This article and expertise was originally published on NewsCred Blog.
To succeed at content marketing, you must understand your audience.
Content starts and sustains conversations with customers. But in order to have a meaningful dialogue, you need to know to whom you’re speaking.
“Developing buyer personas” is what marketers call the process of figuring that out.
But I’d argue that developing buyer personas is just one part of the content marketing equation – you need to research how your audience consumes content, as well.
Let me put it this way: Developing personas, understanding their buyer journeys, and mapping content to the different stages of the journeys all contribute to content marketing success. You can’t have one without the other.
Let’s analyze each step.
Developing buyer personas
I love this description from Ardath Albee: “A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.”
Developing buyer personas is critical to determine:
- What content to create
- What tone, style, and delivery strategies to develop
- What topics and targets you should focus on to grow your business
- Who needs to be in-the-know on your projects, now and in the future
How many personas do you need to create? I recommended three to five. That number is large enough to cover the majority of your customers, yet small enough to be specific. Plus, more than five personas may bring serious cost challenges.
Personas commonly include:
- Demographic information (age, income, location)
- Background (job, career path, family)
- Key responsibilities
- Pain points
- Key purchase drivers
- Places they’re most likely to find information
- Preferred content formats (blog posts, videos, social media posts, e-books)
- Role in making purchases (influencer, purchaser, final decision-maker)
However, your personas may cover less. Not all B2B personas will need everything mentioned above. Since the average B2B buying decision involves three or four different departments, usually led by IT and finance, B2B brands can focus on segmenting personas by company role to address specific departments.
It’s important to invest time and resources to get your personas right. Content marketing can actually fail when built upon faulty buyer personas that, in turn, create a weak strategic foundation. This happens when marketers develop personas based on a wrong hunch or guesswork.
Where do you get the information to create accurate personas? There are many sources, from the details logged in your site statistics, to actual conversations with real-life customers. Here are some important sources to consider:
- Direct questions to your audience: Interviews, surveys, or quick polls are good ways to get insights. Craft your inquiry to gather data most essential and relevant to your persona development.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) data: This can be a great source, but you have to know what to look for – otherwise, you risk being flooded with data and no actionable insights. Jey Pandian’s 10-step guide to create precise buyer personas with SEO data is an amazing resource to walk you through the process.
- Tools like Google Analytics: Use your analytics systems to compile demographic information about your audience and the topics that resonate with them.
- Internal knowledge: Your sales, marketing, and customer teams will have insights on who your target audience is and what content interests them.
- Social media: Tap into online conversations to learn what information people seek.
Understanding the buyer journey
The buyer journey is the process people go through to gain awareness, evaluate, and purchase a product or service.
Since that journey can be extremely complex, we tend to simplify it to a few stages, which are generally valid for both B2C and B2B environments. Let’s not forget that within each stage, there are multiple, non-linear steps:
- Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they have a problem and start searching for solutions.
- Consideration Stage: The buyer evaluates different options to solve it.
- Decision Stage: The buyer selects a solution.