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Think Like Your Customer: A Creative Director’s Guide to Audience-First Content

Ever launched a product or campaign that felt like the next big hit, only to hear crickets? You’re not alone. As creatives, we often pride ourselves on our unique vision and innovative ideas, only to watch them fail. It’s a humbling experience, but one we can learn from. Here’s the secret to audience-first content: it’s not about our brilliance, it’s about understanding our audience so well that we can think like them.

The Power of Stepping Outside Yourself

Let’s be honest: marketing is not about us, our ideas, wants, dreams or pet projects. It’s about understanding our audience so deeply that we can predict their next move and deliver what they want before they even think about it.

Sounds challenging right? It’s really not. In this article I’ll reveal my secrets to you about stepping outside of your comfort zone and getting inside the persona of your customers.

Step 1: You must challenge or discard your assumptions. What we think is brilliant might not resonate with our audience at all. By shifting our perspective and truly understanding their needs, desires, and pain points, we can create content that speaks directly to them, forging a deeper connection and driving meaningful results.

Sometimes this may be the hardest step, to let go of what you want. I know, that hurts a little bit. But you simply cannot proceed to the next step without mastering this first one.

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My Own “Brilliant Flops”

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, and more than once. Take my water transfer printing business: I’d get an idea for a design pattern I was absolutely convinced would be a hit. I’d pour tens of thousands into development and manufacturing, only to see it fall flat on its face… crickets.

The new designs of my dreams would sit on the shelves, gathering dust. It was a gut-wrenching feeling, not just financially, but creatively. I felt like I’d failed, both as a designer and a business owner.

But those failures were invaluable. They taught me that no matter how “cool” or innovative I thought a design was, if it didn’t resonate with my customers, it was ultimately worthless. It was a painful but necessary lesson that shifted my entire perspective: Every design, every product, every piece of content needs to start with the customer in mind.

Want to hear my plan of execution that changed the game for me? In my next article, I’ll reveal exactly what I did, including specifics of my marketing strategy, to flip the switch and propel my business to the top, globally!

Stay tuned you won’t want to miss it.

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Data: Your Crystal Ball

Step 2: Forget relying on guesswork or gut feelings. Data is your secret weapon that unlocks the mysteries of your audience’s mind. It’s not about complicated algorithms or endless spreadsheets; it’s about listening to what your audience is already telling you.

Tune In to Social Conversations: What topics are trending in your industry or niche? What questions are people asking? What pain points are they expressing? Social listening tools can help you track these conversations and uncover valuable insights.

Analyze Your Content’s Performance: Which blog posts get the most shares and comments? What topics spark the most discussion in your newsletter? Which types of social media posts generate the highest engagement? This data reveals what truly resonates with your audience.

Ask Directly: Sometimes, the most straightforward approach is the best. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience what they want to see more of. Conduct surveys, polls, or even just start a conversation on social media. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Remember, data isn’t just about numbers; it’s about understanding the humans behind those numbers. By paying attention to what your audience is saying (and doing), you can create content that speaks directly to their needs and desires. It’s like having a cheat sheet for their thoughts and feelings.

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Crafting Content They Can’t Resist

Now that you have your audience insights, it’s time to translate that knowledge into content they can’t resist.

Step 3: Spend time getting in their head. Think of yourself as an empathy engine. Your job isn’t just to create, but to understand. Imagine you are your ideal customer. And I mean really ignite your imagination, walk through the customer journey start to finish. Maybe even make a project and be an actor for yourself. Whatever it takes for you to really “be a customer” and for as long as it takes for you to get the answers you need.

What are their challenges, their dreams, their frustrations? What keeps them up at night? What makes them laugh, cry, or click “buy”? What do they want? What can you answer and provide with your product or services?

When you can answer these questions, you’re no longer just creating content, you’re solving problems, providing inspiration, and offering a genuine connection. You’re delivering exactly what they want, even before they know they want it.

Building a Newsletter They Crave: Content is King.

Your newsletter is your direct line to your audience’s inbox. To make it a must-read, focus on delivering content they crave. Remember – your newsletter is only as good as the content it contains.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Brainstorm: Based on your audience research, brainstorm topics that will resonate. What questions do they have? What problems can you solve?
  2. Experiment: Start a blog with helpful content related to your industry or niche. Try different formats – how-to guides, listicles, opinion pieces – and see what gets the most engagement.
  3. Curate & Craft: Take your best-performing blog content and repurpose it for your newsletter. Add a personal touch, some exclusive insights, or a special offer to make it even more appealing.
  4. Analyze & Iterate: Track open rates, click-throughs, and feedback. What’s working? What’s not? Use this data to refine your content and deliver even more value with each issue.

Remember, your newsletter is a conversation. Content that resonates goes beyond surface-level appeal. It taps into emotions, addresses needs, and sparks imagination. It makes your audience feel seen, heard, and understood.

Listen to feedback, track open rates, and adjust your approach accordingly. The more you understand your audience, the more they’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Your next step is consistency! Once you have started seeing proven results that are undeniable and backed by data, keep it coming. Do not stop, you’re onto something special, you’re reaching the ultimate desired outcome!

Want to dive deeper into my strategy for building an email newsletter that gets results? Stay tuned for one of my upcoming articles!

The Creative Director’s Challenge

I challenge you to ditch your assumptions, put the work and time into really getting to know your audience, and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Dig deep into the data, engage in conversations, and truly understand what makes them tick. This is the key to unlocking your creativity and creating content that not only looks good but also delivers real results.

Audience-First Content: The Bottom Line

It’s a shift in mindset, but it’s incredibly freeing. When you let go of your assumptions and embrace what truly resonates with your audience, you unlock a world of creative possibilities. You’ll create audience-first content that not only gets noticed but also builds genuine connections and drives lasting results.

So take the leap. Embrace the power of audience insights. Let your empathy guide your creativity, and watch your marketing efforts flourish.

Share your insights and experiences and drop me an email, let’s have a conversation!

Jessica Sanchez

Creative Director, PrintingCenterUSA

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