Have you ever experienced a relationship with a person who just seemed to get YOU? They could understand where you were coming from on topics, they could empathize and they made you feel heard. They knew what you liked and were able to surprise you with just the right thing to make you feel special. It was as if they listened to every little thing you said and found some way to deliver on your wants and needs.
The best marketing is just like these relationships.
Effective marketing campaigns make you feel understood, even if you’re not aware of it. The people crafting these campaigns have done their homework and they know what issues you're having and how to position a solution. They know what your pain points are - those little annoyances that would be fantastic if they disappeared. They know these things and they craft messages, products, services and offers that are in your language.
The best marketing, and therefore the best marketers, have a deep knowledge of their target market and customers, and the leverage that knowledge to develop intelligent marketing campaigns that get to the sources of their prospects problems, needs and desires.
What to expect from this blog article
This blog will teach you how to develop a deeper understanding of your market and customers through the creation of “buyer personas”, and will leave you with the tools to begin digging deeper into your audience so that you can develop more effective content marketing campaigns. This blog article is geared towards the business owner who does their own marketing, the head of a marketing department or anyone interested in developing a more effective content marketing strategy.
What does it mean to “know your audience”?
Knowing your audience is much more than knowing the general type of buyer(s) that you have. It means:
- Understanding what life looks like through their eyes
- Knowing the problems that they are facing that your industry or product/service is trying to help solve
- Uncovering what their desires are, what their ideal world looks and feels like, and what they’d pay with their right arm to have, do, see, experience, or be
- Listening to what their pain points are, what lingering issues keep them up at night, what they wish was different but trudge through life putting up with
- Knowing where their weaknesses are, where their vulnerabilities are, where the wish they had a magic genie who could come along and grant them three wishes
- Understanding what makes them laugh, what makes them feel comfortable, and how to gain their trust
What does it look like when you DO NOT have a deep understanding of your audience?
The symptoms of a superficial audience understanding are quite obvious. They look like:
- Ineffective marketing campaigns that regularly underperform
- Landing pages with high bounce rates
- Emails with low open and click-through rates
- Visitor-to-customer conversion rates that are less than stellar
- Overall performance metrics that have plateaued over time, or could even be falling
*There are other reasons why these things might be happening in a marketing campaign, but I can guarantee that with a deeper understanding of your customers you can avoid some of the common pitfalls that plague marketers.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It puts a name, face and description to the person or people who are interested in buying your product or service.
Buyer personas give marketers and business owners an additional level of understanding of their audience, and provide a specific and individualized target when crafting marketing messaging.
Here is an example of a buyer persona from one of our customers: Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals (Cedar Creek is a luxury cabin rental company in Helen, Ga).
Meet Jim, he’s the quintessential “family man”, father of three and husband for ten years. Jim drives a Volvo sport wagon (turbo package) with a child seat in the back and Elmo stickers on the windows. Jim has a job that he enjoys, despite the more than 50 hours he normally clocks in each week. He commutes around 45 minutes to work each day. Jim works in an office, but is a big fan of the outdoors. Jim jumps at any chance to go on a hiking trip, try out a new fishing spot, or hit a few golf balls. He’s an overall happy guy, but the daily rat race does take it’s toll on him. It’s about time for an escape and Jim's looking at his options.
This buyer persona that we created for Cedar Creek gives us a great idea of who Jim is and what life looks like through his eyes. From this persona we can craft hyper-specialized marketing messages that apply to Jim, and those like him, which gives us a greater probability of getting Jim into a cabin.
Let’s look at how we developed this buyer persona.
How to create powerful buyer personas
There is not one defined process for creating buyer personas. Companies and agencies differ in exactly how they go about learning about the customer and putting together a persona. But a good buyer persona does have common elements and answer some common questions such as:
- Who are your ideal customers and prospects?
- What are their biggest concerns, needs, challenges, and interests?
- Where do they choose to spend their time?
- How do they seek out and find information (solutions to their problems)?
- What types of information and content do they prefer?
We dug around the web a little bit and found sets of buyer persona questions and templates that can help you when developing your own buyer personas. Why reinvent the wheel when some brilliant folks have already shared valuable information! Here are questions and processes that you can use to develop your personas.
A step-by-step process to developing your persona
(From the Learning Center at Mac McIntosh in an article titled, “Persona based marketing: powerful tools for connecting with prospects and customers”)
- Convene a group of employees who interact with your customers and prospects. Bring in lunch and a white board and ask them to help you build a persona for each of your target customers.
- Start by describing the customer’s role in their company: CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, sales manager, purchasing agent, user, and any other important influencers.
- Next describe the kind of company they work for. What industry is it in? How big is it? How up-to-date is it? Does it have a lot of competition?
- Then describe the person and their behavior: Give each persona a name, a title, an age, and describe how he or she looks. How does he dress? What kind of car does she drive? What does he do in his free time? What kind of educational background does she have?
- Flesh out as many attributes as you need to give a full, rounded picture of who this person is. Then, turn to your persona’s problems and goals.
- Think about what does this person’s daily calendar look like? What are his or her most pressing concerns? What product or service attributes would be most helpful in solving this person’s problems? Is he or she looking to roll up 20 databases into one, getting ready for an IPO, dealing with a new competitor who has just entered the market?
- Then, when formulating your marketing messages, think about what path this prospect or customer might pursue to solve this problem. Will he or she turn to white papers or articles in trade publications or Web sites? Would this customer or prospect seek input from a speaker at a networking group of their peers? Let the personas steer the route, which you can pave with information that can help your prospect and customers move forward in their consideration and buying process.
Key questions to ask yourself while developing your persona(s)
- Who are your typical buyers? It's common for there to be several, but challenge yourself to narrow down on one the first time around. You can build out secondary personas later.
- What are their typical demographics?
- What are their key motivators in life, at work, or at play?
- What are their biggest challenges and obstacles to success, at work or at play?
- How do they consume information today?
- Who influences their decisions?
More questions from us (98toGo) that will help you identify your customers pain points, needs, challenges and what they are doing online when they look for solutions:
● What are the top two or three biggest problems they need you to help them solve?
● What type of information are they typically searching for when shopping for your goods or services?
● How do they typically search for your products or services?
● What trends influence their needs, successes, and business operations?
● What do they do online: Do they read blogs, surf social networks, or subscribe to
● What search terms do buyers like these typically use?
● What kind of content piques their curiosity, gets them to click through: Education articles,
interactive tools, videos, podcasts, trend reports?
● Which of your products or services did they spend significant amounts of time reading
You now have a plethora of questions that you can be asking yourself and your target audience to help you gain a deeper understanding of what makes them tick.
Remember, with great power comes great responsibility, and the knowledge that you will gain once you have developed your personas will give you the power to create content marketing campaigns that are more effective at driving traffic, more efficient at capturing leads, and more powerful at turning those leads into customers. Pretty cool stuff!
Now that you know how to build personas, let’s take a look at what a holistic inbound marketing campaign looks like utilizes buyer personas.
Real world example of buyer personas at work
For this example we’re going to go back to Cedar Creek. If you remember, one of the buyer personas for Cedar Creek is Jim the family man. We also have two other personas: one around couples and one around groups (wedding parties, reunions, etc.). We developed these personas over time, analyzing the information that Cedar Creek had gathered about their customers, as well as surveying current and past customers to inquire about their demographics. This allowed us to paint very accurate pictures of who is buying, why they are buying, what motivated them to buy and what value they derive from our services.
Now that we know our three buyer personas, we can begin a campaign. The approach we took was as follows:
- Write blog articles that cater to each of the three buyer personas
- Develop premium offers that appeal broadly to all personas, but require that the person interested in downloading the offer identifies himself as: family, couple or group.
- Develop three separate email lead nurturing campaigns - one for families, one for couples and one for groups - that are automatically triggered once a person downloads a premium offer, which is targeted to a specific buyer persona (because they have told us which category they fall in)
- Develop a cart abandonment email lead nurturing campaign that also asks for buyer persona information, and is triggered when a potential renter adds a cabin to their cart but does not go through with the booking.
What was the result of implementing a persona based content marketing campaign for Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals?
We have seen a great increase in the number of leads that our client receives year-over-year.
We are also experiencing very high open and click rates on our email campaigns, with no unsubscribes so far. This particular campaign is a “cart abandonment” email that is sent when a website visitor selects a cabin to rent on a particular date, but does not go through with the transaction. Because the visitor identifies themselves as being one of our three buyer personas, we’re able to send follow-up emails what subject lines and content that is very relevant to that person. As a result we’re seeing around 45% of people opening the email, and about 17.5% of people clicking on the link in the email. This has led to an increase in bookings that would have been otherwise lost without the campaign.
Why are results like these possible?
Because we had a deep understand of the different buyer personas and we catered the content to those specific personas. When a message is more relevant and addresses a concern or wish of a person, there is a higher probability that it will be received. That’s not marketing fact, that’s plain logic!
When developing your content marketing campaigns try to step into the shoes of your customers and create content that speaks to them. They will reward you for the effort.
What to do now that you know you have tools to help you develop more relevant content?
Put them to use!
- write blog articles that are more relevant to the people you’re targeting
- create offers that are more valuable to your prospects
- develop email lead nurturing campaigns that address the things that your prospects are thinking and wondering about
- offer help in ways that your competitors cannot
Here's a content marketing process that you can use to create more effective content for website:
- Get to know the audience - do some research, study the market, develop buyer personas
- Conduct a content audit - understand what content you have and what you need to “build the engine” (referring to a holistic content marketing campaign that includes blog articles, premium offers and email lead nurturing)
- Map content to the customer buying cycle - understand the steps the customer takes to purchase, and mirror your content so that you’re answering questions and addressing pushbacks at key stages of the process
- Create an editorial calendar - develop blog article titles and pertinent information, and literally put the titles on a calendar on the days that you want the articles to publish
- Crank out content - get to work writing, designing and developing content to powerfully reach your audience
We will dive deeper into our content marketing process in upcoming blog articles. Sign up to receive email notifications of our latest blog articles so that you don’t miss out on useful information.
Here is a useful (and free) ebook that you can use to create effective content marketing campaigns to help you achieve your business goals.
Jim Carrey photo attribution: By Roypack (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons