Give your audience content they’ll actually use [and come back for]

Would you want to read the same form of content over and over?

Picture the scene: every month your favourite clothes brand sends you a pair of black socks for free because you've become such a loyal customer over the years.

The first month – it’s a nice freebie: free is exciting, right? The second month, you think it’s still a nice touch – they’re treating you as a loyal customer now. The third month you think “couldn’t they send me a blue pair?" By month 12 you’re unsubscribing and writing an angry email requesting the company removes you from their database... and stops sending you socks. You've been completely overwhelmed with too much of a good thing.

It’s the same with your content offers. Once you’ve got those valuable contact details from a prospect and you see them download your helpful resource as part of your inbound marketing campaign, if you offer them another ebook the following month, and another ebook the month after that, and after that, they may well lose interest pretty fast and wonder “does this company know how to do anything but write ebooks?”

Or… they might love this repeatable, reliable content. They might LOVE an ebook. That’s the thing about knowing your audience – you should understand what makes them happy and know when they're hankering for a change.

While some corners of the internet are claiming the ebook is dead, most research doesn’t support this. There’s something reassuring and familiar about PDFs – much in the same way a physical book behaves. Downloadable, printable and ‘save for later’ resources still have a place in most businesses, and for many customers.

But if this is all you’re doing – and especially if your data shows that downloads are slowing – it might be time to reconsider your content strategy.

Why change your pattern?

It’s no good innovating your content for the sake of it – this is a bad business move. Getting caught up in ‘the latest’ trends can actually damage your business if your audience is currently happy with the type of content you’re putting out. Making unnecessary changes damages trust and is a sure-fire way to lose loyal customers, fast.

For example, if your leading buyer persona is a motorhome-owning woman between 50-65 who has magazine subscriptions to travel publications, a library membership and is retired, she might be thrilled with the ebook downloads she's received from your company. 

This content may have led her to make an initial purchase with you. It may have resulted in her becoming a repeat customer with you. Maybe she’s shared your content with a fellow caravan-ing friend. If the ebook, and odd downloadable checklist suits her, then you’re doing it right: changing your winning formula would be detrimental to the success of your business and you would no longer be delivering value to your customer.

But what about customers who looked at your content offer and haven’t downloaded it, haven’t returned to your site since receiving your offer, or haven’t made a purchase with you? Are you matching your content type to your buyer persona’s needs?

Ofcom recently found podcast downloads in the UK boomed in 2018:

‘The increase is across all age groups, but the steepest growth is now among young adults aged 15-24 – with around one in five (18.7%) now listening to podcasts every week.’

A US study also found that 49% of people listen to podcasts in their home, and 22% listen when in their vehicles while travelling somewhere, with more men than women listening to regular podcasts.

Man walks down the street listening to headphones and smiling

If your target audience is in this age, gender or lifestyle bracket – you may be missing a trick by offering ebook after ebook. Your buyer persona may want a regular podcast from you to download and listen to on the go. And here’s the brilliant part: if you also have a persona like the first woman we described, who is regularly in her motorhome, introducing a podcast for her to listen to as she drives on her next trip might be a fantastic way to keep two segments of customers happy.

Changing your pattern and creating a new form of content can offer you some valuable benefits, such as:

  • Increasing leads and visitor-to-lead conversion rates.
  • It’s a way of using research to gain a better understanding of your market.
  • Developing a clearer understanding of your buyer personas.

Ask the audience

So how do you learn these habits and trends? There are a few different things you can do to check how much your audience is engaging with your content, and if they’re seeking a change in direction.

1: Look at your data

Before you plough on and decide to create a podcast or a video interview for your next content offer, you need to see if there’s any data to support a change. As we’ve explored above: if it isn't broken, don’t fix it. That said, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever innovate and experiment, but starting with facts is always a good idea.

Begin by looking at metrics in your HubSpot or Databox portal, or in your similar content management platform. Focus on aspects such as:

  • How many visitors are clicking through to the landing page where you content offer is anchored?
  • How many of them are filling in and submitting the form?
  • How many of them are opening the follow-up email?
  • How many are downloading or clicking through to your free content?
  • Is anyone sharing your content online through social media?

If you can see declining patterns in your content metrics, this could be a signal that it’s time to switch up your content methods. It could mean you need to revisit your personas, too – something clearly isn’t right if you think this audience segment enjoys e.g. case studies, but they aren’t downloading them.

2: Send out a questionnaire

Your next step is to reach out to customers with an interactive questionnaire – ask them some really specific questions about how they interact with your content. If possible, get them to write a few long-form answers, rather than just picking an option from multiple choice. Some of the questions you might ask are:

  • How often do you read the content you download from us?
  • Do you use this content to help you solve your problems?
  • On a scale of 1-10 how engaging do you find our publications?
  • Do you ever share our content with others?
  • Do you wish we provided a different kind of content? Tick all the relevant options.

To incentivise participation, you could offer a freebie at the end of the questionnaire, or enter customers into a draw to win a prize. You want reliable, honest respondents who have taken time to submit, not rushed answers that may be incorrect. Any way you can encourage accuracy on this task, is worth it.

3: Speak to them

Woman speaks on phone smiling

Finally, talk to your audience: ask questions and let them answer. Show that you’re listening and reacting to the insights you gain from these conversations – you might be surprised what you learn. Ask questions such as:

  • Which of our content offers have you found most helpful?
  • What do you like about the format or tone of our content?
  • What do you not enjoy about our content?
  • Can you give us an example of a time when you used advice you found in our content?
  • What other types of content do you access on a day-to-day basis?

Don’t just speak to happy customers either – it might be a more difficult discussion to confront prospects who didn’t quite become customers, or those who were customers but have now left you for an alternative option. But digging into the ‘whys’ of these discussions unravels so much about how to avoid making these same mistakes in future.

A combination of these tactics will give you the fairest and most accurate data: no-one has the time to call up and question 100 customers, but firing out 60 questionnaires, and interviewing five people in person is a much more attainable and realistic target.

The point here is to build an audience, not just a one-off visitor. So learn from what the data and your audience tells you, and consider trialling an alternative means of communication for your next content offer.

Remember: This doesn't necessarily mean starting from scratch with a brand new topic: try converting a blog post into an interview with a colleague; turn a white paper into an infographic poster; or turn a checklist into an interactive quiz. Don't get overwhelmed! You probably already have exactly what you need to get started.

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