Are you worried that you’re not getting the right content in front of the right people at the right moment in their buyer journey?
To achieve your content marketing goals you need to be able to use personas to target specific buyer types with tailored content. Enter: the Buyer Persona.
Lots of brands put in the hours to produce content that they think their audience will find useful. But here lies the problem. Businesses that produce content based on guesswork or a hunch will only be able to pick low hanging fruits.
The most successful content marketing plans are designed from the customer back. So if you haven’t got a detailed picture of who your ideal customer is and what makes them tick, how will you know who you are designing a content plan for?
The answer is to create in-depth buyer personas to reach your target audience with laser-guided precision. Your customers don’t think or buy as one so you need to build a narrative for fully developed characters that take the lead role in your brand story.
Know your audience
In a recent post we looked at why buyer personas are the keystone of content marketing plans and the reasons why businesses need to get into the weeds to build a persona to make their content better. The most effective content marketing strategies are built on real-world insight on the types of people you are writing for. Your persona will inform everything from the tone of voice you adopt to the topics you choose to write about to the formats and channels you use to share your content.
A clear signal of who your ideal customer is gives you a clear picture of the reasons that would make them choose your brand over another. This is powerful stuff when you get it right. Before we walk you through the steps that will help you develop a clear understanding of what your ideal customer looks like: their behaviour, motivations, values, tastes, interests and aspirations, let’s quickly define what we mean by buyer persona.
What is a buyer persona?
Hootsuite sums up a buyer persona in a nutshell: “A buyer persona is someone who represents your target audience. This is not a real customer, but a fictional person who embodies the characteristics of your best potential customers.”
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. Creating a detailed buyer persona is easier than you think.
You’ll need to do your research and tap into the masses of customer data that you collect to start to segment your audience into specific character types. Personas evolve as your customers evolve. You will need to revisit them so they mirror who your ideal customer is, not who you think your ideal customer is.
But let’s get back to now. If you haven’t got around to creating your personas, your competitors are probably already filling the void with useful content aimed at your ideal customer. Let’s get you started.
How many personas should you create?
As we mentioned earlier, one persona isn’t probably enough. Each brand is different but if you look at creating two or three that should cover your full audience.
There are lots of free templates that you can download and adapt for your business. Here is a useful example from Alexa. And here are a couple of buyer persona examples from Product Marketing Alliance.
Preparing your research
Whether you are considering developing your first buyer persona or you are looking to update what you’ve already got, you need to keep your research up to date to build on what you know about your customers.
Even if you already have buyer personas for your business, it’s important that you revisit them to make sure your content is still relevant and useful for your audience.
You will need to analyse real-world customers to get to the actionable insight you need. It’s impossible for you to get to know customers one by one, so asking the right questions will help you build a more detailed archetype.
Here is a list of questions to help you get the answers you need to develop specific buyer archetypes that you want to reach with targeted content. While demographics are important, seek to find answers beyond age, gender and location etc. You’ll need to think about their background, their interests and lifestyle, their attitudes, behaviours and motivations.
Demographics – How old are your customers? What gender do they identify with? Where do they live? Are they settled nesters, empty nesters or do they have the removal company on speed dial?
Home life – Who do they spend their home life with? Do they have children? Do they have extra caring responsibilities? Do they have pets?
Work / study life – What types of work do they do? Are they students or life-long learners?
Finances and budgeting – How do they spend their money? Are they budget-conscious, cash-strapped or spend thrift?
Values – What do they value in a brand? How does your brand purpose align with these values?
Aspirational lifestyle – What makes your customers get up in the morning? What are they striving for? Where do they want to be in the next five years?
Decision making – Is your ideal buyer logical and methodical, or spontaneous and impulsive? Do they like to devour detail? Or do they live with a fear of missing out and prefer content that appeals to their impulses to buy now. The way people make purchasing decisions is more nuanced and unique to individuals, but you can’t get to know each and every customer so it’s always helpful to find commonalities.
Content consumption – Where do they consume their content? What content sources do they trust? Which newspapers do they read? Where do they go for inspiration – are there specific lifestyle magazines or blogs that they read?
Hobbies and interests – What do your customers do in their spare time?
Goals and pressure points – What types of problems are they trying to solve? What keeps them awake at night? What are their priorities?
Online behaviour – What social networks do they hang out on? Where do they look for incentives to save on purchases?
Communication – What types of communications do they prefer? Which channels will best help you reach your target customer?
Customer experience – When was the last time they had a great customer experience? What made it great? When was the last time they had a poor experience. Why were they disappointed?
Brand and product affinity – What are their favourite brands? Why?
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How to gather the data
From the comfort of your desk, you can find actionable insights by mining the customer data that you already have at your fingertips.
Customer feedback – Use customer surveys to understand your customers’ perceptions of your business, their needs, expectations and pain points. This is the quickest route to seek answers to your questions.
Social media mentions – If you are asking a question like “what do you like about our products and services” the responses you get from a structured survey could be biased because the customer gives you an answer they think you want to hear. Or for other questions they are led by the nature of the question. Social media users tell brands and just about anybody else who is listening what they think about brands – the good and the bad. Comments are made when emotions at their rawest. These mentions are invaluable in helping you build an unbiased picture of your ideal customer.
Social media tools – Facebook, Twitter et al all have analytics on your audience demographics, interests and behaviours for you to mine to find customer types and traits that you may not have thought about.
Data capture forms – What information can you glean from the data capture forms people fill in when they sign up for your email list or download content?
Now start a conversation ...
Your customers – Interview your customers because there is no substitute for a real conversation. Think about how you can also ask more open ended questions to find out more than a survey can tell you. For example, you could ask – “what does a day in your life look like”?
Customer-facing employees – Ask your employees for insight into the interactions they have with customers.
How many interviewees do you need?
You won’t have the time or resources to interview lots of customers. You probably don’t have the budget to outsource this either. Try to line up between 3 to 5 interviewees for each type of persona you are developing. Don’t forget to prepare your questions in advance.
Negative personas - what types of people are not your ideal customer?
You have worked hard to build a detailed picture of who your ideal customer is. It’s equally as important to work out who your ideal isn’t too. Not everybody in your audience will want to buy from you. Some people will be influencers that help you get your content in front of people who may not know about your brand yet. These are important. But there will be customer types that are not ideal. Think about the reasons why they are not.
Finally … bring your personas to life
To bring your buyer personas to life give them a name. We hope you have fun creating them. It will be worth it. You will be able to create the type of content that your target audience finds valuable because you will know who you are writing for and why.
What’s your experience of creating a buyer persona? Any tips to share with our readers? Let us know in the Comments section below.