The total spend on ads shrank by 7.8 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With paid advertising offering lower returns, more marketers are returning to content marketing.
That strategy no doubt involves customer personas in some way. Yet many businesses don't get the most out of their customer personas.
They become paper exercises, rather than a powerful process that can drive your decision-making.
Using the customer persona in the right way can have a huge impact on your content marketing. Read on to learn how to do it.
What Are Customer Personas?
Customer personas are a great way to give a face and name to your buyers. They are fictional profiles of people you imagine are within your target audience.
Many businesses want to target 'everyone'. Yet you can't have a customer persona of 'everyone'.
Why? Because 'everyone' doesn't exist.
Even choosing 'women', 'brides', 'new students' or 'new moms' isn't specific enough. You'll find a huge variation between people in those broad categories.
So marketers take it a step further and create a persona. This gives them a person to direct their content to. It's aimed at a customer instead of a generic 'Everyman' figure.
Why Are Customer Personas So Valuable for Content Marketing?
When a huge change like a global pandemic happens, marketers need to adapt to suit the new challenges. Most content marketers will tweak their targeting. They may change their messaging.
But few will revisit their customer personas. This is a huge mistake for one simple reason.
The reason we use customer personas is to help us predict customer behavior. Once you can predict how someone will behave, you can act accordingly.
How can personas help you predict anything? Because they're based on what matters to your audience. This dictates what they need from you.
Let's Look at an Example.
In 2019, a fitness coach might have targeted office workers who hit the gym during their lunch break. All their content marketing focused on gym workouts or making the most out of a gym session.
So far, so good. The messaging and the targeting match the customer persona.
In 2020, gyms worldwide closed their doors. Those office workers were now at home and unable to visit their gym.
At this point, the fitness coach could follow the usual route. They can change their messaging and focus on maximizing any fitness session.
Or they can change their targeting and switch to focusing on people working from home. Yet this risks leaving behind their existing audience who will return to the gym at some point.
Either option ignores the customer persona. The customer hasn't changed, but their circumstances have. That means what they need from the coach has changed.
Taking a 'customer persona first' approach would mean focusing on adapting existing gym workouts for home use. Yet the focus would be on providing those workouts for the loyal audience.
How Can You Get the Most Impact From Customer Personas?
Most businesses create a customer persona. They use this person to drive their decision-making. For example, will this person appreciate a website redesign? What will this person think of a change to the classic menu?
You need to be more thorough to get the most out of customer personas. This extra detail is what will most impact your content marketing.
Santiago Castillo of Google advises you to follow a 4-step process when creating your customer personas. We're going to go through that now, and we'll explain why each step is so important to your content marketing.
1. Ask Questions
Conduct interviews, run surveys, find out what they're anxious about, what do they want to do with their life, how do they spend their day, and how do they solve whatever problem you're trying to solve for them
This step will give you the general flavor of your target audience. It also gives you a slew of content marketing ideas.
By knowing what's important to them, you can create content that speaks to those things. If you link it to your product or service, you create a strong association in their mind.
2. Find Patterns
Look for patterns in your responses. This will give you the groups that naturally exist within your target audience.
Create a customer persona for each group. Give them a name and a tagline to represent their essence.
They'll all have different ambitions, motivations, and needs. So now you can create highly-targeted content marketing for each specific group.
3. Visualize the Journey
Create the path that your personas might follow in order to find your product or service. This includes the touchpoints where they interact with you.
That might include using a search engine, following a social media ad, visiting your website, and enjoying your product.
You need to create a marketing experience for each point on this journey. This section will also give you content marketing ideas to bring your personas to your website. It'll also help you to hone your SEO efforts across different search engines.
4. Use an Empathy Map
This is the step most content marketers skip. Yet it's one of the best content marketing tips you'll find.
You need to put your persona into a fictional situation. This lets you discover what problems your persona might encounter that lead to your products.
For example, let's go back to our fitness coach. What problems might a persona face around exercising at home?
Next, list all the ways the coach can help their persona solve these problems. This can lead to the creation of new products. More typically, it will lead to a raft of new content marketing ideas.
Where's the Impact?
In each step, you've created a list of content marketing topics that your persona actually needs. Step #4 is especially important because it deals with your persona's feelings.
Content marketing doesn't have to just appeal to a persona's brain. It can—and should—appeal to their feelings.
Following this process also gives you a raft of new potential keywords. Instead of focusing on 'what' marketing a persona needs, you can focus on 'why' they need it. This creates far stronger content.
Enjoy Your Impact
Perhaps you've used customer personas before but didn't see the true benefit of them. We recommend that you run through this guide and get the most out of your personas.
You'll better serve your audience and generate valuable content marketing ideas at the same time.
Do you feel confident to follow this process? Reach out to our team and find out how we can help.