Developing A Content Persona

October 18, 2016Content Writing, Uncategorized
businessman checking email on smartphone

By Wasif Kasim – Global Head of Marketing at King Content 

At first, content marketing seemed like another in a long line of bright but fast-burning gimmicks. However, evidence of its power and potential are now everywhere. Consumers in all demographics are seeking out and engaging with quality content throughout their daily lives, whether it’s a shareable video, an informative article, or a niche ‘how-to’ guide on … almost anything you can imagine.

In a saturated market, ensuring your content is targeted to a well-defined audience – one you know intimately – is the best way to stay ahead. But how do you do this?

This is a long piece so here’s what we’ll cover:

  • With so much content available, consumers will reward original, well-thought-out pieces that speak to them directly.
  • Clearly defining your audience is the key to any content strategy.
  • Take data from everywhere you can to build up a comprehensive profile.
  • Tailor your content and your voice to your (carefully defined) audience. The best way to do this is to create buyer personas.

The demand for content in any given market is huge and diverse but so too is the supply. Everyone, from invested amateurs to high-profile celebrities, wants to add their perspective to the myriad of conversations taking place in the digital sphere. Businesses, too, are creating content strategies to help them engage with specific audiences and demographics.

Where once this kind of interaction was a ‘nice-to-have’ alongside traditional strategies such as direct advertising and public relations, today many businesses are adopting a ‘content first’ approach to building their brands.

The quality of the audience engagements, the precise targeting that a professional content strategy can provide, and the far lower costs involved all combine to make content marketing now a ‘must-have’ for any business looking to build rapport with any number of existing and potential customers and stakeholders.

Know your customer

This idea is not new for most business owners. Every organisation doing content marketing needs a well-planned content strategy but can sometimes struggle with defining exactly who their audience should be. Failing to properly pinpoint the target demographic(s) can set your content marketing program up to fail from the get-go.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that the ideal strategy involves breaking down the broad target audience into specific buyer personas, and each can come with their own preferred content and platform(s).

This article sets out a basic strategy for taking that all-important first step in content strategy development.

Leverage internal resources

The first and easiest step is to look within your organisation’s own knowledge resources. No matter the size of your business, the different teams and departments will have different, unique insights into the kinds of customers they see, and the needs they are seeking to fulfil. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What are the demographics of our audience?
  • What kind of lives do they typically lead?
  • Where and how does our audience consume content? How can we best reach them?
  • What drives them to make buying decisions?
  • What problems do they face?
  • What problems do they come to us to solve?
  • How do we define a successful approach to client engagement from the star

By taking the opinion of the various teams within the business into account, content strategists can build up a more detailed picture of their target audience, and therefore build personas are their insights.

Reach out to staff using email, surveys or even intranet forums gain insights from their first hand experience with customers. Better still conducting one on one interviews can help you better understand some of the complaints and frustrations your customers face.

The greater the detail that can be captured here, the more effective the resulting content marketing campaign will be, and the greater return from any chosen level of investment.

Get competitive insights

Creating buyer personas will also involve looking at the competition, both in the online and real-world markets. This is particularly true for smaller businesses or newborn startups that may not yet have much hands-on experience with their customer bases.

Buzzsumo is a great tool to use if you want to see what your competitors are posting online and won’t take you five minutes to perform a search. Simply:

  • Go to the Buzzsumo website.
  • On the left hand side, under Filter Domains, type in the domain of where you want to conduct your search.
  • Select a time frame under Filter by Date, from 24 hours up to one year.
  • Check the types of content you want to search for under Content Type.
  • Type in your desired search term into the search bar at the top of the page and click on ‘Search’.

You should be able to see something like the screenshot below.

The search results show articles including the keywords that are performing well on the web in terms of social media engagement and shares. These topic results show where the demand is at with regards to particular keywords, so use them as a guide to what you should be writing about.

The results you see on Buzzsumo also offer other insights to help you create content that’s aligned with what’s popular with readers. In the example above, you can see that How-to articles are performing well. You can also see that entrepreneur.com, Salesforce, and the Content Marketing Institute are a few others are your key competitors in this space.

By reading what your competitors are producing on the same topics and filling the gaps, you can create similar content that offers your reader more value. Note also that shares in the above example are highest on LinkedIn – these stats will help you decide which channels to focus your distribution on.

A competitor content analysis will consider how the rival organisation is currently communicating with its target audience. Take a look at its website, blog and social media offerings. Add to this any direct mail or email blast content that the opposition is using to engage audiences, as well as any other private communication tools.

This sort of analysis allows you to explore where and how the people you’re targeting are currently engaging with content. Their social interactions, blog comments, and even simple sharing activities combine to create an even richer profile.

For a fresh content strategy, such data will provide insights into the personas you create; not just simple information like age, location and income demographics, but also their values and ideals. This kind of intelligence is pure gold for any impending content marketing campaign.

The online community, Social Media Examiner, has a comprehensive guide to competitor research here.

Say yes to data, no to paralysis

Amassing as much data as possible is an important step but analysing it effectively is another key part of building up personas. In addition to the qualitative data found through internal observations and research into competitor communication strategies, a wealth of quantitative data should also be sought out. This might be from market research (whether internal or external) or from hard data sources such as Google and Facebook analytics tools.

US-based marketing agency Digital Third Coast offers this look at the types of data available on Google Analytics specifically.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of data to work with. It’s important to get started with what you have, and delve deeper as you go along. The earlier you can gain insights to your audience, the better – no matter how little.

Start by looking at these data types in your chosen analytics platform (Google Analytics is one of the most popular programs to use):

  • Top performing content – this lets you know which of the articles you’ve produced are performing well.
  • Top pages – this reveals what are the top pages on your website that visitors land on first.
  • Traffic Sources – this shows how people are arriving to your site.
  • New/Unique Visitor Conversion – this allows you to track how new visitors are converting on your site.
  • Return Visitor Conversion – this allows you to track how repeat visitors are converting on your site.
  • Interactions Per Visit – this shows you how users are behaving on your site.
  • Value Per Visit – The value of a visit is by dividing the number of visits by their total value.
  • Cost Per Conversion – this is the same as lead generation costs, or how much does it cost to get someone to subscribe to a newsletter, or download an ebook off your site.
  • Bounce Rate – this shows you the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page. There are many ways to decrease your bounce rate, we particularly like what Neil Patel has to say on the subject.
  • Exit Pages – this is the last page that a visitor looks at before leaving your site.

As you become more familiar with data, look into refining your analysis. So instead of defining your personas as ‘single twentysomethings in Melbourne’, for example, refine them to include an income range, work status and spending habits. Further research can also help you determine their key hobbies, interests and entertainment choices.

It’s easy to get caught up in too much data, so avoid overanalysing and making too many assumptions about your target audience. As you get to know who you’re talking to, you’ll naturally also become familiar with where your audience get their information from and hopefully, their most pressing concerns and the problems they face, which help you create content that speaks to them on a personal level.

Pick your voice

Combining all of these information sources will help you to build up a detailed understanding of your audience profile and personas. It’s not just the standard marketing demographics of old. We’re now talking about getting a sense of your target audience’s personality, which will help with the next step in your content marketing strategy.

Just as you have a deep understanding of your audience, a high-quality content strategy also depends on a well-thought-out brand identity to sit behind the content itself.

This voice will not necessarily be the same as the audience’s, but rather something that resonates with it. For most consumer-focused campaigns, it will need to be personable and engaging. The aim is to bring your audience(s) with you on a conversation or journey they feel connected to, not just to push out information you want them to know or understand.

Again, the voice or identity may change according to the platform or type of content you are producing but the understanding of your audience, the attention to every detail, and the emphasis on having two-way conversations with your targets should remain constant throughout.

If you’ve got that, you’re ready to begin some strategic content marketing.

Keep reading, we’ve put together some resources for you

Effective content marketing is about much more than writing articles or producing videos. The more you incorporate research into your output, the better you will become at connecting with, engaging and even inspiring your audiences.

Here are some resources you may find useful when defining your buyer personas:

  • The complete guide to building your personal brand (Quicksprout).
  • How to find your target audience and create the best content that connects (CoShedule).
  • Audience data: Three rules you need to know (Adobe).
  • Dumb ways to do content marketing: Understanding ‘audience intent’ on search and social media (King Content).

At the minimum, content marketers should be:

  • Considering the different target audiences and stakeholders they hope to connect with.
  • Undertaking thorough research to build up a comprehensive understanding of each group.
  • Designing content to engage with, not shout at, each specific audience.

There is, of course, much more to say, but the point we’re trying to drive home is that having detailed research around your audience is extremely impactful to content marketing, and needs to be established from the outset of any content strategy.

 

If you’d like to find out more about how to accurately define your buyer personas and produce the right content for your business, contact us, and we’ll be happy to show you how to do it.