When you write up a blog post, put a landing page together, or run an ad campaign on Facebook, do you know who it is that you're talking to?
If not, you'll have a tough time connecting with the kind of people who'd be the most interested in your products or services.
You have to get to know your audience, as thoroughly as you can.
Who are they? How old are they? Are they mostly men or mostly women?
What do they value? What moves them and motivates them to action?
These kinds of questions help you get a handle on exactly who your audience is going to be.
You can get this kind of information through resources like your Google Analytics page, the Facebook Ads manager, and other sites and software programs that provide you with the data you need.
Once you've delved into your analytics, done some market research, and developed an understanding of your audience, it's time to make a strategy change.
Every marketing action you take is done with this person, or this set of people, in mind.
One of the best ways to organize this information about your leads and customers is to construct what's called a “customer persona.”
Personae transform your demographic data into something that has a more tangible feel to it.
These fictional constructs, these personae, are carefully crafted to represent the idea buyer for your product.
In a recent blog post, the Content Marketing Institute walks you through the process of creating you first customer persona.
Constructing your personas
Persona development is a customized process, as it is meant to help your team address its unique marketing challenges and opportunities.
However, the following framework can help you get started on the right track:
Step 1: Envision your ideal customer.
This should be the person your content efforts are likely to help most.
To build a picture of who she (or he) is, give the person a name and fill in the most critical characteristics relevant to your business.
This character sketch will serve as the foundation of your persona.
- Who is she? What demographic characteristics describe her?
- What’s her job title and function?
- What kind of company/industry does she work in?
- How long has she been serving in this capacity within the organization?
- What experience/expertise does she bring to this role?
- How does her job relate to the job of others in her department, and other departments in her organization?
Step 2: Consider the specific objectives, responsibilities, and obstacles she might encounter regularly in performing her role.
- What goals does she need to accomplish to be successful in her job?
- What challenges frustrate her most about her job?
- What needs gaps might she be looking to fill or what specific problems would she need to solve to alleviate some frustration?
- What might keep her from addressing those gaps/problems?
TIP: Once you have a basic character sketch of who your persona is and what her most pressing goals and challenges are, it may be helpful to create some day-in-the-life snapshots – brief statements that can illustrate what life is like in her (work) shoes.
In her presentation at the 2016 Intelligent Content Conference, Ardath explained that these scenarios can help you humanize your persona.
She recommends using the voice of the persona in your scenarios and speaking in plain language to give your content team a relatable picture of who she is and what she might be looking for help with (as you can see in Ardath’s example):
[image source: Content Marketing Institute]
Step 3: Characterize her role in relation to your business’s buying cycle.
Another way day-in-the-life scenarios can be helpful is that they provide a clearer view of your persona’s relationships to other members of the “buying committee” – i.e., the people/teams within an organization who are involved in making purchasing decisions for the company.
Answering questions like the following can help you focus on important clues about the best way to approach content conversations with her – and uncover other stakeholder personas you might need to target:
- How influential is she in her company’s decision-making process? Where might pushback come?
- Who else might influence her decisions (internal and external)?
- Does she need others to sign off on her decisions?
- How far along is she in her consideration process?
- What questions is she likely to ask to satisfy her criteria for making a purchase?
- What obstacles might stand in her way as she looks to satisfy that criteria?
- What keywords is she likely to use to search for the answers she needs to push forward?
Step 4: Fill in her personal communication preferences.
To get value from your personas, you must take the time to build them with enough depth and insight to enable your team to generate ideas and topics that resonate.
Not only should your persona include functional insights related to her job, it should also include details related to her personal content preferences – such as topics she’s shown an interest in, her favorite content platforms, formats, and social channels, etc. For example:
- How does she typically access content?
- Are there particular formats she gravitates toward?
- Does she prefer to access content online, via a mobile device, or through other channels/platforms?
- Does she get most of her information during work hours or at home?
- How much information might she want to receive, and how often?
- How often is she exposed to relevant content/information as she goes about her typical day?
- How often does she log on to social networks? Which ones?
- Has she shown a preference for weekly vs. daily newsletters or updates?
- Who/what influences her content consumption?
- Whose advice does she trust or seek most when engaging with content (e.g., industry analysts, vendors, thought leaders, friends, colleagues)?
- Are there internal or external events that might trigger variations in her content consumption pattern?
The answers to questions like these can help you identify potential content ideas that are most likely to catch her attention or move her closer to making a purchase.
Step 5: Map your insights to your strategic goals.
After you’ve gathered all the information to build your persona, Ardath suggests pulling it together into an engagement scenario, which will help your content team develop content ideas and assets that align with your persona’s needs.
To build a sample scenario, like the one she shares below, Ardath says to think of the blue boxes as questions, hesitations, doubts, or concerns that your persona might have.
The white statements are answers that your content would provide.
[image source: Content Marketing Institute]
You can learn more about implementing customer personae for your own brand, and grab a free template to get started, over at Content Marketing Institute.