When I brainstorm new content ideas – especially for an e-commerce client – I reflect on the experience of walking into a brick-and-mortar store and being greeted with “How can I help you?” The salesperson doesn’t say, “What can I sell you today?” or “Please buy this product” (an obviously selfish approach). Instead, they focus on the needs and wants of their prospective customer. Achieving a similar exchange through online content is possible, but to do so, you need to establish a deep understanding of your online audience (those reading your content) and overall customer base.

Targeted Content Begins with Listening

Let’s revisit the salesperson-customer dialogue for a moment. A store clerk asks, “How can I help you?” and the client answers, “I really need a pair of hiking boots.” What do you think would happen if the clerk were to then lead the client to a pair of pants (because they really want to sell pants)? Likely, the potential customer will leave that store in hopes of finding a shop that actually cares about helping them find the hiking boots of their dreams. Here, the store has lost a potential customer and still has both hiking boots and pants to sell. This (slightly silly) fictional example illustrates the simple, yet powerful act of listening. Thus, the easiest way to discover what your customer really wants is to listen and respond in a way that lets them know they have been heard.

Listen to Keywords

When I was introduced to the basics of Internet marketing and began writing content for higher search visibility, keywords felt daunting, formulaic, and a little scary. I was worried that SEO would suck the fun and authenticity out of creating content. But after a little experience and perspective, I realized I was wrong and that keywords could be my content roadmap.

At the heart of the matter, keywords are amazing clues, revealing exactly what a potential customer is asking of their search engine (or you). If the search bar acts as a salesperson asking, “What can I help you find today?” the client’s response by way of search terms (e.g., waterproof hiking boots), reveals how much interest exists for a particular product, service, or theme, as well as common questions and variations.

Listen to Customer Stories and Exchanges

If you have a customer service department or representative that regularly interacts with customers (on the phone or electronically), give your employees the opportunity to share feedback about their experiences (yes, the good and the bad). Similarly, if you have a “Contact Us” area on your site that regularly receives customer questions or comments, take note of those exchanges. By digging deep into what clients are actually saying about your company, you are given the keys to unlock your online and in-person audience’s needs (instead of what you think or assume they are after).

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Feedback

In the event that you do not have a staff resource or existing pool of customer feedback, go ahead and ask for testimonials. You can encourage questions or comments via your newsletter, website, or social media channels, with a simple call to action like “Tell Us What You Think” or “We’d Love to Hear from You.”

So You’ve Listened – Now What?

Now that you’ve discovered the needs and wants of your audience, you have the opportunity to craft a targeted response. Before any writing begins, reference relevant keywords to develop a content plan customized for your audience’s specific areas of interest. Once you have some basic ideas outlined, dig into all of the insights you’ve collected and get to work. Here are a few content ideas to try:

  • Use customer feedback to craft a more in-depth Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of your website.
  • If clients express frequent confusion or ask for help with a certain aspect of your product or service, utilize this information to write “How to” articles or to clarify product descriptions.
  • Take advantage of user generated content! Feedback from your customers, especially that which contains photos and product testimonials, can be transformed into excellent, personalized blog content. In this case, just make sure your customer agrees to having their words and images represented – a contest or product giveaway is often an effective incentive.

Even though it’s simple, listening to customers can inspire ideas, help you craft meaningful, authentic content that gets noticed and reveal needs within your overall online marketing strategy. So listen closely – you may be amazed by what you hear.

If creating authentic content sounds like something your organization needs to do, but not something you want to take on alone, feel free to contact us. “We understand the Internet so you don’t have to.”