A classic business mistake is failing to understand who your prospect is, especially now that niche marketing is critical to success in an overly competitive environment. The same is true for commercial blogging when it comes to developing a unique content strategy.
Under the classical approach to developing a unique selling proposition, you would start by examining your product/service for a unique element that would separate you from the competition. And while differentiating your offer from what others are providing is the goal, it’s no longer the starting point.
When it comes to business blogging, you are seeking an audience before you seek the sale, and frankly, starting with the needs of the audience is essential to all forms of modern marketing. Assuming that what you offer, or even what your competitors offer, is in tune with the current needs of the audience is an invitation for disaster and an adversary of innovation.
How do you figure out what people want? Here are some ideas.
If you have an existing business, the most important thing you can do is to talk to past and existing clients and customers. Don’t come in with pre-existing notions… listen.
You can perform surveys, or make a point to enter into dialogue whenever you have the opportunity. Pay particular attention to complaints—dissatisfaction is the starting point for innovative business moves.
If you’re starting a new business, or hoping to make the blog itself into an income-producing venture, you can still survey people and gather valuable market intelligence, if you start with search engine keyword research.
2. Keyword Research
Search engine keyword research can be incredibly enlightening. You can observe both real-time trends and the words people are using to seek out more information.
Don’t stop with the keywords though. Follow the path into the search engine results, and check out the web sites, forums, and blogs that you find. You’re not doing competitive analysis yet—you’re looking for the unanswered questions and the unfulfilled needs of the audience.
Once you hone in on a promising angle, you may want to perform a low cost survey using tools like the Ask Database combined with low-cost pay-per-click ads in the search engines. Be careful about the way you frame questions, as your own preconceived notions may influence the answers and keep a real gem of an opportunity from coming to light.
3. Demographic and Industry Trends
It pays to pay attention to what’s going on in your industry or niche, as well as related fields from which you can swipe applicable approaches that are being missed by your direct competition. You’ve got to be acutely aware of where things are and where they’re going.
Sometimes you can identify seemingly unrelated trends, combine them, and enjoy rapid success. Other times, you can be sufficiently ahead of the curve and end up a leader in your category while everyone else tries to play catch up.
No matter how many people you ask or how many trends you identify, no one is going to tell you the answer. The fact is, people don’t know what they want. It’s up to you to figure it out for them and deliver.
You’ve got to take all the data you collect, and infer from it a strategy. That’s the way it is in business, and that’s the way it is in blogging.
Think of yourself as a niche magazine publisher whose biggest advertiser is your business. When it comes to information marketing, selling people on your content first is the key to selling them later on your product or service.
Reader Comments (27)
Even if you’re a mere blogger I recommend checking in with your existing audience occasionally to find out their demography. I did this last month and I found out that my readers are about 15 years older than I thought they were in my head and 10% more female than I expected.
What was really cool about the survey was finding out that I reached 60% of the people in 24 hours and 95% within 72 hours.
Ryan Holiday says
It’s a shame that all this isn’t common sense isn’t it?
I know that weekly I run into problems from a PR standpoint that could have easily been solved had been just sat back and run through these steps.
The beauty of the internet is the access to diverse opinions. If you’re not utilizing that by asking questions, you’re an idiot.
Thanks for the wonderful post,
A lot of people in business don’t know who their prospect is. Having been in real estate, I am amazed to see amount the blind mailing campaigns practiced by the agents.
Hope people get to read this article and work their strategy towards certain niche.
Dawud Miracle says
I think it’s the keyword thing I struggle with the most. When I think of keywords, I rarely take the time to focus on them before I write. I always look at what I’ve written after and find a few frequently-used terms. But I don’t necessarily go any further than that.
>>It’s a shame that all this isn’t common sense isn’t it?
Ryan, it is a bit… except that people have been lead to believe that blogging is some sort of different animal, where the basic rules of business and psychology do not apply. Fact is, the basics do apply, and they need to be pointed out.
Andrew Cavanagh says
Before you try to sell a single product or make one blog post you need to find a hungry market that’s easy to get to.
There are almost always “sweet spots” online.
For example it might be hard to get your site ranked high in the search engine rankings but there are long tail keywords that you can bid on with pay per click economically.
Or pay per click for search terms is expensive but there’s not a whole lot of competition for the search engine rankings (this one is a gold mine if you’re blogging that I explain in more detail in the audio).
Beyond that I strongly recommend you talk to some real live people if you really want to understand your market.
Go to seminars in your niche or engineer a way to get their phone numbers and call them.
Intimate knowledge of your prospects is the most important key to successful marketing and copywriting.
Dr. Laureen says
First, I must say that the title of this blog is great. It certainly got my attention. I firmly believe that it is important to know your niche or target market. It it extremely important to know the demographics, geographics and most importantly the psychographics.
When you know all of the fact about a target market group it will help you to know who you are talking too.
Looking at all aspects associated with indentifying your market will give you that competitive edge.
I also agree that you must talk to some real live people, but must also conduct surveys with various demogaphics as well as test market your product or service if you really want to understand your target market.
These efforts will go a long ways in coming up with that marketing solution we all are looking for – “who are my prime customers”. My whole business model is built of stratetic planning and identifying marketing solutions that impact that bottom line. –Kind Regards: Dr. Laureen(www.masterpiecesolutions.biz)
Ravi Karandeekar says
A. “The fact is people don’t know what they want.”………….sorry, i didn’t get you. Every thing was fine till this point.
I am your customer.
I don’t know what i want. (?)
Or, i can’t tell you what i want.
Or, i can tell you the problem but not the answer. It should come from you. Your product.
B. 1) collect the data 2) infer – work out from available information – the strategy! How to do this?
I know for sure, i want to know this.
Am i taking it too seriously?
Please, don’t mind.
I take you.
Unless i don’t get this, i can’t use the info.
When it comes to true innovation, people won’t be able to tell you what they want until you present it to them based on putting a lot of disparate pieces together.
Scott McArthur says
Facinating insight. I am new to blogging and value blogs such as this enormously. The “sticky” concept is critical, I think the medium is as important of the messege in this context.
Ravi Karandeekar says
Thanks Brian for sending mail about new comment. It shows to me how much you respect your reader’s opinion. ( i am new to blogging.) I thank to all of you readers for making this conversation intelligent and interesting. I will go back to archive and read all your comments. ‘Comments’ is also an important parameter, is it so Brian?
Glenn Nicholas says
Brian, I would suggest an additional way of looking at who you blog is talking to. Specifically for a blog supporting a small business.
Some of your audience will be a regular audience, reading for new material on your specialist subject areas.
But prospective customers may come to your business blog to find out more about you – what is your business really about? How do you do business? Their purpose is quite different.
For that second audience, I like to think that you need to blog to help develop trust. By giving people insight into how you do business, you can help them decide to become a customer.
Of course it depends on the purpose of your blogging. Blogging for page views to drive AdSense income is quite different to a small business that may be blogging to acquire new prospects and build trust. This is all ‘commercial blogging’.
Finally, love the ‘think like a publisher’ theme you close with. Niche blogging = death by a thousand cuts for major titles that have to battle with the conflicting needs of a ‘mass’ audience, demanding advertisers and overheads.
BTW, I think that should be “Whom do you think you are talking to?”
Or should it be, “To whom are you talking?”
Your second option is technically correct.
However, copywriting is about communication, not grammar, so in this case the colloquialism is better suited for the post, and correct with “who” since the question ends in a preposition. 🙂
Helium Balloons says
Hi – Thanks for this post! I am a regular reader but had somehow missed the post when it was first written.
“Think of yourself as a niche magazine publisher whose biggest advertiser is your business.”
has enlightened me. I have been running a business blog for an e-commerce site for over 6 months but have so far struggled to come up with a clear direction for it. I think I have just got it!
“People don’t know what they want.”
Truer words have yet to be spoken.
Great information here, thank you.
So many people over complicate all this
internet marketing stuff…
Depending on your niche, keeping it simple and relating
to your customers and readers with respect and quality content builds relationships…
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