One simple exercise that will change how your marketing performs

It’s easy for brands to lose sight of who they’re talking to, and how. Focus gets tied up in the development of the product or service itself, competition or operational issues. In some cases, the feeling is that the value proposition is so good that everything is just “working”–but no matter how great the value proposition, if you’re not intentionally connecting your content with what drives your ideal customer and what they need, they will go somewhere else where they feel understood and respected. Creating marketing personas can help keep them with you.

The poor ROI of woo minus intention

As humans, we too can lose focus on our “customers”. Case in point:

As a single parent navigating the dating scene, I encounter a lot of fantastic people, but can quickly discern they are not a good match for me and “take my business” elsewhere. Recently, a man I’ll call Brad was trying to woo me. By all accounts–since we’re speaking in marketing terms–he had a great value proposition: smart, funny, had raised kids (so he presumably “gets” parenting life), financially secure, good looking, and we shared some similar interests…but he was unable to sell me on a second date.

Brad had learned a few things about me in our first conversations: that I am a committed mom who also runs a business, and is often running kids to sports and social outings (busy). Due to said busyness, I am very conscious of the choices I make with my time (prioritizes). I don’t use text beyond basic logistics, love small local restaurants with outdoor seating, or having a beer together on the porch (likes one on one human interaction).

Although Brad behaved as if he were interested in pursuing a dating thing, after the first date he:

  • Waited almost two weeks before contacting me. Said “things got crazy busy.” I understand crazy busy, but the bottom line is that you will make time for your priorities. Your customers can sense in a heartbeat when they have been deprioritized.
  • Didn’t make time to call at a reasonable hour to chat, but would text me at 1 a.m. (Dude. With days as full as mine, I am so, very asleep at 1 a.m.)
  • Invited me to see a live band in a bar–45 minutes from my home–as a second date, on a weeknight he knew my kids were with me.
  • Invited me for a weekend out of state as an alternative second date when the first option didn’t fly.

There are clearly a lot of things wrong with this picture that are for another forum, but for the sake of analogy, Brad did not know his audience. He made it way too hard for someone with my lifestyle to simply spend time together and get to know each other. His ideal customer is someone who has loads more free time and enjoys a different style of communication– his ROI will likely be higher in that pursuit.

Accommodate customer needs along their journey

As a brand, if you don’t stop and ask yourself what your ideal customer’s pain points, needs and goals are–and what experience you’re providing that solves those things–not only are you are missing out on some simple yet fabulous opportunities to build your fan base (and grow your business), but you will quickly lose ground to a brand that is listening. One of the simplest and most powerful things you can do is to create a persona of your ideal customer, and assess whether your content (website, social media, emails) is speaking to their experience and acknowledging their needs throughout their consideration and buying journey.

What are personas and why do they matter?

A persona is a profile, or representation of a type of person that might use your service or product. It defines the qualities of key decision makers involved in the buying process, and is developed based on validated understandings of their needs, experiences, behaviors and goals. It is a fictional character that embodies the distilled essence of a real user. A persona informs your content strategy to drive buyer engagement (revenue).

In other words, your content, and the steps you take your customer through to build trust and buy from you, should be crafted consciously and with intention to map to their needs, questions, and goals.

In this B2B Content Marketing Report, 58% of marketers surveyed contributed content marketing success to audience relevance:

content relevance

How to create a persona

It’s kind of like creating a profile on a dating site, except for someone else. You should even give them a name and a photo, to make it more tangible for everyone who needs to use it as they consider the details of the messaging, wording or channel strategies they are creating. Based on as much non-presumed knowledge as you have, outline the following:

  • Basic demographics. Name, age, location, interests and other personal, background information.
  • Business information. Job title, industry, role as decision-maker or influencer, and level of experience (will indicate how much guidance and education is needed, vs more authoritative tone to be taken). If B2C, this might include life scenario: home/family situation, responsibilities, education or finances.
  • Target audience segment that each persona fits into.
    • Target market = A broad description of the consumers who care about your product or service, and would be most likely to spend money with your company given the right conditions. For example, for an online construction project management app, this might be ‘builders with revenue of over $10m per year.’
    • Target audience = e.g. Project managers using outdated software that is not mobile or adapting to industry changes.
    • Segment = A subgroup of that target audience, based on a psychographic, behavioral or geographic differentiator, e.g. Joe, a 52-year old construction manager who came up through the ranks with a high school education and doesn’t really like technology, vs persona 2, Miguel, a 35-year old with a degree in construction management and a technology buff.
  • “Day in the life”. A first-person description of a typical day–and where their challenges relevant to your offering come into play–from the personas themselves.
  • Main problems. What frustrates them, or stands in the way of their goals?
  • Specific objectives. It’s important to understand why they need what they need. In other words, just “Get more accurate financials” isn’t enough. Digging into the “why” they need the [thing] gives you clues into both the functional and emotional aspects to solve for them.

A great way to craft this more social and contextual view of objectives is to fill in these blanks:

When I am [on a job site], I need [to be able to update material changes or delays on the fly on my tablet, with real-time alerts and synching] so I can [make immediate schedule adjustments, get a clear picture of resulting financials right away, and not have to update a system with my notes again when I get home.]

The strategy then becomes less about simply providing information on the product, but rather focused on how to deliver interesting things that help construction managers achieve “make immediate schedule adjustments, get a clear picture of resulting financials right away, and not have to update a system with my notes again when I get home.”

  • What questions will they ask? What will that persona ask at different points in their buying journey? How might those questions relate to his or her personality and position?
  • Content preferences. Given what we know about the persona, how does he or she like to consume content? This includes preferred channels; tone, style and voice that will most resonate; content formats.
  • Keywords. For example, those that align with the persona’s position within the business and the problems they’re trying to solve.

Don’t forget to talk to current customers, and bring your sales and support staff into the conversation when crafting personas. They have first-hand, on-the-ground knowledge of what matters, and where the gaps are in your brand’s experience to help bring your personas to life.

There are numerous ways for defining deeper and more complex personas: ethnographic studies, social media listening tools, keyword research, market research… but if you’re not mapping content to personas at all right now, or are experiencing a noticeable lack of traction in your marketing, this is where to start. Once you have one or two key personas drafted, you should be able to look at them against the content in your website, ads, landing pages or articles and identify if it maps back to their needs, questions and journeys. If not, your efforts may be misdirected, leaving a lot on the table (for your competitors to take).

Don’t be Brad.

If you have questions, or would like help getting your content aligned to your ideal customers, give us a holla.


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