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February 12, 2018

Content strategy commandment: Know thy audience

A misfire by a German grocery chain entering the US market reminds me of a very important content strategy commandment: Know thy audience.

We are getting Lidl stores in North Carolina, and I have visited two of them. I was impressed by the architecture (tall ceilings and glass fronts) and was surprised at the size of the stores. Well, a Lidl executive says the stores are indeed too big and not geared correctly for the US market:

Lidl’s U.S. stores are too big and too expensive, Klaus Gehrig, CEO of the group that owns the grocery store chain, recently told the German publication Manager Magazine. He said the company did a poor job choosing locations and didn’t recognize Americans’ shopping preferences, such as for prepared food.

know thy audienceSummary: Lidl didn’t pay enough attention to the needs of its US-based audience and overspent on infrastructure that does not support American shopping habits.

Those of us in the content creation business have seen audience mismatches, too—and all too frequently. Immediately, I can think of two levels where the Know thy audience commandment is crucial in regard to content:

  • Is content in the format customers prefer? If your content is in online PDF files and your customers consume content on phones and tablets, your delivery approach is wrong. On the flip side: if your customers expect PDF files, you cannot just quit providing them because “they aren’t cool.” Your content delivery infrastructure should support your customers’ current consumption habits and be extensible to support new delivery methods in the future.
  • Is content for different locales customized for those regions? My colleagues Bill Swallow and Gretyl Kinsey have written a great white paper on localization strategy that encapsulates how crucial localization is to businesses, so I’ll let them do the talking here:

    Organizations need a strategic approach to content for global markets. Consumers seek experiences that are tailored to them. Not taking a strategic approach to global content alienates your target markets and diminishes your brand reputation.

    Lidl regrets they did not align their stores’ design to accommodate American preferences for prepared foods. A company that releases content with specific cultural references and slang from another locale will surely regret that decision, too, when consumers get angry at—or ignore—the company’s offerings.

Addressing your audience correctly is key to the success of any content. How else can content professionals honor the Know thy audience commandment? Leave a comment with your advice.