Customized content can help drive your prospects through the sales funnel and ultimately convert them to buyers.
But first, you need to understand your customers. Do they live in suburbs or in the city? Do they watch reality shows or PBS? Are they always online or are they oblivious to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks? Where do they go for advice when they’re thinking about making a purchase?
One of the basic tenets of marketing is to define your target customer. You can’t just begin creating content for your website, social channels, or email campaigns on an ad hoc basis in hopes that someone – anyone! – will find it useful. You need to learn about what your audience values, the problems they’re trying to solve, and where they are in their decision-making process in order to give them what they’re looking for and address their needs through content marketing. Enter buyer personas.
[Tweet “Your customers don’t care about your company’s products… they care about themselves @JoePulizzi”]
What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are tools that help bridge the gap between customer experiences and expectations and the assumptions that brands make about their target audiences. Based on real data about customer demographics and behavior, they include educated guesses about personal histories, motivations, concerns, and pain points.
Here’s the original definition courtesy of Tony Zambito, the creator of buyer personas and today’s leading authority on the subject:
Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, where they buy, when buyers decide to buy, and why they make buying decisions.
Formulating this user information helps you look at your target customers as individuals rather than members of a large nondescript group. These people may not exist in the real world per se, but their jobs, daily routines, beliefs, preferences, problems, and challenges do — all of which must be addressed if you want to move them through the sales cycle from initial consideration to making a purchase decision:
The benefits of using buyer personas for content marketing
Developing buyer personas creates 3 primary advantages for marketers:
- They improve the return (ROI) on strategic marketing activities. Most companies have limited marketing funds that have to be allocated to many marketing initiatives. Personas enable you to develop cost-effective marketing strategies that are predicated on how your target customers are most likely to act.
- They assist with objective planning. Creating marketing content for a specific target audience is difficult/impossible if you don’t understand how that segment is likely to respond. A buyer persona provides the information and context you need in order to make objective decisions about how to construct your marketing messages.
- They foster the development of strong brand messaging. It’s great that you want your marketing content to cast as wide a net as possible, but the inevitable result is message dilution – since it’s not succinct and targeted, it will reach far fewer people. Buyer personas help you craft and tailor your marketing messages so you can achieve the best possible outcome.
In my next post on buyer personas, I discuss how to get going, who to interview, and the questions you should ask.