How can you hope to successfully market to your customers if you don’t know exactly who they are? Before continuing your marketing efforts this year, take a step back and develop buyer personas.
When you ask business owners to describe their typical customer, they usually have a prepared answer. They describe a hypothetical person based on a number of characteristics, including their gender, where they live, their income, their interests, and more.
Yet many business owners assume they know their customers without actually verifying their description against data. Based on those assumptions, they make a wide range of decisions related to merchandising, marketing, advertising, and even store location. Decisions based on faulty assumptions, if not downright wrong, won’t be the best drivers for business growth.
In content marketing, it’s essential to start with accurate, verifiable buyer personas. You need to know not only who writes the check for your products or services but also who persuades that person to take out their checkbook. Let’s take a look at how to build an accurate buyer persona to create a better content marketing strategy. It won’t just boost your content marketing; it will change the way you market your business.
Who Are Your Current Big Spenders?
You’ve probably heard the old adage: 20 percent of your customers generate 80 percent of your revenue. It’s not a hard and fast statistic, but the principle is true.
Developing a profile of your best customers, and seeking more customers just like them, is the best way to jump start growth. The way you find your big spenders probably depends on how many of them you have.
- If you run a service business with 10 or fewer clients, it’s easy to figure out who spends the most money. Just take a look at your accounting software records.
- If you have a large number of customers, you probably use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track their spending patterns, or you track them through your loyalty program.
- In a B2B business, your sales team will have a lot of insight into which customers spend the most.
If you’re starting a new business or don’t have a lot of historical data, research your competitors to see who they’re marketing to. It’s not as accurate as mining your own data, but it’s a good place to begin. You can also check Google Analytics data for your website to see demographic and interest data for your visitors. Even if no one’s spending money yet, you’ll get an idea of who’s attracted to your products.
To get demographic and interest information about your visitors, open your Google Analytics dashboard and look at the left sidebar. You’ll see Demographics and Interests under the Audience portion of your dashboard:
What Are They Like?
After you’ve identified your best customers or developed a target based on competitor research, it’s time to get specific about every quantifiable customer characteristic. One of the most common mistakes businesses make is spending too much money on marketing to a mass audience instead of developing targeted marketing segments.
Marketers identify customers based on demographic and psychographic characteristics:
If you run a B2B business, and you’re used to thinking of the business as your customer, it’s time to drill down and think about the person behind the buying decisions. The person who writes the final check might not be the person who requests your product or has the initial contact with a salesperson. Develop personas for those important influencers as well.
What Problems Can You Solve for Them?
Some purchases happen because people see something very shiny and have to have it. Most purchases, however, happen because a customer has a problem. With content marketing, you show your customers that your products and services are the solutions to their problems.
After you’ve identified your target buyer’s characteristics, ask yourself what problems they have that you can solve.
- What are their day-to-day frustrations?
- What are their aspirations?
- What do they like or dislike about their current product?
- What are the larger goals of the business (for B2B personas)?
- How can you make this person look good in front of bosses or clients?
- Can they buy directly from you or do they have to run it up the chain of command?
Defining your customers’ pain points helps you form a genuine relationship with potential buyers. It also clarifies the primary selling points of your products, distinguishes you from your competitors, and helps you build a lasting and loyalty community. Content marketing is a long-term investment, but it delivers big rewards over time. It empowers you to maintain a continuous conversation with your customers by:
- Actively delivering content. Through your social networks and email marketing outreach, you take the initiative to deliver content to current and potential customers.
- Maintaining a library of passive content. You maintain content online, making it easy for customers to discover and research what you offer, and giving current customers everything they need to get the most from your product.
- Creating better content. As you learn more about what works and develop a deeper understanding of your customers’ challenges, you create new and better resources for current customers. You also uncover proven ways to make new buyers aware of your brand.
- Delivering better leads to your sales team. Customers who read, view, and experience your content — and keep sticking around — are poised to make decisions when your sales reps make the call.
Where Are They in the Buying Process?
Now that you have a good understanding of your target buyer, identify how close they are to making a purchase. Their current progress in the buying process will tell you which types of content you need to create:
- Blissfully unaware. Your business is new or hasn’t attracted a lot of customers yet, or you’re launching a new business initiative. You need content designed to pique their curiosity and turn people into leads.
- Starting to research their problem. These target buyers know they have a problem, and they’re actively searching for a way to solve it. They need long-form, in-depth content that explains your product and how it solves their problem, such as a blog post series, webinar, or white paper.
- Almost ready to purchase. At this stage, target buyers have narrowed their options to a few businesses, one of which is yours. Push for the sale by sharing video testimonials, case studies, promotions, and other types of content with a clear call to action.
- Another satisfied customer. These people are your current customers with whom you want to build long-lasting relationships. Send tutorials explaining how to get more from your product, launch a podcast about your industry that they can follow, or find ways to involve them in your community through social media.
Most companies encounter different buyer personas in different stages of the buying process. For example, a cashier might have a problem with mobile POS software, research a new product, and make a recommendation to a manager. When it’s time to make the buying decision, the manager or head of accounting might make a final decision between two or three options. In these cases, you’ll need to create content for multiple personas to cover all your bases.
Where Will They Find Your Content?
According to data from Social Media Examiner, 93 percent of small businesses use Facebook to share content. Only 30 percent of B2B businesses use Facebook; the majority use LinkedIn. Your job is to figure out where your target buyer looks for content and make sure your content is there.
- Choose the right social networks. In addition to Facebook and LinkedIn, look for your target buyers on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or even newer networks like Tumblr or Snapchat.
- Prioritize search engine optimization (SEO). For buyers who want to solve a problem, the first step is navigating to Google and typing in a search query. Optimize your content with the right keywords and make it in-depth so it has a better chance of getting a higher search ranking.
- Publish with your target buyer’s favorite magazines or blogs. Publish guest blogs or sponsored content on sites where your target buyers look for trustworthy information. As an added bonus, when these sites link to yours, you’ll boost your search rankings.
- Capture the email address. Design landing pages for your best content, and provide content upgrades after customers have given you their email address.
Never Stop Learning
In today’s fast-changing world, the buyer persona you create today may no longer be relevant tomorrow. Also, content that works this year might not work for next year’s buyers. Always track content metrics to make sure you’re creating and sharing the right content.
The information you collect about who reads your content, and which pieces are the most popular, will help you identify new target buyers and send even more personalized content to existing leads and customers. When it’s done right, content marketing can become the driving force behind every marketing decision, both online and offline, that your business will ever make.