Guest Post written by Simon Williams from Persuasion Copy.
Content marketing has grown into a thing that pretty much no business can disregard or dismiss anymore. For a small business, it’s a fantastic marketing tool that offers big opportunities to connect with the right customers. The resultant reach can be global or local, depending on your target market for the writing you create.
But it isn’t easy. And you can easily go around in circles or down the wrong path if the content isn’t aimed at a specific audience; being too broad or too basic in its current form. This is where a buyer persona can help you focus your content marketing efforts with better aim.
Small business owners might have doubts about their worth. Questions like how fabricating a character from scratch benefits their business at all, and the time needed to create these entities can put them in the ‘not worth doing’ category.
But what I’m saying is that having a good buyer persona or personas helps stop a scattergun approach to doing your blog posts, emails or social media and then hoping something sticks.
Okay, so let’s start at the top – what exactly are buyer personas? HubSpot has an excellent definition here:
‘a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers’.
Why are they good to have?
They refine who your customer is –
As I said before, marketing involves connection with a key person that leads to a future business conversion. A human connection. And marketers have been drawing up personas from the year dot to establish this relationship. They help provide the flesh and bone to who they are in the real world.
They encompass the background information on a customer like demographics, profession, personal situation, desires, and motivations. You can relate and empathise with what circumstances they’re in and hopefully provide some relevant content for them.
We’ll take an example of an adventure sports company, which caters for extreme sporting trips to the Sydney region. These trips include abseiling, skydiving and extreme mountain bike trails through the Blue Mountains. Their target market can be distilled into a buyer persona.
They are a man or woman between 30 to 45 years old, a highly paid professional working in Sydney, who owns a 2 bedroom unit with their working partner in the Eastern Suburbs. Their jobs are quite stressful and they are looking for some release by taking on adrenaline-charged activities. They’re relatively fit and active and looking for trusted operators who know their adventures.
Already, the persona has given you a picture of what potential customers they are targeting.
Pains and Challenges –
Knowing the pains of a potential or existing customer opens up the way to create content around them. Like any living human, there’s always consistent challenges to face. If someone came up with answers, we’d look to do doing business with them. But how do you find this information out?
Online forums and communities where your customers hang out and talk is a good start. You search through the questions being asked, especially ones that keep coming up, and the advice being given which opens up a goldmine of topics on which to write. You can then bring a host of these topics back and develop content that addresses them. Knowing which social media channels they use is also good for shaking out sought after topics.
The adventure sports company is on Instagram but has no YouTube channel or existing email marketing list. Again with some research you could dig down into where their personas would be reading or viewing their content (finding their preferred social media channel) and find out what’s getting major traction. And what’s holding them back from doing it. Is it cost? Safety? Variety? Convenience?
The YouTube channel would be a great way of giving the customer an experience of one of their adventure activities. Red Bull are the masters of this (although they are the top end of production and use extreme sports to promote their brand, not always the sports themselves).
Trusted Authority –
Digital marketing is all about social presence and trust. If you put out enough high quality content on relevant topics that your customers or potential customers want information on, and your name keeps coming up through the channels they use, then your authority begins to grow. It is a snowball effect; but it takes time to get that momentum going. Having a persona blueprint for your content targeting efforts, reduces the months or even years in becoming a go-to authority in your industry. It’s the perfect launching pad for gaining a loyal audience quickly and building that momentum.
Getting social proof on how fantastic someone’s abseiling experience was with the adventure company, or getting their content shared through different networks will cross paths with their customer’s online searches. The more they cross paths, the more likely they will engage. This comes from having the content that’s receptive in the first place, and where buyer personas are worth their weight in gold.
If your customers are sharing, commenting or backlinking to your content then Google will love you more. That’s because the signals going back to the search engine – that it’s generating the right kind of action and hitting an audience – are positive about your content. And you are likely to achieve better rankings through it. This stems from the detail in your personas, especially about their behaviour and interests, giving you the stories and interests which your content can cover. Then you promote it through the desired channels such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or email.
A YouTube video receiving more comments, being passed on through social media channels and users coming back to the adventure sports company’s website tells Google there’s something in this content that resonates.
Like anything in life worth doing, testing is necessary. Without monitoring what each piece of content you send out actually does online, you can’t review and sharpen up your future postings to make a bigger impact. No-one wants to run around in a circle in a marketing sense (at least good business owners don’t!).
Yes this does mean diving into your website analytics dashboard and social media monitoring tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to dig down into the data. I know this takes another slice of your time in the working week but the better choices you can make through the data will make your future content choices work better. Finding out how your content performs and what your customers say is information that can assist update your personas.
Personas themselves are not shaped from marble and left outside in the garden. Like the customers they represent they grow, change and evolve into something different. Testing and refining your personas should be reviewed within a timeframe (3 to 6 months) to make sure your content doesn’t go off the boil.
Good buyer personas are living, breathing characters giving a presence to who you’re wanting to connect with. They aren’t fabrications or a waste of time for small businesses. They help aim your content marketing so it makes a bigger impact.