An “Inside Out” Approach to Engaging Your Audience

We work with companies and individuals in the business-to-business (B2B) space on content marketing planning and implementation, including the use of social media. The greatest challenge—and opportunity—for companies of any kind is generating content that is going to be valued by their audience. That often means thinking, as we like to say, “from the outside in.”

For instance, chances are your audience is not going to be interested in the tech behind your software, so trying to “promote” your software or technology may not be the best use of your time. Instead, you need to think about providing information to your audience that will help solve their business needs in a broader sense.

Yes, some of your posts and comments can be related to your product, and you can—and should—link back to your website from time to time; most of your content, though, should reflect a combination of curated sources (e.g. links to other credible sources or news that is of interest to your audience) and useful information/advice from your organization. We generally use a 1-to-3 ratio of “we”-oriented posts to other posts.

An example of an organization that does this well is American Express through their OPENforum.

They provide credit card services for entrepreneurs and small businesses, but their content isn’t focused on credit cards. Instead, their content provides practical information that is likely to be of interest to small business people trying to build successful businesses. These posts make them a trusted source of information and, consequently, they are likely to be followed on their social channels and their web site is likely to see a boost in traffic. Furthermore, when a member of their audience needs a new credit card option, they’re likely to be top of mind. And that’s what it’s all about.

Too often we see organizations and individuals taking a “me/we”-focused approach to their content.

Because they’re enamored of their technology or processes, too many organizations and small business owners try to engage their audiences with their language, their terminology and the things that are important to them. It’s understandable. After all, they’ve built businesses based on innovative, proprietary and complex technologies and principles. But their audiences are rarely as engaged or interested in them as they are in themselves. They represent just one of hundreds of organizations and products/services whose messages their audience is exposed to constantly.

Effective engagement requires “getting into the heads” of your audience, understanding what they’re likely interested in and then delivering it to them. In OPENForum’s case, they recognize that their small business audience is likely to be interested in small business issues. The content on their blog, for instance, features posts like “10 Things Angel Investors Want From Your Business Plan,” “The App That Can Help You Run a Better Business,” and “How to Turn an Angry Customer Into Your Biggest Asset.”

These are the topics likely to resonate with their audience. Note that they’re not posting content about the technology behind the services they offer, and neither should you. Yes, you can refer to what you have to offer from time to time and, yes, you will use your online content to drive traffic back to your website where interested prospects can learn more.

But, if your content is too “me/we”-focused, you’re likely to lose out on the engagement you’re hoping for.

Taking an inside-out approach will help you build the engaged audience you’re looking for. Are you taking an “outside in” or an “inside out” approach to your marketing communications? What methods are you finding to be most effective in building your audience?


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