How do you make a buyer’s guide to strengthen your brand? We’ll provide you with tried-and-true tips and go into detail over a series of five posts. For part two, we’re covering why you need to reevaluate your target audience — and your product.
We recently launched a buyer’s guide masterclass to help anyone interested in creating or updating their buyer’s guides. This time around, we’ll be discussing one of the key points to crafting a really great guide — understanding not only your audience, but your product as well.
A lot of people simply take existing content around product or services and try to use the language of the day to attract an available audience or consumer base. If you’re up for the challenge, we’d love to invite you to take a deeper dive into the process and reevaluate what you think you know about your target audience.
While you’re at it, you might want to study your competitors’ successes and failures in greater depth along with the products you both offer. But first, let’s take things to the mattresses.
A lesson in good marketing practices from bad mattress marketing:
Back in 2017 there was a huge story brewing online about internet mattress retailers. You may recall that Fast Company ran an expose on the topic and then NPR followed up with an interview with David Zax, the author of the original piece.
In the Fast Company piece, Zax takes readers through his journey of exploring the sometimes twisty world of online mattress blogging and reviewing. He references brands including bed-in-a-box mainstay Casper as well as schmancy brand Tempur-Pedic and newer on the scene Tuft & Needle.
Back then, people were shocked to find out there were approximately 100 online mattress retailers. Well, guess what? A CNBC story that ran late last summer updates that figure to 175 online mattress companies, and here’s the part you might want to pay attention to — the headline of the story says “you can’t tell them apart.”
Let’s back up for a moment. Investor’s Business Daily reported that Wedbush Securities estimates internet mattress purchases to account for 12 percent of the $16.5 billion mattress industry. Let’s let that sink in for a moment.
If we crunch some quick and dirty numbers, that would mean that there’s approximately $ 1.7 billion being spent online on mattresses and no one can tell the difference between the cheapo startup or the luxury mattress? What are these brands doing wrong? Perhaps they’ve neglected their buyer’s guides and instead spent too much time cozying up to mattress bloggers and potentially dubious opinion makers.
Many retailers realize that a crowded market isn’t necessarily a bad thing — as long as you can figure out a way to set yourself apart. If you’re selling mattresses, go beyond the comfort to the experience. Are you selling peace of mind or sexytime? Is price point the main attraction or is it the gossamer threads and fairy dust woven into every single stitch? Are you targeting grandmothers or college students? You can’t write about it or try to sell it until you know who you’re selling to and why.
5 Buyer’s guide tips (and marketing cautionary tales):
1. Your potential online audience is going to be different than your existing audience.
In 2013 while people were still limping from the blows of the financial crisis, J.P. Morgan opened up their Twitter account for questions and was pummeled with hours of abuse by disgusted former employees and customers.
In a similar vein, in 2018, in honor of International Women’s Day appliance manufacturer Miele shared an image of four cheerful Caucasian women looking delighted to be hanging out… on a washer/dryer. Instead of honoring women, the post instead only seemed to reinforce archaic stereotypes about women.
Realize that your potential online audience is going to be very different than your existing or targeted audience. If you’re not well-versed in pop culture or the latest meme, hire someone who is. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a buyer’s guide, never talking down to your audience is a great first step.
2. Take back your brand.
While everyone and their influencer mother are now trying to sell themselves online, few brands rise above. People have become numbed by too many faux reviewers and bought (bot?) and paid for so-called influencers.
Think of it this way, social media shouldn’t be the main course for your target audience, but instead, it should be the accessory for your already strong brand. Think of social media as wasabi to your California roll. When you pique people’s interest and they want to learn more, you need to have immediately available resources to satisfy their curiosity for information, comparisons and facts.
Having a robust/fun/interesting/fact-filled/frequently updated/easy to digest buyer’s guide or even an ebook for your brand or product allows you to create a resource for people interested in you to find out so much more. And while you should, of course, pepper the online version with as much SEO and keywording as feels right, first and foremost you have to tell your story — so someone else doesn’t do it for you.
Creating brand recognition sometimes takes you down a slippery slope. Try to map out a plan where you create specific content to be owned by your audience or disseminated and in very specific ways along with some that just flows.
3. Ask yourself some questions. Then ask everybody else.
Customers do research before buying; you should too. Jason VanDevere, founder of GoalCrazy Planners, explained:
“We sell planners that help people set and track their goals.” But to design the product, “I spent seven months interviewing successful individuals and hosting focus groups and found that focus groups were the best way to get true product feedback.”
It’s okay to spend more time meditating on your brand instead of rushing to market. Take as much time as you need to know your brand and branding before writing about it. And then test it on an interested audience.
4. Focus on the feedback.
If you want the truth about your product, VanDevere advises a group setting for feedback is best:
It was amazing how much more willing people were to share critical feedback when they are in a group. I found that if I met with someone one-on-one, they would tell me only what I wanted to hear… maybe a couple of small critical pieces of advice. However, if I put that same person in a group of three or more people, they would start to tear apart the design. (Which is what I wanted). They were much more willing to tell me what didn’t make sense, seemed strange, or if they completely disagreed with my ideas.
Before you start even working on your buyer’s guide, talk to as many people as possible together and also apart. If you’re creating an educational product, head out to campuses. If it’s geared to foodies, don’t give it to people who live on hamburgers. Find your people, talk to them and be sure to listen.
5. Trust your gut.
If you are so sure that your product is perfect as is, VanDevere says to stick to your guns:
It’s important to remember that the product/brand you are making is still yours. I many times have had people give me ideas that might make me more money or appeal to a larger audience however, they didn’t align with the vision I had for the brand. At the end of the day, if I make a product that I am not excited about, I will not have the drive to work hard to make it succeed.
If you’re completely confident in your product or abilities you’re probably good to go!