So you’ve just started a new gig in content marketing and inherited some okay-at-best personas, but you don’t know what to do with them. Or maybe you’re part of the “personas are dead” crowd and can’t see the value they could possibly bring to your content marketing plan.
If we hop off the persona hater train and dig into what makes successful personas work, you’ll discover that well-built personas actually speak to real customers and audiences. By writing content to address their needs with your solutions, you will be following a strategy that can accomplish your content goals better than you ever thought possible.
Here are the top four things we believe will help you craft personas that don’t suck:
- Identify the Challenges, Pain Points, and Goals of your target audience. Content that addresses these obstacles and offers valuable solutions is more likely to engage and convert.
- Complete Extensive Research. Developing personas starts with comprehensive research. The more data you gather, the more accurate and detailed your personas will be.
- Ditch the Overly Specific Demographics. Using specific demographics like ages, salaries, made-up names, genders, and a stock photo are just shortcuts to filling out a meaningless persona. Stick to what really matters—characteristics of real customers.
- Continuously Update Them. Successful content marketing personas are dynamic. Regularly review and update your personas as your audience and market evolve. Collect feedback from your team, customers, and stakeholders to refine your personas over time.
Using Personas to Build a Content Marketing Plan
Using personas to build content is a powerful strategy that helps ensure your content resonates with your target audience and addresses their specific needs. By putting yourself in the shoes of your ideal customers or audience members, you gain valuable insights into their preferences, pain points, and motivations. This deep understanding allows you to create content that speaks directly to them, providing relevant solutions, valuable information, and engaging stories.
Embrace the power of personas in your content marketing strategy, and you’ll witness a transformation in audience engagement, retention, and the overall success of your content efforts.
Here’s how you can effectively use personas to guide your content marketing plan:
Start by segmenting your audience based on the personas you have developed. Each persona represents a distinct segment with unique characteristics, preferences, and pain points. This segmentation allows you to tailor your content marketing plan for each group. If there are similar groups that are difficult to segment, one tried-and-true method is to define exactly what each group deeply cares about. This way, even if two different audiences share similar characteristics or pain points, you can identify precisely what makes them unique and craft content speaking to what they care about most.
Use your personas to identify relevant and compelling content topics and themes. Consider the challenges, interests, and goals of each persona. What questions do they have? What solutions are they seeking? Usually when challenges are all laid out together, themes emerge that can be used to tie all your solutions together. Addressing these aspects in your content will make it more engaging and cohesive.
Say you’re writing to cybersecurity professionals, you wouldn’t share the exact same information with someone working on the IT side of cybersecurity as you would on the OT side, since the challenges they face, and are trying to solve, are quite different. However, in both cases, there will be overlaps within the information you share, such as facts and figures that speak to the needs of both IT and OT departments.
Evaluate your topics and existing content to see what gaps you have across content formats. Each persona should have content of varying lengths and formats available to them. Also, considering which formats they prefer can enhance their overall engagement with your brand. Don’t be afraid to be innovative and research where your personas are consuming their content and which sources they trust for advice.
Tip: you should also think about how you can slice and dice your content to break it down into multiple pieces to reach your audience.
Funnel or Buyer’s Journey
It is crucial to plan content that addresses a buyer’s needs at every stage of the decision-making process. This is sometimes referred to as where they are in the “funnel” or which stage they are in of their “buyer’s journey”:
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU), Middle of the Funnel (MOFU), and Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU); or
- Awareness, Consideration, or Decision phase.
There needs to be content that leads them further down the funnel or to the next stage of finding YOUR solution to THEIR problem. This approach ensures a consistent flow of relevant content across your content marketing plan.
By leveraging personas throughout the content creation process, you can produce content that speaks directly to your target audience, fosters brand loyalty, and drives engagement and conversions.
The Bare Bones of Persona-Driven Content
If you’re not quite ready to dive head first into crafting a full content marketing plan with your personas, we recommend your team create these bare bones pieces.
A Buyer’s Guide
Every company needs a buyer’s guide to help their personas make decisions about what solution or service best fits their needs. Your team might decide to create one holistic buyer’s guide or segment them by persona or vertical.
Your buyer’s guide should cover the top considerations that your buyer will have for a solution, even if they don’t purchase your solution or service. You should describe which solutions are best for their needs by giving them a side-by-side comparison.
An Any-OI Focused Piece
Another crucial piece for your content marketing plan is one that demonstrates the ROI of buying a solution or service. Creating content that effectively gauges the ROI of a particular solution is key to securing buy-in from higher-ups and decision-makers.
This piece should answer questions about how the solution or service will help the overall business and its goals. It should also answer what results they should expect from using the solution or service. In the case that ROI is tangible, how long will the solution or service pay for itself. For example, one way to demonstrate ROI would be to describe the decreased labor cost, staff time, or supplies an organization would use if they implemented a particular solution.
A Cost of Doing Nothing Piece
Your content marketing plan should also contain a piece that clearly demonstrates what the cost of doing nothing, of not buying a solution or service, would have on their business. Many of your personas may not consider that doing nothing might be more costly than taking action. This piece is the opposite of an ROI piece where it actually shows the investment lost as well as the expenses associated with taking no action at all.
For example, the cost of neglecting your organization’s cybersecurity measures can easily surpass any initial investment you might make should your organization experience a breach or a cyberattack. It might seem easy to say “oh we won’t experience a breach, so cybersecurity costs are extra and unnecessary” until you experience a costly incident.
Along those lines, hospitals and healthcare organizations can estimate the cost of a worst-case breach based on HIPAA fines. For example, if the HIPAA fine for an exposed patient record is up to $10,000, and the hospital maintains 1,000 records, then a full breach could cost $10,000,000 in fines, which would far exceed the cost of any viable solution to protect those records.
Don’t Dismiss Personas
Personas are an invaluable asset in content marketing that should not be dismissed. Crafted effectively, well-built personas that reflect real customers or audiences provide significant value to your content marketing plan. By identifying the challenges, pain points, and goals of your target audience, conducting extensive research, avoiding overly specific demographics, and continuously updating your personas, you can create personas that resonate with your audience and drive engagement and conversions.
Utilizing personas to build a content marketing plan empowers you to tailor content to different audience segments, address specific needs, and guide your audience through their buyer’s journey.
Embrace the power of personas in your content marketing plan to foster brand loyalty and ensure content that truly speaks to your audience’s needs and interests.
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