So you’re on board with the idea that meaningful content can help build your brand. But who’s the audience for this content? What do they want to see, and what’s going to make their eyes glaze over (or more likely, make them click away before they’ve read two sentences)? These are bedrock questions of effective content marketing.
Let me begin by clarifying that this post relates to buyer personas for B2C content marketing, as distinguished (and yes, they should be distinguished) from buyer personas for B2B content marketing. That’s not to say buyer personas aren’t important in B2B marketing—folks at the industry-leading CMI have much to say on this. But when content marketing is conducted in a B2B climate, customers are operating within a community of practice that shares a body of knowledge and vocabulary. This naturally shapes the persona-creating process in ways unique to B2B.
In a B2C climate, the persona possibilities may be more numerous and unruly. And thus enters the temptation to conflate buyer demographics with buyer personas. The easy abundance of data available from web and social media analytics makes it seem very logical to answer “who” questions about your audience with facts such as gender, age, income, marital status etc.
Question: “Who is my audience?”
Answer: “Women ages 35-45, married with 2 children. Ethnically, 70% are Caucasian, 11% are Hispanic, 8% African-American and 7% Asian-American. Their annual household income is $55,000 – $74,000.”
Numbers don’t tell the whole story, as Mark Twain famously reminded us “…lies, damned lies and statistics.” Demographics fail to animate aspects of audience personalities—why they buy from you and why they care about your content. These not-so-visible truths about people—interests, activities, opinions, values, attitudes—are at the core of why they interact with your brand and its content.
Understanding your audience from a psychographic point of view is especially relevant to the B2C scenario. Fully articulated buyer personas (these usually include a photograph to capture the essence of each personality) for content marketing can help your team stay focused throughout the content-creation cycle on why your audience cares to engage with your content in the first place.
Piggybacking on this first “don’t” of creating personas—don’t assume demographics tell you enough—let’s touch on a few others. And naturally, there are also important things to do to make your persona-creating efforts meaningful and successful. Most of the do’s and don’ts link you to a solid source for exploring the idea further.
Rely on your preconceived ideas.
Rather, test them against real details from real people. There are lots of ways to listen to people (monitoring social media, conducting surveys and interviews, soliciting input from your sales and customer service teams). Whatever you can manage time and budget wise, just make sure you’re listening to them, not to your own already-existing ideas of who they are.
Make them up.
Related to the first point—don’t let your imagination run wild. This does nobody any good. All the fascinating detail in the world, if not supported by valid information-gathering, is at best ineffective, and more negatively, downright distracting to your marketing efforts. It might seem cute to say “April takes her cockapoo with her in a soft-sided carrier when she goes shopping.” But if you have no broad evidence your buyer is a small-dog fanatic, leave it out.
Promptly forget them.
Personas are meant to guide content creation. Don’t waste your time if you don’t intend to continually refer to your personas in your content processes. A wealth of advice exists on creating and using buyer personas in content marketing efforts. If you’re going to create—then use!
Keep the personas updated.
Things change, and this includes who may or may not be buying your product or service. So make plans to keep personas updated or you’ll eventually find them stale.
Share with people across your organization.
Why not include them in material for new-hire training? And certainly the personas should make the leap from marketing to sales (and back again). Sales people are invaluable sources of buyer detail, and they can likewise benefit from hearing what you understand about your customers.
Keep learning how to make them more effective.
Many smart people are pushing the boundaries of this topic all the time—including questioning its relevance and effectiveness. It never hurts to keep tabs on best practices.
If you enjoyed this post from Emily, check out her other blog posts!
Emily Smith—Content Writer and Editor