Is Your Target Audience for Inbound Marketing Out of Whack?
Sometimes I feel like we're preaching to the wrong choir. I think these folks are into country and western, and we're pushing Beethoven. To use some worn out marketing-speak, our message isn't aligned with our target personas, and our content is driving the wrong leads to our marketing automation system. We're using the right tactics, but we are reaching the wrong people.
Let's take a step back and look at the root cause of the problem.
The 5 Whys
If you're into Continuous Improvement (we are), there's a classic tool people use to get to the bottom of problems, the 5 Whys. What you do is drill down from the symptom to find the root cause by asking "why" repeatedly.
Symptom: We are getting lots of leads, but very few of them are even remotely qualified for our products and services.
Why? - Because we are creating and publishing the wrong content.
Why? - Because we don't know what the right content should be.
Why? - Because we never identified our most likely buyer personas and their interests.
Why? - Because we never went through a formal persona and messaging analysis and content mapping exercise.
Why? - Because we failed to think hard about our digital marketing goals and strategies for achieving them. We jumped in, thinking, "If you build it, they will come."
What Should We Do About It?
The purpose of Continuous Improvement or "kaizen" is not to lay blame, it's to seek remedies and prevent future problems. What we have done is identify the root cause of the unqualified lead problem—failure to set appropriate goals and strategies for our digital marketing efforts. We also know what steps we need to take by reversing course through the 5 Whys.
Step 1 - Hold a kaizen meeting to identify and describe our target personas and their "pain points." Invite all of the people who have a stake in this process—marketing, sales, customer service, management, etc. At the end of the kaizen, you have a document that defines who you are going after (and why), and what types of questions you need to answer to get their attention.
Step 2 - Hold another kaizen with the content creators. Using the persona document, map out all of the existing digital content assets and those that will need to be created and the necessary resources to make that happen. Your content should be mapped for each persona, each "pain point" and each stage of the buy cycle or sales funnel. Create a schedule for development, get approval and budget, and stick to it.
Step 3 - Gradually "retire" the content that's pulling in the wrong leads and replace it with the new targeted content that's backed by lead nurturing campaigns with additional relevant content to move your leads toward a buy decision. Deploy your new content systematically over a few months to avoid a big drop in traffic and leads resulting from a wholesale replacement of popular content. The idea is to replace your current leads with new, more-qualified leads on a 1:1 basis if possible. If your lead volumes do drop off, however, keep an eye on your lead qualification KPIs (for example lifecycle stage)—especially the number of sales qualified leads. Those numbers should go up over time as your lead generation and lead nurturing content gains more traction with real potential buyers. Getting more sales is, after all, the bottom line for most marketing initiatives.
With the Benefit of 20-20 Hindsight
Yes, we reached out to the wrong target audience at the beginning of our inbound marketing journey. In our defense, our business plan has changed over the years, and so has our content marketing strategy. We are seeking big companies instead of SMBs now. We are focusing more on lead-to-customer conversions and less on traffic and lead volume. We are doubling down on analytics and enterprise-level marketing automation now. So our goals and priorities have changed. Our current wayward lead generation is no one's fault, it's just something that needs to be improved, and Continuous Improvement is the way to go. The 5 Whys tell us what to do, so we're setting up kaizens to address our changing needs.
Photo credit: Jamiecat