Content strategy and development is the cornerstone of highly effective inbound marketing campaigns. Without the right content, later processes including search engine optimization, search engine marketing, or social outreach can attract users for all the wrong reasons, if at all. The result may be a lot of inbound traffic but few conversions.
Fortunately, there are tools and techniques that you can use to properly hone your message to produce content that clicks with the right person at the right time. This article will explore how to manufacture the first part of that equation: the right person.
It all starts with a simple question: what is your target audience? Our clients will typically use one of the following formats:
- Anyone who has money to spend
- Everyone in this geographic location
- The world
- Every man, woman, and child who has ever lived, breathed, loved and lost
Casting a big net can create some unnecessary hurdles when formulating a sound content strategy for a digital or inbound marketing campaign. While you may think everyone is your target, that net is unnecessarily large which will inevitably create confusion in the content developed off of it. We need to whittle that down quite a bit and we use buyer persona research as a discovery process.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional record of your ideal client backed with actual data and educated speculation about personal and professional attributes for that person including demographics, motivations, and goals.
Some emphasis should be placed on the semi-fictional part. Always use actual data when formulating these personas. Run reports on your accounting software to find out who your best clients are. Look at them from a personal and professional level. Write down any particular key points or facts about them. Use educated speculation when the data is incomplete or if you’re a startup with no customers. This educated speculation should be backed by data such as industry trends, competitive analysis, and other means for deriving targeted information.
Developing a buyer persona isn’t difficult. But developing a meaningful buyer persona does present some paperwork to be done ahead of time. It starts with research.
When conducting buyer persona research, never use assumptions and always use as much data as you can.
Contact current clients or past clients. Interview them. In the absence of these sources, turn to social media to find people who fit the characteristics of your target market. You may be surprised at how willing people are to help. Next, look for trends in how your questions are being answered. No one person is your persona. One interview can be chalked up to anecdotal evidence. But with enough mix, the data gained from these interviews form a basis for a sound buyer persona.
The following is a sample set of questions you can use to help identify these trends.
- What is your role in your company?
- What industry does your company serve?
- What are the goals of your role? What are you looking to accomplish?
- Where do you go to find information relating to your job (educational opportunities, news outlets, blogs, newspapers, etc)?
- How old are you? (ask carefully!)
After a series of interviews, you’ll likely notice some convergence on the answers. This convergence represents your buyer persona. Conduct enough interviews so that this convergence is easy to identify. You may find answers that are all over the place. This may be indicative that you may have multiple buyer personas. That’s not a bad thing so long as you conduct enough interviews to find convergence to justify these multiple personas. It also may reveal that you’re interviewing the wrong people or you’re asking the wrong questions. Act on this deliberately and carefully.
Develop a Story
With the convergence data in hand, you’re now ready to develop a full buyer persona. This persona should look and feel a lot like a dossier. Include photos to make it feel like an actual target. The following buyer persona is an example that you can use to develop your own. This persona is developed around ABC Career Recruiting, a fictitious recruiting agency.
How To Use Your Buyer Personas
Have you ever used the line “it’s great to put a face to a name?” Well now, your entire prospect list has a face and a name. You may have one or a series of personas that you can speak to. In the framework of a team, you can now use these personas to get everyone on the same page in terms of messaging. We’re communicating with Archie Johnson.
It’s difficult to craft content for no one or everyone. It’s a lot easier to have a conversation around a known commodity. Use these personas in crafting messaging. What does Archie need to hear to take him from a prospect to a client?
These topics covered who to communicate with. The other end of the equation is when to communicate with them. Our next article will detail the phases of a customer journey and crafting the perfect message to them to take them from a prospect to a buyer.