Posted on Apr 19, 2017

Consider Your Audience’s Pain Points to Create Effective Content

How many times have you clicked open an article that sounded interesting, only to have it fall totally flat? It’s a common problem, and it’s one that isn’t necessarily caused by poor writing or bad ideas.

Often, the reason content doesn’t “stick” is that it wasn’t written with the audience’s pain points in mind.

Let’s walk through an example so you can see this in practice… In his article “How to Create Better Content for Your Customer,” marketer Neil Patel shares a Matmon statistic that states, “52% of social media marketers cited “how to calculate ROI” as their biggest pain point.”

social marketing pain points

Now, imagine that we’re creating web content for an audience of social media marketers. Which of the two following articles do you think they’re more likely to respond to?

  • How to Get Better Results for Your Social Media Marketing
  • 5 Secret Strategies the Top Social Media Marketers Use to Accurately Calculate ROI

Sure, the second one’s a little clunky, but you can immediately see how it connects more effectively to both the audience in question and their acknowledged pain points. These audience members may open the first article as well, but you can bet they won’t be as excited about clicking on it as they will the second post.

This example makes a few things clear. If you want to be able to write content that targets your audience’s pain points, you need to know a few things:

  1. Who your audience is
  2. What pain points they’re experiencing
  3. What the most effective ways to support these pain points will be

We’ll break down each of these steps in more detail so that you can take advantage of this powerful content engagement technique.

Who Is Your Audience?

This is Business 101, so if you’ve already taken steps to define your target customers (sometimes called “buyer personas” or “customer avatars”), you’re ahead of the game already.

If you don’t know – or if your past research could use some updating – you should first understand why you need to know who your audience is. Expanding on the example above, suppose you’re selling a web marketing tool and attempting to connect with your readers through content.

If your tool encompasses multiple functions, you may not know that it’s social media managers in particular who are your best customers. There could be several different types of professionals who encounter your website, but only when you know who these groups are – and which ones, in particular, are most likely to become your customers – will you be able to create content that truly resonates with them.

Understanding your audience is a two-part process:

  1. Making guesses based on past data and your own hypotheses, and
  2. Confirming your assumptions against your future customer data.

 Step 1: Create buyer persona “sketches” based on your guesses and data.

Buffer’s Kevan Lee suggests:

“What these sketches provide is a touchstone for creating content: When I can put a name and a background to the people reading what I write, I can hopefully meet their needs even better.”

Lee also offers the following template to guide your audience brainstorming process:

persona development

See the full article on The Complete, Actionable Guide to Marketing Personas

As you can see, some of these factors – including gender, job title, and employer – can be confirmed with your existing customer data. Other elements – such as goals, challenges, values and fears – you’ll ascribe to her persona, based on educated guesses.

You may, for instance, try to find places where people contained within your target buyer persona hang out. In the case of social media managers, we could spend some time on the forums of or on any of the Facebook pages for authority sites in the industry to see what subjects are most hotly debated.

Step 2: As you make sales and acquire customers, use the intel you gather to either confirm or adjust the persona you created.

Conversations about what led a customer to choose your product or service, in particular, could lead to further revelations about the challenges customers face on the job (and what they see about your offering as a solution).

What Pain Points is Your Audience Experiencing?

As you develop and refine your understanding of your audience, invest time into mapping out the pain points they experience.

Some of this, you will have touched on in the early creation of your persona(s), as understanding what your audience is up against is a critical part of determining why they become customers. However, this factor is so important to the content creation process that it’s worth investing extra time into really nailing down your audience’s pain points.Begin with the following prompts:

  • What internal factors are causing your audience members stress?
  • What external forces are causing them pain?
  • If your buyer persona could wake up in the morning with one problem solved, what would it be?
  • What are your audience members afraid their bosses will call them into the office for?
  • What constitutes “failure” to them?

Again, continuing on with our example of social media managers, we could brainstorm the following answers:

  • What internal factors are causing your audience members stress? Job requires long hours that keep them away from family and friends.
  • What external forces are causing them pain? Social media managers are becoming more common, which creates competition for good jobs.
  • If your buyer persona could wake up in the morning with one problem solved, what would it be? The need to continually create new content for their company’s various social channels.
  • What are your audience members afraid their bosses will call them into the office for? Irresponsible spending of the company’s marketing budget.
  • What constitutes “failure” to them? Losing a customer to a competitor because of slow social media response times.

You’ll likely have more than one response to each prompt; record them all in a central spreadsheet and then start to look for central themes. In the list above, for example, we might notice that several of the responses touch on:

  • A desire to be efficient on the job
  • A desire to be seen as effective on the job
  • The pressure to produce consistently high-quality, high-volume work

Identifying these central themes – as well as individual pain points – certainly makes the process of coming up with content ideas easier. But before we get to brainstorming actual topics, there’s one more thing we need to cover:

Which Content Formats Best Support Your Audience?

When we talk about “content,” most people jump immediately to written content – typically in the form of blog posts. However, as data below from Hubspot demonstrates, there are plenty of other channels that are worth exploring:

Determining which content formats to use in future campaigns comes down to answering several questions:

  • Which channels are you currently active with?
  • Of these, which have been most effective for you in terms of leads generated or broad exposure and engagement?
  • What type of content do your target audience members prefer to consume?
  • What types of content are you able to produce?
  • Which content formats will help you to most effectively convey your pain point-related message?

Take the sample topic we generated earlier: “5 Secret Strategies the Top Social Media Marketers Use to Accurately Calculate ROI.”

This topic could be written up as a blog post, but it could also be filmed as a YouTube or Facebook video, published in a Slideshare slide deck or explored in a podcast episode. From these formats, you could select the format that your audience prefers (or the one that’s easiest for you to produce).

This isn’t a question you’ll answer once. Different buyer personas – even individual customers within these broader avatars – may prefer to consume content in different ways. Ensuring a mix of formats, grounded in the aim of selecting the most appropriate vehicle to convey each topic you identify, will ensure you’re able to engage the highest number of prospects with every piece of content you create.

Putting It All Together

The process described above may seem lengthy, but ask yourself whether you’d prefer to invest that time in creating fewer pieces that are more likely to connect with your audiences or in more pieces that have a higher chance of failure.

Even top web content creators like Sujan Patel expect that only one out of every five content pieces they create will succeed. The web is a noisy place, and it takes a lot for any single piece of content to stand out.

However, by creating content based on your audience’s pain points – by understanding who they are, what pain points they experience and how to best support them – you’ll increase the likelihood that the content you put forth will come back to you in the form of new business.

Got another tip on building content around your customers’ pain points? Share it by leaving us a comment below:



Header Image Source: Flickr