Put a persona under a microscope“A buyer persona is an example of the real person who buys, or might buy, products like the ones you market,” according to Adele Revella, who also advises that you hold direct interviews with real buyers and build your personas based on what you learn in those meetings.

Those buyer personas you create are indispensable tools. You can use them to develop marketing programs that aim to fulfill the needs of all the different specific demographics within your audience. Creating a content marketing strategy based on a buyer persona is a multi-step process. This post looks at the hows and whys of each of these steps.

Create Buyer Personas

Your customer base is not a monolithic, homogenous mass. Every audience can be divided into groups by attributes such as industry and title, characteristics such as “Twitter user”, commonalities such as obstacles, and so on. When you create a range of personas that represent the actual customer groups you sell to, you can then reach each group more effectively by tailoring content to the persona.

Start by creating a few distinct responsibility groups, such as “coordinator,” “manager,” and “executive,” and then decide what questions you’d like to ask about each group. For example, what is their business background? What responsibilities do they have? What keeps them up at night; what challenges do they face, and what do they need in order to overcome them? If you understand their profiles, you’ll be able to market products and solutions that can help each persona (and the members of the group they represent) with their specific challenges, which will lead to you generating and converting more leads and prospects. As an example, suppose you sell software. The coordinator, who will use it, cares about ease of use and speed. The manager, who is accountable to an executive, wants results that are tracked so she or he has something to show the boss. That executive cares about the return on investment, so he or she can prove that they made a good business decision when they acquired that software.

You want these persona groups to be as different from each other as possible, so the messages you choose for them can be distinctly different. This enhances the tightness of the targeted message, and provides more guidance for creating copy and images.

Create a Buyer Persona Matrix

Once you’ve assigned characteristics to each persona, use a matrix to summarize them. Using matrices to organize this data makes it a lot more readable, concise, and easy to reference than a long list of characteristics for each persona, and sales and marketing teams will also be able to compare details and spot connections between the different segments. Here’s a sample matrix that uses six characteristics to describe a marketing agency’s marketing coordinator, account manager, and president.

Of course, your can go into more detail, but usually the simpler the better. You want major factors, and hope for major differences between the groups.

Map Out the Buyer’s Journey

Use another chart to map out the steps a buyer goes through, from identifying a need to making a purchase. This provides the framework for creating the right marketing content at the right time during that buyer’s journey. The steps below illustrate the journey of a marketer who has a problem: she needs to generate more leads. Once that problem is identified, she begins to consider making a change in her marketing automation platform. By stage 3 she’s got a short list of features she wants, and she’s giving some consideration to which vendors she will talk to. So far, her journey has been entirely online. Her opinions have been formed by the content she has found when she searched for a solution.

If you create a map like this for each of your personas, you’ll find it easy to…

Build a Content Plan

Using the buyer’s map, you can assign relevant content for each stage of each persona’s journey. If we look at the example above:

  • Stage 1: We’d work to attract that buyer with social media and advertising; we’d make sure our web copy answered the question “How do I generate more sales-ready leads?” so when the buyer searched, our page would be returned.
  • Stage 2: We’d salt our landing pages with attractive early-stage content that the buyer found so attractive that they would fill out a form with their contact information in order to get it, and (best case scenario) they’d opt into receiving our emails. Now we nurture them with content that helps move them through the funnel.
  • Stage 3: We begin to offer content that differentiates us from other vendors, such as online demos that show simple, common scenarios.
  • Stage 4: We make sure they get information about pricing, spec sheets, and other pieces that help them compare systems and make a final decision. This content may come from the sales person, or come in the course of a meeting or demo.
  • Stage 5: We move into training materials and usability support materials, then into loyalty and advocacy content.

There a stage for every piece of content, and vice versa; with just a little planning, you can be ready to meet that customer or prospect wherever they are, with something that speaks to them and their needs.

Want to learn more about using buyer personas in your marketing strategy? Get Act-On’s free Buyer Persona Toolkit: a 13-minute video, plus guidance in building personas with a questionnaire and a persona template, and tips to use personas to blast your nurturing campaigns to higher results. Check it out!

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