Communicating to different audience – content

17 minute read

An exercise in segmenting external audience allows marketing to target different groups with different messages and content types.

The concept of the sales funnel, or marketing funnel, is one often used in marketing to broadly categorise audiences depending on how engaged they are and how close they are to make a purchase or commitment to a given product or service.

Whilst, in the context of sustainability, audiences may not be entering at the top of and moving through the funnel in a regimented manner, it is still a useful framework to categorise different types of content and how best to use them.

There are a multitude of difference segments / personas that you may develop, depending on where a firm operates and who are its priority targets. For example, a predominantly institutional boutique asset manager with a large presence in Asia will have different sub-segments than a player who focusses on the retail and intermediary end of the market in the UK.

Nuances across intermediary and institutional markets

Whilst the differences in content sophistication for wholesale versus institutional audiences is often over exaggerated, research by White Marble has reiterated the different primary concerns and priorities that different subsectors of different markets have when it comes to evaluating an asset manager from a sustainability perspective. In short, it is not about serving the same content to all markets, but in a more simplistic or drummer down manner for wholesale and a more technical style for institutional, rather it is about truly understanding and serving the needs of different audiences.

One way to think about the differences in content across different audiences is in terms of the ‘Three Ts’ – Tone, Terminology and Topic.

Tone – this is dependent on the subject you are discussing, your brand attributes and what feels authentic to your organisation. Are you a ‘challenger’ boutique? Then you can probably get away with something a bit more tongue-in-cheek or challenging. Are you a vast organisation with multiple layers and perhaps conflicting sustainability creds? Then it will have to be more nuanced and thoughtful to reflect that.

Terminology – in general it is best practice to avoid using jargon wherever possible, even if you are speaking to a professional investor. Failing that, try to define what you mean wherever possible. It is also important to take into account regional variances in terminology and the fact that different words/phrases can mean very similar things. If in doubt, spell it out: tell the reader what you mean by a certain term at the offset to avoid any confusion. This is particularly relevant in the world of sustainable investing at the moment, where there is much debate about the terminology that should be used and no clear alignment or single definition that has been implemented by regulators or industry organisations.

Topic – essentially the choice of topic will derive from the motivations of a reader/client/prospect. This is where there are opportunities to offer truly differentiated and targeted content for different audience types. This is where ongoing client research can be extremely helpful to identify the areas of interest to different audience segments. The same overarching topic – sustainable funding for retirement, for example – can be of interest to many different audiences/investor types but the angle you approach it from will differ depending on the target consumer. Starting with the audience and their ultimate objectives in mind will help you create relevant, timely and engaging content no matter the sophistication of the investor.

Case study – nuanced priorities within the UK Institutional market:

The leaders in sustainability research carried out by White Marble in the Summer of 2021 demonstrated that within the institutional market in the UK there was nuance in terms of priorities and levels of interest.

Producing content that addresses the varied interests and priorities of the different audience segments can help asset managers to stand out and reassure their clients of their understanding of their needs. A more segmented approach also allows managers to be more focused in the distribution of content, serving different audience segments with perhaps less, but more relevant content.  

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Driving content engagement

Assessing the topics your audience(s) are interested in is all well and good. Producing content that has impact and works hard for you, especially in an online environment, is another challenge. As readers most of us seek out different types of content at different times  – sometimes we are looking for an in depth detailed white paper to deep dive into a certain topic, at other times we only have the bandwidth or appetite for shorter, snappier pieces.

  • One size doesn’t fit all – The top search results for a particular topic or search term might be full of articles that have an average of 1200 words. You can fairly confidently use this as a barometer for the level of detail people are looking for from that search. However, be aware that very closely related topics might have an average of 500 words and a much simpler Q&A format. Pay attention to what length and format is performing well, and take inspiration from that. 
  • Don’t duplicate content – Don’t simply create a whole new article on a subject if you already have one on it. Enhance it, refresh it, update it, redesign it. When you have two pages that Google considers to be the same, it will – most likely – pick one page as the authority and only show that page in search results.
  • Turn one piece into many pieces – If you have a large piece of content – perhaps a white paper or a report – much of your audience may be put off when they see how long it will take them to consume it. You will probably get much better engagement by leading your readers to the interesting sub-topics or take-aways by extracting these into shorter pieces that link to the more detail-heavy version.
  • Let Google do the heavy lifting – Type your topic into Google, decide what the article should contain by using the features available to you. These include the ‘featured snippet’ content, the ‘people also ask’ features and more.
  • Write for all knowledge levels – When producing content, it is crucial to create content for all levels of knowledge. Instead of creating one mammoth article with the most detailed aspects of a topic, turn it into three shorter articles for beginners, intermediates and experts in that subject. Creating a flow like this can encourage a user to explore more of your site, rather than just that single article.
  • Break up text with imagery – Purely from a readership point of view, the last thing you want to do is have your reader feel like they aren’t making any progress through your article. Choose a relatable image or representation of your topic and data, not one just for the sake of it.
  • Meta tags – Create a template for meta tags that needs to be completed on every article before it is posted. The SEO benefits are clear and by using a template, this often frustrating task becomes simple and easy to complete as you go along.

Challenges to content engagement

The CMO Exchange1 run by White Marble in Summer 2021 highlighted some of the most frequent challenges to content engagement faced by global players in the asset management industry.

Not relevant enough

Our industry is not very good at speaking to our different audiences’ particular needs. We’re behind many others in our ability to provide personalised content.  

We need to ensure we bring the voice of the client into our marketing and communications. This might be via research groups that can bring clarity to the ‘client voice’ and perspective. More fundamentally, we need to instil the concept and culture of relevance in the respective teams that are producing content – from investment teams to investment writers to the marketing department.

Most content marketing is still produced by investment writers. Writing or marketing teams also face challenges from investment teams keen to push their content agenda, regardless of whether the content works or not.

Our challenge is to get all writers to think like investment marketers. Investment writing and marketing are different skillsets which are both necessary for a strong marketing machine. There is a growing recognition of the need for a marketing mindset in all our content – to ensure it is relevant both for our clients and our own strategic purpose. Content that ticks those boxes will be adaptable and useable across multiple channels and will be genuinely additive to our marketing efforts, delivering much greater return on investment.

Many marketing teams now produce multiple forms of content (in different media) to satisfy clients’ different habits. We need to think in the same way about the content itself.

The content agenda moves quite quickly and while businesses try to be relevant, it’s difficult to gauge where an audience is at. Understanding what the relevant message should be at any given moment is a constant challenge.

Personas: how good are yours?

Relevance is predicated on effective segmentation and personas. How many businesses are doing a good job of this? Are they matching content to client types or needs? In an encouraging trend, there has been a growing demand for email preference centres, showing companies wanting to gather better data about their clients’ areas of interests.  

Personas are often used to help teams frame their content. We must always ask ourselves: when were these built? This is not a one-off exercise – they must be maintained and refreshed.

Automation breeds efficiency

The use of marketing automation is on the rise, helping teams become more effective by personalising our content delivery. Effective automation is built on the perfect marriage of relevance and personas.

In this industry, personalisation doesn’t mean having the recipient’s name in the email, and it certainly doesn’t mean content written for one person. What it means is the ability to match content to particular groups of clients in our databases based on data and context. It means we can pair content with client behaviour or behavioural patterns. To do this well, we need content specifically written for that purpose – short, relevant, impactful, sequential and varied for different responses.  

1An annual exchange of insight between global CMOs in the asset management industry, facilitated and reported on by White Marble