October 15, 2015 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
No matter what your company offers, you’re going to have different customers with different needs. Even the hammer store that only sells one size and color of hammer can divide its customers between professional contractors and first time DIY homeowners. Of course, you’re more than welcome to only choose one target audience, but if you ignore half of your customer base, you’ll only see half the revenue.
Before starting your content marketing strategy, you need to thoroughly examine your audience personas – or you might end up leaving customers out in the cold.
There are more reasons than revenue to develop personas. These additional benefits will help your business move smoother and make your job easier.
Let’s explore this from a B2B perspective. Marketing vendors often have to work up the chain before signing a new client. While you might think the company you’re selling to counts as one target, each person you talk to is a different persona. The coordinator will want to learn every ounce of your business before pitching it to their managers, while the SVP or CMO won’t have the time to sit through your entire spiel. Immediately, you have two different personas to work with.
On the B2C side, personas help your customer care teams understand the different people they will talk to day-to-day. Are they helping someone older and low-tech? How is this customer different from a young businesswoman ordering from her iPad?
Well-developed personas help you better understand your customer, which means you’ll get better at selling to them and getting them the information they need – fast.
A common complaint that we hear about creating user-centric content is ideation burnout. The first 200 ideas might come easily, but it’s hard to constantly come up with new hooks. Different personas can open up new ideas and even inspire your teams to work with new media.
Pick a persona and challenge yourself to come up with three different media types they use. A millennial girl might enjoy an infographic on Pinterest, a viral YouTube video, and an interactive game. An older professional might read an article on their RSS feed, watch a webinar at lunch, and participate in a forum discussion. Now that you have the media, come up with three content ideas for each – and then see what can be crossed. Can the webinar highlights be cut into a YouTube video?
Your personas make ideation easier because you can target the exact needs and preferences of your customers. Don’t make them find you; talk to them on the channel they want.
As you start working with your personas, reevaluate how your business functions in relation to them. Do you send paper invoices or can your client pay online? Do you have an app or a mobile-optimized site? You should be able to spot challenges in your daily operations and find opportunities to grow your business toward your target audience.
Depending on your size and budget, there are multiple options to pull information on your customers and start developing your personas. Here are a few suggestions.
When you look at your site analytics – visitor demographics, devices, sources, etc. – do they match with whom you’re trying to draw to your business? There are many businesses that build a site for one audience but are actually getting traffic from another. This ad from HSBC sums it up perfectly:
Like the smoothies made above, customer dissonance doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Because of it, you can have at least two personas: who you want coming to your site versus who currently is. Conduct a deep dive into your analytics to break out 3-5 different people who come to your site, and then work to answer the following questions.
Tracking analytics will also help you set KPIs for improvement. Over the next year, you can watch your personas grow through different content marketing tactics, and troubleshoot problem campaigns before they’re over.
Though we’ll never admit it, sometimes marketing teams aren’t as connected to their customers as they would like to be. To get a feel for your current and developing personas, get into the weeds and talk to people!
Call focus groups of your customer care teams and your actual customers and take time to listen before you build a whole campaign. Your customer service reps talk to your audience all day, so they know what common problems you face and where your wins are. Your customer that calls for help isn’t getting what they want – possibly because your business is built for a completely different persona. Use your teams to find your hidden weaknesses.
Customer focus groups will also help you uncover hidden customer information. The customer willing to come in and talk to you will probably be your most vocal and biggest champion. Learn from them and find out how you can better woo your best customer. Then, ask why different demographics aren’t your biggest fans, and use that as a jumping point for building out those new personas and deciding how you’ll cater to them.
We get it: you eat, sleep, and breathe your brand. You might find yourself getting tunnel vision based on a problem or end up too in the weeds to determine strong personas.
If your budget allows, consider letting a consultant or branding agency perform an analysis on your customers. They’ll look at your analytics, your feedback, and your goals and assemble personas for you. It’s entirely possible that they’ll see something that you never could have thought of yourself – and will back it up with proof.
Who you target and what resources you allocate to different personas will change. Different seasons and goals will make you adjust. You might introduce a new product that appeals to a whole new persona that you’ve never marketed to before. You might decide to spend less on your main persona to build out a new audience. Try to reevaluate your customers with each fiscal year; there may not be a big change, but you might find some insights that surprise you.
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