According to the Content Marketing Institute, a whopping 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing in their marketing mix. What’s vastly more important than creating content, though, is to create content that the RIGHT people will absolutely LOVE.
The current problem with content marketing is that there is too much garbage being produced by too many companies. Doing content marketing simply for the sake of doing content marketing doesn’t serve readers, and ultimately doesn’t serve the company producing the content either, as readers don’t get value out of the piece while the company has wasted time and resources in producing it. It’s a lose-lose proposition, which doesn’t exactly get everyone celebrating.
If you expect to see a return on your content investment, you need to target a specific persona for every piece of content you produce. Targeting “everyone” with your content is the equivalent of targeting no one.
Every piece of content??? Are we delusional? Isn’t that a lot of work?
Well, yes, we do mean EVERY piece of content. It does require extra work, but that’s kind of like saying that it’s extra work to put gasoline in your car. If you want to reach your destination, then you gotta fill ‘er up.
Personas Bring People to Life
A persona is a profile of your target individual. It brings the person to life, including their:
- Pain points
- Research habits
- Typical buying objections
It’s the difference between a stick figure idea of whom you are writing for and a life-size superhero.
In business, it’s all too easy to focus on the day’s tasks at hand and immediate deadlines instead of keeping your target audience top-of-mind. Personas help you focus your content squarely on those that matter most. Imagine your target personas in the room with you when brainstorming topics, creating content calendars and pumping out juicy new content for consumption.
Your Audience Segments Define Your Personas
Personas are different from audience segments, but it’s your audience segments that help you to accurately and effectively define your target personas. And when discussing segments, you should categorize them.
For example, among your customer segments, you may be targeting B2B companies up to $100M in annual revenue. Breaking it down further, though, you may be prioritizing SaaS companies. You may also have aspirational, new markets you want to target moving forward, for example, perhaps starting with SaaS companies but then looking towards custom software development firms in the future.
Within your target segments, you may be targeting multiple job titles. If you are targeting SaaS companies, you may target product managers as well as the VP of product management.
You may have different audience segments for investors, partners and distributors, as well. Similarly, you may have segments for your PR outreach, targeting different types of media outlets, reporters, bloggers and influencers. For example, the way you write for a national media reporter vs. an industry blogger could be 180 degrees different.
When developing your personas, be sure that you have identified your highest priority audience segments and then build the most relevant 2-3 personas per segment. You may be tempted to build a dozen or so personas for each segment based on your intimate knowledge of your market. Our advice is “don’t.” Instead, prioritize. Your aim in developing personas for your content marketing is to build an efficient process for impacting your most important audiences and for creating a fantastic brand experience. (Your aim is not to be as comprehensive as possible.) Limiting your persona sets to 2-3 per audience segment will help you build a collection of the types of people whom you can help the most, and in turn who can move your business forward the most. Think of it as the Pereto Principle (the 80-20 rule) for content marketing.
Applying Personas to Blog Posts, Emails and…Well, Everything
When creating your content calendar, it’s important to map a specific persona to each content piece. This should be identified right up front, as it ensures that each persona is covered longer-term and with appropriate timing and consistency. If seven content pieces in a row target the same persona, just be prepared to lose your audience of other personas…
When writing a blog post, you should have the persona front-and-center. Make the content extremely relevant to such persona, even if that means making it less relevant or irrelevant altogther for other personas. If it’s a post for a VP, then it’s a post for a VP and may not be of interest to other layers of the organization. So be it. At least that way it will be a super useful post for your target VP.
And don’t stop with your blog posts. The power of persona-based content marketing applies across the board. Do this for your:
- Email blasts
- Event presentations
- Articles, etc.
And regardless of blog post or email blast or whitepaper, in your writing use the language that your target persona uses. You can uncover this by studying the websites, blogs and industry resources most visited by your persona. Be sure to review editorial calendars of these sites, when available, as well. Check on search volumes of various keywords using search engine tools. You can even reference competitor websites. Another revealing source of audience insights is social media. See how your target persona is using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms to more freely communicate, engage and share information with them. If you subscribe to market research tools such as comScore or AdGooroo, you can gain an additional wealth of audience insights.
Content Marketing ROI
When creating new content, clearly define the actions you want your target reader to take upon consumption of the piece. If it’s a blog post, perhaps you are looking for them to subscribe. If it’s an email, you may be including a call-to-action to download a whitepaper or a free tool. If it’s an infographic, perhaps you are looking for them to share it on their social networks. By defining your content goals in this way, you will more accurately gauge the impact that each piece of content is having on your different target personas.
Developing every piece of content based on specific personas involves thought, effort and resources. But the payback is big.
According to the Custom Content Institute, 61% of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from, a company that delivers custom content. The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that 79% of best-in-class marketers rank blogs as their most effective marketing tactic. In addition, content creation is ranked as the single most effective SEO technique, according to findings of Marketing Sherpa.
There’s no denying that content marketing, when done right, produces more traffic, shares and leads. To accelerate your marketing results, though, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that applying a specific persona to each marketing piece not only makes each piece of content more valuable for the reader, but also makes it more likely that the right people will be subscribing, sharing your content and contacting you.
And the key here is the accelerator effect on each and every piece of content that you produce. Imagine that you create 200 pieces of content in the coming year (a realistic number for many companies). If they are persona-based, that’s 200 times that even more people are impacted by your content, 200 times that your content gets shared to more people, and 200 times that you generate better marketing numbers. The compounding effect over time can be transformative to your business, easily doubling your content marketing return on investment (ROI).
In conclusion, make each piece of content specifically for one persona. And make it something that the one persona will absolutely, completely and totally love!