If your content isn’t gaining traction, you might want to make sure you’re talking to the right audience. I’ve found that B2B companies — and consultants, in particular — have a tendency to target their content toward businesses that are like them rather than businesses that will buy from them. Similarly, some B2B businesses skip right over their own customers and write for their customer’s customers. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but unless they have a lot of influence over your customer’s business decisions, it’s not going to accomplish much.

This isn’t something I learned from some content marketing blog; I got my degree straight from the infamous (but always reliable) “school of hard knocks.” Because I messed up — big time.

Writing for people who do what you do, rather than people who buy what you do

When I launched my blog, I didn’t give my audience a whole lot of thought. It seemed obvious. I’m a writer…so I should write about writing, shouldn’t I? Well, no. While other writers might have used my blog posts — on things like grammar, project trackers, tips on working with clients, and how to set your rates  — as a resource, they weren’t going to hire me. True, writers often sub things out. But I was writing for “newbie” writers, not the experienced writers who might actually have need of my services. I couldn’t have had worse aim if I had been blindfolded and spun around three times in some weird spinoff of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” Finally, thank goodness, the light bulb went off. It finally dawned on me that, if I wanted to attract traffic that would convert, I had to target my content to companies that hire writers rather than to the writers themselves.

As it turns out, I was in good company. I saw yet another example of this the other day, when I was bidding for a contract content marketing gig. My prospective client is a startup, and, when I browsed through their blog, I saw topics like this:

  • The three legal agreements we use to hire
  • The impossibility of separating work and life
  • How our remote team stays productive

Notice anything about those topics? They’re written for other startups, not for the type of company this particular startup is targeting for their product.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. There’s no hiding from the chorus of voices insisting that you should “write what you know.” That’s why so many brands think their writer needs to be a subject-matter expert. But your prospective clients aren’t interested in what keeps you up at night, or how hard you’re working as an entrepreneur. They want to know what you can do for them. That means you have to talk about the things in their world, not your own.

What does that look like? Well, in my case, it means I had to stop writing about writing and start focusing on the challenges of buying quality content. As another example, if you sell cleaning services to hospitals, there’s no point in writing about why you chose one product over another, how you train your employees, or how you deal with high turnover. Instead, try writing about the challenges of maintaining hospital cleanliness without getting in the way of patient care. Or about which cleaning schedules and processes have proven most effective in combating the latest flu strain. Don’t write about how you do what you do; write about what your customers do, with the purpose of persuading them to choose you over the other guy. Focus on their pain points, not your own.

Writing for your customers’ customers

This one hasn’t tripped me up yet, but I can easily see how it might happen. Let’s say you’re a food distributor. Publishing recipes and primers on couponing seems logical on the surface, but those topics are for the people who buy groceries at your customers’ stores, not for the stores themselves — the ones that buy from you as a distributor. You’d be better off writing about things like innovation in refrigeration, how the IoT  and the constant monitoring it provides are changing food supply chain processes, the latest regulatory changes, how to combat shrinking profit margins, etc. Pharmaceutical company? Don’t blog about how to live with arthritis. And definitely don’t blog about how tough it is to navigate the FDA regulations governing clinical trials. Instead, blog about how doctors can help their patients manage their arthritis pain.

It’s an easy mistake to make. I did it, and it took me far too long to realize it. So if your content hasn’t been performing to your expectations, go take a look — right now — and make sure you’re not making the same mistake by writing for your customers’ customers. Or, worse yet, your own competitors. Just ask yourself, “Are the people who would be interested in my content the same people who are most likely to buy from me?” If not — time to switch gears.


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