Content marketing is a weapon that can help you win the hearts and minds of potential and existing customers and build a strong, long-term relationship with them. Content marketing starts with a strategy, but it’s impossible to develop a winning one without knowing perfectly well the people you’re creating content for.
Some organizations still mistakenly believe that customers are interested in them, and they use content to talk about their business, products or services. But the harsh truth is that customers don’t care about your business, they care about themselves, their wants, needs, and challenges, and can you blame them?
So don’t start working on your strategy without getting to know your audience first. There’s no better way to succeed with your content marketing endeavors than offering your customers the content that focuses on their pain points and challenges throughout their customer journey with you.
And this is where personas come into play: Take them seriously. They are not write-it-and-forget-it documents that you will never use. You can't create a persona and then discard or forget about it shortly thereafter.
By helping you identify different content types and formats that fit your audience best at every stage of their journey, personas lay a foundation for the entire content marketing strategy.
How to build a persona
Follow these steps to create your content marketing personas.
Step 1. Define personas
The very first thing you should do is collect information about your audience. Personas should be realistic and relevant. Don’t craft personas based on assumptions of your own or of others — such personas won’t do you any good, and you won’t won’t be able to serve your audience in a way that benefits your business.
To build personas that are backed by real data, research your audience:
- Interview your customers
- Collect web analytics data
- Read tech support logs
- Collect customer feedback
- Watch customer demo sessions
- Talk to customer-facing employees
Use the data you have gathered to segment the audience into as many personas as you need based on commonalities like problems, barriers, needs, goals, and others.
Step 2. Profile your personas
Decide on the information your personas are going to include and profile them as if they were real people, not fictional characters.
Some of the possible sections include:
- Demographic information
- Information about job roles, responsibilities, etc.
- Pain points and challenges
- Communication preferences
- Effective messages
As you’re creating personas for content marketing purposes, it's essential to have a separate section with customer quotes in each persona profile. These quotes will become your go-to source for learning personas’ language. Speaking their language, you have more chances to cut through all the noise that surrounds today’s customers and win their trust.
Name your personas by giving them a realistic name and surname. Add a photo to persona profiles. These two simple steps will help you build empathy with them.
Once all of your persona profiles are ready, put them into use.
How to use personas
Map their journeys
Start with building an end-to-end customer journey map for every persona you have. While mapping, keep in mind that their journey begins before they first interact with you.
Tip: write down persona’s thoughts and questions when working on a map. They will become a valuable source of topic ideas.
Hold a brainstorming session of your own or with your content team to come up with ideas about content topics, types, and formats to deliver to your personas at each stage of their journey.
Having the map in front of you, you’ll also be able to determine what opportunities you are missing. An example can be guest blogging on a high-profile website that one of your personas visits two-three times a week.
Review your current content
Carry out a content audit to check whether your existing content assets allow you to target your personas at the right stage with the right content. You’ll also be able to identify content gaps that you need to fill.
Tip: take a look at the assets you have and consider whether you can repurpose them to plug some of the gaps. For instance, you can turn your blog post into a SlideShare presentation to meet persona’s content format preferences.
Get back to the strategy
The personas’ part is over, and now you can start developing a strategy. Persona profiles and journey maps with details about preferred content types and formats, your findings about content gaps, a bunch of future topic ideas that you’ve brainstormed — base your strategy on this information, and you’ll end up having a long-term tactical plan with at least five points:
- Your content marketing mission statement and goals
- Key topics to cover
- Major content formats
- A list of content marketing channels
- An operational plan to manage your content development process
So if you are a content marketer, do yourself a favor: define your personas! They are the key that will lead you to form a better understanding of your audience’s pain points, challenges, and needs, all of which you can now address through great content.
Guest post by Tanya Levdikova, Head of Content @ UXPressia, an all-in-one cloud solution for understanding customer, user, and buyer experience.