4 Reasons Why Content Marketing Should Care About Audience Development

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Tony Zambito

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Overhead View of Audience
Overhead View of Audience (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the past year, questions about content marketing effectiveness are beginning to surface.  The Content Marketing Institute as well as a survey sponsored by eConsultancy, indicated belief in effectiveness was under 40%.  Most recently, SiriusDecisions made this statement:

“Fully 60 to 70 percent of content churned out by b-to-b marketing departments today sits unused. This stark statistic underscores the urgent need for a content revolution in b-to-b organizations.”

There is consistency on both the customer/buyer as well as the seller side regarding this issue.  In my qualitative research work in the past year, this view was evident. Digging into the “why” is the challenge.  Some 4 “whys” I’ve noticed:

Skipping to the Solution

One of the reasons this is occurring is the act of jumping to the solution too quickly. You can call it education material, insight, information, and etc.  However, reading between the lines, content is loaded with non-value messaging.  Content is filled with the usual “we are great, we know your problem, and we have the greatest solution” messaging.

Product Marketing Origins

Some companies have been product-centric for decades.  Reshaping such DNA is not an easy transition some are finding out.  When the majority of content is being produced from the product marketing or management epic center, it is hard to resist.  Resist what you ask?  The temptation to talk about how great the product is.

Sales Driven

Contrary to the above, some organizations have been sales-centric for years.  Thus, putting enormous pressure on marketing to generate sales-ready leads.  Patience for nurturing may be on the low-end of the scale.  The result is content bleeds “selling” in every way.

One Size Fits All

Some organizations have not moved beyond the “single” view of the buyer.  Content is oriented towards this single view in all aspects.  Thus, content is not developed for other members of the buying team nor external influencers.  I include in this category firms too focused on a single buyer persona.

The Audience Development Manifesto

Three categories of buyer behavior getting plenty of notice recently are:

  • Not in the market to buy
  • Not ready to buy
  • Do nothing

Read them again.  If all content is oriented towards “ready to buy”, then it is no wonder 60 to 70 percent of content goes unread or unused.  Let this voice of a buyer interview subject do the talking:

“It is important to stay abreast of new ideas, trends, technology, and the likes.  But, some just make it difficult to do so.  Everything is set up to sell me something right away.  So I am reluctant to give details about myself.”  (Vice President, Mortgage Operations)

If your content is product-centric or sales-centric in the wrong place, time, or situation, this may be the voice of your potential buyers.


We are seeing the term audience-centric used more often.  What does this mean exactly?  The obvious is to develop content specific to an audience.  To do so implies not skipping the first step of knowing your audience.

First Step

The first step to be taken is to gain an understanding of segmenting 3 types of personas which are reflected in the Persona Buying Cycle™:

Audience persona: oriented towards “not in the market to buy.”  Understanding how to meet the needs and goals of people as well as companies who fall into this category is pivotal.  It can include a wide spectrum of industry influencers to non-buying teams in prospect companies.  Sound audience development messaging begins with understanding audience personas.

Lead persona: oriented towards “not ready to buy” but have needs and goals specific to their role as well as situation.  As we have seen often in buying teams, team members are assigned research and evaluation roles, which can take place over a 6 to 12 months period.  Sound lead nurturing begins with understanding lead personas.

Buyer persona: understanding when the buying cycle “kicks” into sales-ready mode is crucial.  Buyer personas should be specific to active participation in the process of buying.  Buyers can and will choose the “do nothing” choice.  If so, you may be able to trace this back to a lack of understanding your buyer personas.

Armed with the knowledge of how these three distinct personas behave can help lead to this summary point:

Improving content marketing effectiveness requires an audience development strategy.

A plain and simple statement yet with much work to be done.

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3 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why Content Marketing Should Care About Audience Development”

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