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Developing Personas for Content Marketing

Posted by Christine B. Whittemore on Jun 26, 2017 8:30:00 AM

This is a 5 minute read.

Developing Personas for Content Marketing

Have you identified personas for your business? If yes, how do you tailor your content marketing to your personas?

Why Develop Personas for Content Marketing?

You've probably heard the comment "you can't be all things to all people."

Because when you do, you wind up having difficulty focusing and delivering something remarkable or memorable. 

You can easily imagine such a product or service becoming middle-of-the-road - aka bland, blah and mediocre - because it tries so hard to satisfy so many. What originally made that offering unique disappears as a result. No surprise that such a business strategy tends to fail.

Mark Bittman says as much in You Can’t Be All Things To All People with respect to delivering a plant-based meal-kit food experience.

"The bottom line is that I’ve realized that much as we want to be responsive to customer feedback, we can’t be all things to all people—not just because that is impossible, but because I have my own values about food, values that I believe in and am expressing through our products. And there’s something to be said for sticking to your values in a business—after all, we’ve successfully reached our first big goal: We’re shipping really good food that produces delicious plant-based meals. Now it’s time to fine-tune.

Think of your own business experiences - have you come across some customers that weren't a good match for your business? Did you try desperately hard to satisfy them only to lose sight of the good ones?

Perhaps you noticed similarities. 

What about your successful customer relationships? What similarities did they have? 

(For that matter, think of any school or job interview you've had. Didn't you have to demonstrate how your unique background and experiences qualified you for that specific organization? If you didn't stand out, I bet you were toast.)

Digital Personas Aren't New!

I first learned about digital personas and how they shape online content when I took a FutureNow online copy writing seminar, led by Holly Buchanan, based on "persuasion architecture." That was in 2005.

The section on personas which begins on page 30 explains:

"There is no average visitor. The path to mediocre and uninspiring conversion results is lined with project managers who imagined every visitor would think and behave in exactly the same way. People have varying strategies for accomplishing tasks, conducting research, managing their time and making decisions. The very concept of an average user makes it impossible to construct a persuasive process that will motivate a broad spectrum of individuals... "

Personas represent another way of 'walking in your customers' shoes'.

They go hand-in-hand with customer centricity [see the 2005 article Best Buy Stores Target 'Barry', 'Buzz' and 'Jill'] and force a business to ask customer-targeted rather than product-centric questions about how to deliver value. 

From an online, digital and inbound marketing perspective, personas help shape content so it addresses the needs and pain points of one vs. another.

When you combine that with data as companies such as Amazon do, you develop customer relationships that become stickier (i.e., increasingly more compelling and engaging) with each interaction

>> See The Case for Personas in Business: Connecting With Customers

>> See Integrate Personas into Your Inbound Marketing with HubSpot

5 Tips for Developing Content Marketing Personas

When you're developing personas for your content marketing, consider the following 5 tips:

1. Think of your customers.

Are all of your customers the same or do you have different groups of customers? Perhaps one is a solo-preneur group and the second consists of trade associations.

How does one customer differ from the other?

Do the solo-decision makers require hands-on implementation from you whereas your other group, which consists of more complex buyer-committees with a CMO, CFO and CEO require significant consulting time as well as staff training.

Start small. It's a lot easier to go through this exercise with one or two personas than with fifteen. (I hope you don't have fifteen!)

2. Consider each individual a distinct persona.

Each group will become a distinct persona for your business.

Give each one a name and a role. For example, Hans Solo and the Gang of Three (you might even break the committee members further down at some point).

Add a picture to make each one even more real.

The benefit it that everyone in your organization will have a visual reminder or shortcut for bringing that persona to mind during strategy discussions.

3. Detail each persona's biggest concerns and pain points.

Next explore your persona(s) in detail. You may want to conduct interviews with existing customers or get perspective from customer-facing associates.

What does each persona need?

What keeps each up at night?

What terms does each use to describe the business problem you could help with? 

Where does s/he go for information offline and online?

4. Consider the questions the different personas ask.

Think about the questions your customers regularly ask you? (This, by the way, is a way to determine if your personas are truly distinct. If the questions are all the same, you may have just one.)

How do you answer them?

How might you solve their problems and simplify the decision process?

Which of your products and services would be most valuable and why?

How would they be used?

How would your solution be unique?

What constitutes a 'deal killer'?

What matters for establishing your trustworthiness?

5. Which are the best tools to use as you develop the content that addresses your personas' needs? 

Don't forget to consider how your personas use digital tools. How does each use mobile vs. desktop? Are webinars important? Does one persona live by text message? Is another tied to a desktop computer?

What about in-real-life activities? Are trade shows important? Coffee bars? What will you need for those settings? Possibly an iPad with a great visual experience to connect to a landing page on your website with specific and relevant information?

Think how you might use several tools - including social networks, photos, video - to support and promote a primary message using Slideshare embedded on your blog and amplified via LinkedIn Groups...

As you develop your content - web pages, blog articles, content offers, email newsletters, etc. - remember to write for people and, more specifically, your personas. 

What's Your Experience with Content Personas?

How many personas does your business have? What do you consider most important for developing meaningful ones and how do you use them to guide your content?

I'd love to hear.

Thanks for reading!

Download the Content Marketing Guide!  

Note: this article was originally published on Feb 7, 2012 and has been updated.

Image credit: Personas on Flickr.com

Topics: inbound marketing, content marketing

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