Understanding your customers is the most important step in writing great, valuable content. It’s the difference between writing a post that’s just ok and a post that’s fantastic.

The trouble is, it can be tricky to work out exactly who to write for, and how to make your articles attractive to them.

Enter user personas.

User personas are profiles. Think of them as your customers (or potential customers). They help you characterize their needs, wants and loves—they’re personalities on a page.

The best user personas are living, breathing documents. They’re ones that get updated often. You’ll refer to them in every aspect of your content marketing and product development.

How User Personas Improve Content

A good set of user personas can have a massive impact on your content. You’ll need to create more than one. Why? Well, because there’ll be more than one type of customer or reader.

Let’s say you’re writing an ebook about SEO, and using it to generate leads for your SEO product.

From looking at your user personas, you can tell how users might feel when they use your product. Knowing this can help you tap into their emotions through your writing. This, in turn, helps you build trust with them.

A deep understanding of what your persona wants—not just what they say they want—means your ebook can be far more persuasive. You can directly address their concerns and relate to problems they’re experiencing right now.

Good knowledge of personas’ buying triggers is useful too.

Having insight into their buying triggers can help you capture the attention of people visiting your article. You can funnel them right into your ebook’s landing page—and at just the right stage of the buying cycle.

This means you’ll be more likely to convert them into a trial signup because you know exactly what your prospect is looking for, and when.

Still don’t see the value? Try it out for yourself.

Whilst user personas may feel a little silly to start out, they really help you focus in on customer needs. Then, when you’re focused on the needs, you’ll have a better perspective on how to best serve your customers.

You’ll end up writing better content that your prospects will love and get a ton of value from. In turn, they’ll be more likely to convert into customers. It’s a win-win.

Creating a Good User Persona

OK, so you’ve decided user personas are a good idea for your business. Now what? Where do you start?

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news—building great user personas is tough. Luckily it can be broken down into stages, some of which you should already be doing. Building off your existing data will help you craft your personas in no time.

What You’ll Need

There are a lot of different data points you’ll need to include in your user personas. Here’s some data you’ll want to find, and some questions you can ask to find it:

Demographics

  • How old are they? Looking into your Google Analytics data can help with this. Head to Audience > Demographics > Age for some insights.
  • Are they college educated? Knowing this can help you adapt your language to suit the reader. You can use more complex language if you’re targeting more educated readers.
  • How much do they earn? Do they have a large income? If they do, focus more on the value of your product or service rather than the price. You can move your price points higher if the value is there.

Psychographics

  • What are their values and what do they believe in? Ask your audience if they have any hobbies. Learn how they like to spend their spare time.
  • Products and Brands. What products and brands do they use? Knowing what they like about each brand can help you adapt your content to suit them.
  • Pain Points. What’s painful in their life, related to your product? Finding out their pain points can help you solve that pain. They’re likely trying to solve it already, so find out how they’re trying to do that.

Gathering Data

An easy way to start understanding your customers is to look through all your current data. As a business, you’ll have gathered tons of content and product usage analytics. These can give you a great insight into what your users love.

You can ask yourself questions like:

  • Do visitors spend a lot of time reading a certain type of content?
  • What product features do they use the most?
  • Which article types get the most amount of shares on social media?

These types of questions help you think more qualitatively about your data.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have that much data at hand don’t worry. You can find out a ton about your customers online. How? By using the power of social listening tools.

Use a social listening tool to find out:

  • What customers are saying about you and your brand
  • What customers think of your product
  • How your team responds to customer interactions
  • What customers are saying about your competitors

Interviews

Looking through all that data’s great and all, but to truly understand your customers, you’re going to need to dig a little deeper.

The best way to understand your customers is to actually talk to them. Customer feedback is super important, you already know that. You can take it one step further, though. Ask your customers in person. It’s even more valuable.

An easy first step is to talk with your support staff. They speak with your customers all the time. Support staff should be your first port of call when you’re figuring out what people really think of your business. They should give you a good idea what to focus on in the interviews.

Next up you’ll need to reach out to some customers. You don’t even need to leave the office. Try asking some of your best customers for 15 minutes of their time to help you improve the product you offer them.

Video calls or in-person interviews work best so you can pick up on non-verbal cues. If that’s not possible though a quick call will do fine.

Start by asking questions about their demographic, then move onto qualitative questions about them. You’ll want to find out about their goals, and what motivates them. What are they looking to get out of your product? What other products did they try before yours?

Be sure to probe them on the negatives too. What objections do they (or did they) have about your product? Was it difficult to get started? What don’t they like about the product?

Lastly, find out what caused them to buy. Ask if there were any triggers—maybe a piece of content, or an ebook you wrote? Does anyone else influence their buying behavior? Where do they look to find new products? What do they search for?

Write down some quotes to use in your persona. It’ll help anyone else that uses it understand the feelings a real customer has, and give an insight into how they think.

Remember, the more realistic your persona is the more valuable and useful it will be your business.

Bringing Everything Together

Now you’ve got a whole heap of data together it’s time to make your user persona.

Add a name and personality trait (for instance, one of our personas is Marketing Mandy). Then find a picture that represents them. Adding a name and picture helps personify your persona, making it all the more valuable for your business.

Then combine everything into a document. Don’t be afraid to add a touch of design here. The more appealing your personas are to look at the better they’ll be received by your team, and the more likely they are to be used.

Try to distill all the information you’ve gathered into one page, and don’t be too verbose. You should end up with a section of bullets for each data type (demographic, psychographic, etc.).

Ongoing Persona Development

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their user personas is leaving them to collect dust. They go to all the trouble of collecting the data, processing it, and distributing it to their team and then they never update them.

Don’t be one of those people.

If you don’t regularly update your personas the information may no longer be relevant. At best that means you’ll stop using it, at worst it means you’ll be writing content for the wrong people and your business will suffer.

When your business grows and you begin talking to your customers, you’ll likely find that the personas you created at the start were way off point. That’s OK.

You need to treat your persona as a living document and try to update it every few months. Keep showing the personas to your coworkers. Asking often about the types of people that are using your product or reading your articles helps. They may be able to give you some fresh insights.

The information you’ll collect during this process is incredibly valuable.

Conclusion

Using user personas in your content marketing helps you write better, more relevant content. Gather all the data you can through customer interviews, then condense it into a digestible one-pager your team can use.
Every time you write a piece of content, make sure you’re writing it for a specific user persona. The more targeted you can make it, the better a piece you’ll write. The better piece you write, the more likely someone will convert.