Marketing

The Most Effective Channels for Reaching Your Target Customer

We asked dozens of marketers to share their most effective channel for reaching their target audience and their best tips for doing it well.

Dann Albright on November 7, 2018 • 14 minute read

“Rather than write something and hope they see it, include your audience in the content. Success is automatic. You get value before you even publish. That’s why it’s called ‘zero-waste marketing.'”

Andy Crestodina, cofounder at Orbit Media, is a living embodiment of the effectiveness of content marketing. Orbit’s blog posts generate thousands of views. Andy himself is on just about every “top content marketer” list in existence. He’s a frequent speaker on the topic at conferences and a guest on industry-related podcasts.

The best part? Orbit Media is continually front-and-center to the people that need them most–marketers in need of web services. (Everything from web design and development to content writing to SEO and more.)

Orbit Media’s continued investment in content marketing puts them in front of their target customers every day.

And, according to our latest research, marketers overwhelmingly agree with that approach.

When asked to name the most effective channel for reaching their target customers, 79% of marketers said content marketing (by way of organic traffic) was most effective.

Coming in a distant second was a tie between email marketing and social media marketing at 44%.

Rounding out the top three was paid search at 37%.

Like most tactics, the devil is in the details. So, we asked marketers to share their most effective tactic for reaching their target customers. Here’s what we learned.

Find & Understand Customers

“To start, you have to know who your customer is and what they want,” says Liz Coffman, head of content marketing at Riotly Social Media.

“What are they looking for and what are they willing to do to get it? From there, you have to decide what your relationship with that customer is going to be. People want to pay for a service they trust, a product that was designed specifically for them—to make their lives easier, fun, and profitable.”

Coffman shared her three-step process for creating a customer-focused strategy:

  1. Understand your customers. What are they looking for? What are the main challenges standing in their way?
  2. Define your relationship with the customer. Your product or service is the answer to those challenges. You break down the wall for customers so they can reach their goals.
  3. BE your customer. You need to know exactly how your customer thinks. You need to “get it.” Making your customers feel understood and like their problems are your problems. And, most importantly, that you can solve them.

You might also engage in some tactical listening. “Make a list the movers and shakers, people you admire and prospects, ask a few smart open-ended questions, then sit back and take notice,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder of Mavens & Moguls.

“They will be more than happy to tell you what is on their mind. . . . Start listening with no strings attached, you’ll be amazed what you find. It does not cost much, for the price of a few coffees and meals you will get an earful.”

Where Do Your Customers Spend Time?

“A business’s ideal client will always be different from another’s, so it’s important to consider first and foremost where your customers hang out online,” says Brittany Hardy, owner of Empty Desk Solutions.

Constellix marketing manager Blair McKee suggests “brand monitoring for target keywords (your industry, services, competitors) to find forums, popular blogs, or comparison sites. These sites are likely used by your audience while they are researching products or deciding on a product.”

Once you know who your customer is and where they are, you can start targeting them with your marketing strategies.

The Winner: Create Content

“Customers want to purchase items and services from companies they can trust and content that is created with customers in mind can achieve that trust relationship,” says Alayna Pehrson, content management specialist at Best Company.

“My target customers are those who are struggling with credit and need credit repair. I decided to create content that includes financial advice from several industry experts. I realized these type of helpful articles are what customers want to read.”

“They are looking online for something that answers their questions and I want to be the source that helps them get their questions answered and who provides them with additional credit resources.”

Many marketers echoed Pehrson’s thoughts.

“The reason it’s so effective is because content marketing only attracts warm leads. People searching for a particular term or reading a certain type of content are, by definition, demonstrating an interest in the content topic,” says James Pollard of The Advisor Coach.

And it’s not just that you’re answering useful questions. “Creating content is also an excellent way to be transparent and build trust,” says Mike Liera, general manager of The Arena.

Be Strategic About Content

“We created a series of pillar content sections on our site (in-depth sections exploring everything to do with a particular topic), using high-quality content to try and rank for high-value keywords,” said Will Craig, founder of LeaseFetcher.

“The sections took a while to create and required a lot of effort on behalf of our content marketers, but they were really useful in helping us rank for target keywords that we were having trouble appearing in SERPs for. Success didn’t happen overnight, but we’re definitely seeing results.”

“Thanks to the fact that the content in the pillar sections is evergreen, we’ve now got a resource that’s pretty successful when it comes to link-building too, racking up a number of organic shares each month.”

ProProfs product analyst Angela White recommends marketing quizzes: “A well-structured quiz is more capable of unfolding hidden information about your key prospects than any other marketing tools. The quizzes are structured like engaging and brainstorming games. So, your prospects do not feel like they are answering questionnaires.”

Katherine Chalhoub, head of creative and social at Web Profits, suggests lead magnets for adding value, starting a dialogue, and building a remarketing audience.

Tailor Content to Your Audience

Every audience appreciates different types of content. Here are a few tactics marketers suggested:

Use user-generated content like special hashtags, reviews, blogs, pictures, and video (Ryne Higgins, senior manager of ecommerce, Peacock Alley)

“When customers use special hashtags, review items, write blogs, and share pictures and videos, they utilize the best marketing strategy of all: word of mouth. Consumers don’t trust marketers, but they do trust their friends, family, and certain influencers. This strategy is effective for attracting your target market because the customers who are the most loyal and love your products will generally be the ones generating content.”

Account-based and programmatic marketing (Melissa Campbell, account manager, Stratagon)

“Our Target customer has either been dealers within the Agricultural market or growers. Growers can be hard (and expensive) to reach and this has been the most effective way to intreat brand awareness. Since our client doesn’t sell direct to growers, this strategy has helped us create pull through from growers to dealers while we market to both specific messaging that is relatable to them individually.”

Acquiring highly targeted, useful resources (Doug Bradley, owner, Everest Legal Marketing)

“I had been wanting to work with lawyers in the Orange County, CA region for several years, and the opportunity came up to acquire OrangeCountyLawyers.com and I jumped on it. A local resource like this has been proven to be extremely valuable when seeking new clients because it breaks down a natural defense people have to a sales pitch. This type of strategy also simultaneously proves your dedication to success in the market.”

If you can figure out the types of content that resonate with your audience, you’ll start reaching your target customers right away.

Build a Process

Growth Hackers co-founder Jonathan Aufray shared his process for creating the right content with us:

  1. Type on search engines long-tail keywords your target audience might type
  2. Check the “related searches” suggested by search engines
  3. Find in those “related searches” perfect titles for blog posts such as “Why + keywords” or “How to + keywords”, etc.
  4. Write a well-researched, interesting article about it
  5. SEO optimize your article
  6. Distribute and promote your article on social media, on forums where your target audience is, with your email list and your LinkedIn contacts

It’s also worth creating a specific goal for each piece of content, says SmartBug Media team lead and marketing strategist Drew Cohen.

“It should have a clear focus and mission to serve the needs of a buyer persona. Each blog post that we formulate has a distinct mission in mind. We ask ourselves questions internally about who this blog post is going to serve, what the ultimate takeaway of the post should be, and before we publish anything, we have an internal QA process that ensures we’ve hit our objectives.”

Remember That Quality Matters

“In my early days of being a solopreneur, I was eager to build a portfolio so basically I published whatever images that I came across, a huge mistake because my portfolio ended up being a huge mess,” says Pixelicious‘ Jimmy Chan, a freelance photographer.

“There was no style, no consistency, and potential clients weren’t sure if I was the best fit. Fine-tune and be highly selective in what you post online, remember quality over quantity. Those who resonate with your work will find you eventually.”

Become an Authority

“Aside from our blog, we create thought leadership pieces for other publications as well,” says Brandon Schroth, digital manager for Gillware Data Recovery.

“Collaborating with other thought leaders in the industry is extremely beneficial. Establishing a voice in your industry is very important for anyone who wants to continue to grow and expand. Become an authority that others trust and look up to.”

Expand Your Reach With Content Promotion

“Rather than write something and hope [members of your audience] see it, INCLUDE YOUR AUDIENCE in your content. Success is automatic. You get value before you even publish,” says Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media.

Crestodina calls this “zero-waste marketing”:

“Next time you write an article, reach out to a prospect or referral partner and ask them if they’d like to contribute a quote. Better yet, come up with a series of articles (or a podcast) and feature your target audience. Use interviews, round-ups, and contributor quotes as ways to get in front of your audience.”

The Good marketing manager David Hoos also recommends getting your content in front of your audience:

“The most effective strategy you can use is going directly to your top customers and surveying them about their favorite industry groups, websites, and influencers. That will give you a focused list of channels to target your marketing.”

Have an SEO Strategy

GlobalOwls founder Raul Tiru is a fan of SEO for targeting your ideal customer, and says that it will “work well each and every time.”

“The best way to go about SEO (in my opinion) is to focus on answering questions your target audience has which in turn will increase the probability that they’ll convert. Don’t just focus on keywords with a high volume of searches. Be laser-precise at first and branch out later.”

Says Jennifer Lux, growth strategist at LyntonWeb, “Attracting the right audience is very aligned with the right keyword strategy.”

“A common mistake I see is that companies optimize their site around keywords or topics that are too general,” said Lux. “These non-specific topic clusters or low-volume keywords in some cases lead to the wrong kinds of traffic and therefore high bounce rates, which isn’t a good signal for Google and SERP.”

“Instead, get laser focused on choosing the right keywords and then optimizing all the way through the customer experience. For instance, make sure your meta description speaks to the keyword phrase or topic that the visitor will see as soon as they land on the page so that there is alignment from search intent all the way through the content and call-to-action.”

“Building a robust keyword strategy with topic clusters is the necessary foundation to attracting the right target customers and audience.”

Answer Audience Questions

“By optimizing content for search engines with SEO best practices, we ensure that small businesses will find our content when they ask a related question through Google,” says Nicolas Straut, associate at Fundera.

Back Office Basics publisher Elliott Brown agrees: “My favorite strategy is for attracting my target market is to figure out what they’re looking for on Google and then make it easy for them to find you there. Marketers often look for unique ways of describing themselves. For example, an HR software company might decide that a tagline like ‘the solution that reinvents the way you work’ describes them better than plain old ‘HR software.'”

“But doing this can mean your audience won’t find you when they look for you. And if they do, what they see might not resonate.”

“I recommend describing yourself in the terms that your customers are most likely to use. Use the Google Keyword Planner to see what your audience is looking for, and use that as your primary descriptor. It will help your audience acclimate once they find you—and it will help more of them find you in the first place.”

Engage on Social Media

Yokel Local co-founder Darrell Evans recommends behavior-based marketing on social media.

“You should be creating bite-sized chunks of content (mostly video in my opinion) and boosting those posts to your ideal prospects. I love Facebook for this.”

Adds Evans: “The key is to not try to sell in these videos. Facebook will put people in buckets based on their ‘consumption’ of these videos which tells you they may be interested in learning more. Based on their behavior, send them more videos that help them.”

“You can then begin to show the ‘most engaged’ audiences an offer in the middle of the funnel. Done right, the right people will start to move closer to you all based on your behavior.”

Choose Social Tactics for Your Audience

“We engage in influencer marketing in a variety of ways,” says Darren Schreher, hiring manager at INTO THE AM.

“For example, on Instagram, we find popular accounts who meet our criteria for selection, and we start a conversation to gauge whether or not it’s a good fit. Often times, we will send one of our products to an influencer for free in exchange for an honest review that is posted to their blog or social media followers.”

“In the case of Instagram, this leads to a ton of new followers for us, as well as sales. For us, the most important element of an influencer package aside from cultural fit, is the overall reach of their blog or social media accounts.”

“We measure our return on investment based on the number of new followers we receive, the number of impressions we receive, how much referral traffic we get, and of course—how many sales come as a result of the campaign.”

iHeartRaves digital marketing strategist Brandon Chopp recommends contests and giveaways. “In order to enter to win, social media users had to follow our page, like our posts, and tag a certain number of friends.”

“This created great awareness and helped spread the word about our brand. Users continued to interact with our brand all the way up until we awarded the prize.”

“Even after that point, we noticed that the users we had obtained continued to follow us because we were creating great content that captured their attention and was relevant to their interests.”

Deliver Targeted Email

“I’ve found there is no other effective way to convert a lead to a paid customer than email marketing,” says digital marketing consultant Farheen Gill. “Email remains the most powerful tool in my marketing arsenal as it allows for a one-to-one relationship and helps me build credibility and trust with my customer through customized messaging based on intelligent segmentation.”

James Daily from FlashEssay also uses email to reach his target audience, but urges patience.

“Once you’ve acquired an email address, be patient. Just build a slow drip campaign that will offer valuable information to the client in a way that won’t annoy them.”

Get in Front of People at Events

eBridge Marketing Solutions has had success speaking, attending, and exhibiting at niche IT conferences, says founder Hartland Ross. “Our target customer is either a VP or Director of marketing or a business owner of an IT Services firm.”

“Having a conversation about their challenges and demonstrating how we have worked with hundreds of other providers similar to theirs to solve their challenges by understanding their customers, their ecosystem and competitors opens the doors to an easy conversation and often times an initial engagement.”

There are events specific to every industry, and it’s certainly worth attending them to build important connections.

Specific Tactics for Specific Targets

Your target customer is unique to your business. So the marketing tactics that work for someone else might not work for you.

The advice above will help you find the right methods for reaching your target audience. Start experimenting today, and keep an open mind to new ideas. You never know when an unexpected opportunity will present itself.

How do you reach your target customer? Do you use the methods above or something unique? Share your best advice in the comments below.

About the author
Dann Albright Dann is a freelance writer who helps B2B companies reach their audiences more effectively. With an emphasis on organic traffic and conversion, he takes big ideas and turns them into highly practical content that keeps readers hooked.
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