Know your customer. This is the first rule of content marketing. It’s a rule that most brands don’t follow. But the reasons businesses avoid developing customer personas are not borne out of an individualist streak to break the rules. It’s usually just down to a lack of know-how or the time to invest in working out this stuff.
Know your audience. This is the second rule. Your ideal customer is part of your ideal audience. It’s important to quickly make the distinction here. Sure, you’ll want to create content that turns readers into customers. But, not all of your audience will be buyers. It will include influencers and advocates that help you get in front of the people who are your target customer, they just don’t know about your brand yet, or they may be seeking advice or recommendations from someone they trust.
To make your content marketing a success, you’ll need to build an engaged audience and customer base that comes with you on a long-haul journey. Your content can help you build stronger relationships with customers that want to come back for more. One of the most powerful ways to do this is by creating a customer persona.
What do we mean by customer persona?
Here’s a really helpful definition courtesy of User Testing: ‘A customer persona (also known as a buyer persona) is a semi-fictional archetype that represents the key traits of a large section of your audience, based on the data you’ve collected from user research and web analytics’.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Developing a customer persona will help you better understand your target audience. You will probably create more than one persona, which will give you an insight into why different types of customers make the decisions they do. These insights will guide everything from your brand voice to the types of content you craft – from your blog posts to your product descriptions to your email campaigns and everything in between. Now we’re getting onto the reasons why you need to understand what makes your customers tick.
- Effective content marketing isn't built on guesswork
The most effective content marketing strategies are built on real-world insight into the types of people you are writing for.
This insight will help you craft messages and content that resonates with your ideal customer and speaks to them in their language. It will help you decide the topics that your persona types are most interested in. It will help you create content that solves a problem or answer a question.
You’ll also have a better understanding of where your target customers go to find information, and the social media platforms they hang out on, so your content is easily accessible at the right moment of need.
Here are a few questions to think about to help you develop your customer personas:
- What makes your ideal customer tick? Seek answers beyond demographics and location. You’ll need to think about their background, their interests and lifestyle, their attitudes, behaviours and motivations. What do they value in a brand? What are their priorities?
- What types of problems are they trying to solve? You’ll want to understand their pressure points and the problems they are trying to solve. What types of questions do they ask? What types of information will answer their queries? Google obsesses over this and your brand should be no different.
- Where do they spend time online? What social networks do they use? Where do they consume their content?
- What types of communications do they prefer? Which channels will best help you reach your target customer?
It’s important to also think about the types of people that aren’t your target audience, and the reasons why.
- Your competitors will be writing for your ideal customer
If you haven’t invested the time to develop customer personas that fuel your content marketing, chances are your competitors are already creating finely-tuned content for every step of the journey that your ideal customer is making.
- Emotions drive purchasing decisions
Understanding your target customers’ emotional needs means that you are able to create content that emotionally engages and triggers a reaction. Emotions drive purchasing decisions.
The rational part of our brain usually focuses on function and price (and the bank statement). The personas you develop will give you an insight into the emotional triggers that will motivate people to buy from you, share your content or tell others about your brand.
Your customers care about how your products make them feel. They care about what your brand stands for and the values that you share. As Seth Godin famously said: “People do not buy products and services they buy relations, stories, and magic”. Personas will help you answer these three emotive questions:
- How can your content help to build stronger customer connections?
- How can brand storytelling help you tap into shared values?
- What part does your brand play in your customers’ stories?
Don’t run away with the fiction and create a character that’s best suited to the pages of a novel. Your research should be grounded in your real-life customers and insights. There’s no one-size-fits all approach, so don’t forget to develop personas for specific campaigns and keep them updated so your content is relevant and useful.
Meanwhile, have you used customer personas for your content marketing? Any tips to share? Let us know in the Comments section below.