The first step is realizing there is a problem. I can't tell you how often we hear it when we prepare to launch an inbound marketing effort for one of our customers. "Well, everyone can use our products" or every business etc.
Everyone or lots of someones can use your product but do you really need ALL of them to make the purchase in order to be successful? Not usually, and it would be unrealistic (although really fun to dream about) to expect everyone to buy from you. More often there is a specific range of new customers needed to justify staying in business.
From the business perspective we might not have a preference as to where that new customer fits in terms of their demographic data. We just want more business and to help as many people as possible with our goods and services. Because of this we tend to be reluctant to get too focused with marketing messages. We want to keep it broad so "anyone" can do business with us.
This is a mistake when it's applied to the online marketing environment. This line of thinking keeps us forever banished to the top of the buying funnel when it comes to online search. The most unrefined search might deliver our website as a contender but when someone starts to dig a little deeper and move toward the middle of the buying funnel - our broadly painted website will dissappear.
Deliver Tailored Content to EACH Demographic
Online search has become much more sophisticated than the limits of keywords. These days results are delivered on numerous variables including but not limited to geography and what the search engine "knows" about the person conducting the online search. Web browsers return a surprising amount of data to search engines even when a user is not logged into an account. The browser is the common denominator to where we go online. From our habits a search engine can get a snapshot of context for our information searches. This information carries through to our social media experiences and stretches into our activity away from the computer too when mobile devices come into play. This allows the search engine to sift out results that probably aren't relevant to us based on both the information it collects about us as a consumer paired with what is available from businesses online.
To compete online these days it is necessary to take the time to identify EACH ideal demographic that is a candidate for your services. At the core of inbound marketing is always the marketing persona - it will determine what kind of content your business will share and drive the entire process of qualified lead generation. It is the step most businesses tend to want to jump over with the intent of getting back to it later but skipping it is like trying to build a house without deciding on a blueprint.
Living with Mulitple Personas
The reason most of us want to skip identifying a single persona is because we don't want to limit ourselves to one or even a small number of target demographics. After all, we don't want to give the impression we don't want to help someone right? The solution is building out content for every single one of them...as individual, separate marketing personas.
Consumers don't like generalized information, especially when they are ready to buy. People want businesses to be specific about their individual needs as it relates to the product or service in question. So, as tedious as it might be to get everything in place, it is in your best interest to take the time, trouble and effort to speak to each marketing demographic.
The great thing is, even if you just did one every few months none of your effort is wasted and the results are worth it.
Limiting the Competition
Another advantage to this whole line of thought is reduced competition. There are far fewer businesses taking the trouble to be specific and this works to your advantage in two ways. If most businesses are speaking in generalities that makes for a lot of competitors. By targeting, you get to compete in numerous, much smaller competitive environments. Depending on the type of business, you may even find you're the first one on the scene with this type of effort. If so, when it comes to the online space, you have virtually no competition since there are no other websites to compete with to this degree. It doesn't mean there are no search results showing up next to yours, it simply means that the links you're competing with don't provide the right information to satisfy the particular search and so your odds of capturing a lead are much higher.
Your first step is to get busy now setting down the details of at least one marketing persona. Don't try to do this all in one sitting. Work on it, put it aside and come back to it a few times until you finish. The task doesn't seem so large this way and your more likely to do a really good job filling in the detail. Definitely don't stop and one and don't exclude others from the process. Ask your staff, vendors, even trusted customers a few questions to make sure you've covered everything.