases. Use a tool like SparkToro to find out who they read, watch, or listen to. Use those insights to guide you on the types of messaging that will and won’t work.

Use a tool like @sparktoro to get to know your audience. Use those insights to guide you on the types of messaging that will work, says @daisyquaker via @CMIContent. #ContentStrategy #Tools Click To Tweet

Create messaging that fits in the customer’s context

We took a step back to look at how our warranty fit in the customer’s world. Where would we have the best chance of positioning our messaging and how would it work?

We dug into our customer personas. We wanted our messaging to fit the world they inhabited, not our corporate conference room in Wisconsin.

Image source

After a few weeks of tossing ideas back and forth, we landed on the concept of freedom. Our target audience cared about the freedom to ride and the freedom to do as they pleased. The original equipment manufacturer’s warranty got in the way of their motor oil choice. It pushed a corporate agenda.

We had our angle.

Our target audience hung out on Facebook. We mined it for photos to give us clear visuals on what they looked at, what they aspired to, and what truly resonated with them.

And that brought us to another clue: stickers.

Who doesn’t love stickers?

Modify message to fit the distribution channels

Although our blog was popular (we generated about 100,000 monthly visits), we didn’t think it should be our main channel. Instead, we needed a content distribution strategy to:

  • Capture attention quickly
  • Hook the audience with an emotional appeal
  • Communicate the facts succinctly
  • Provide an immediate and measurable reward

We created a shorter campaign landing page that talked about the freedom to choose. We reformatted our message into a short, public-service-announcement-style video featuring our product marketing manager, Len, who explained the facts. And we rewarded our viewers and website visitors for noticing our message: “If you don’t want to be told what to do, get your sticker.”

The sticker also was a tracking mechanism to report campaign performance.

By this point, we felt inspired. Even our cynical product marketer was on board.

It took 30 minutes to decide on the slogan for the campaign and a week to refine it – Runs on Freedom.

We already could see the stickers on snowmobiles. In a few weeks, the campaign was up and running.

The rebranded campaign page

TIP: Edit your messaging to fit in the customer’s world. Start with an emotionally charged message. Follow up with benefits and/or facts. End with a reward.

Buy ads where it makes sense

Google search ads weren’t going to cut it. We did not want to show up in results for frustrated searchers trying to find warranty information.

We promoted our messaging on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and at our company’s booth at events, timing our ad spend with the release of new powersports vehicles.

And then we struck gold.

It was no secret that our target audience was a patriotic crowd. We put additional ad spend on our audience’s platform of choice (Facebook) over the Fourth of July weekend. By Monday, we had 1,500 requests for stickers and unmistakable evidence that our messaging worked.

TIP: Use the right distribution channels. Where do your customers hang out? Go there.

From legalese to a tattoo

Audience research was the secret to our success. It can be for yours too. It will help you create compelling content campaigns by unlocking patterns, messaging formats, and distribution channels you might have otherwise missed.

Can you imagine if we had merely updated the text to make it less legal and promoted the updated page? It wouldn’t have been a blip on anyone’s radar. It certainly would never have ended up on anyone’s arm.

Months later, we saw unimaginable proof of success when a fan sent us a photo of our slogan permanently tattooed on his arm.

Incredible proof of success? A customer inked a #content campaign logo on his arm. @daisyquaker via @CMIContent Click To Tweet

If customer research can transform a motor oil warranty into something so impactful, what can it do for your content marketing campaigns?

Note: Any tool mentioned in a post comes from the author. If you have additional tools to suggest please include in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute