Your content marketing is failing.
There, I said it. You want to ignore it and you think that, with time, your content will attract more traffic and subscribers. Not going to happen!
It’s not because your content is bad, or that you don’t have enough of it. It’s because your content isn’t targeted at the right people.
Now there are a couple of reasons why targeting is so important. First, there are over 150 million blogs on the Internet. That means you need to stand out so that potential customers can find you.
Second, when they come to your blog or site, they’re looking for answers to their problems or needs. If your content doesn’t address that, they’ll look somewhere else.
In this post, we’ll look at how you can target your content using customer personas.
Building the personas
A customer persona is not actually a real person. It’s a fictional representation of your readers and helps you understand what they are looking for when they come to your site. You may have multiple customer personas, so give them names to identify them.
Each persona should also contain demographic information like age, gender and location. To get more detailed, you can include things like occupation, income and job title. This is especially useful if you’re a B2B company.
Finally, the persona must contain insights into their interests, goals, needs and problems. You need to understand what they are looking for, why they should buy from you and how they make purchase decisions. More importantly, to target your content, you need to know what blogs or websites they like to read, how they consume content, what articles they typically share and so on.
Yes, this is a lot of information. Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can collect it.
An in-person conversation with a customer is more effective than any other research method. You get immediate feedback so you can change your questions depending on the direction of the conversation.
Take note of the way they talk and the language they use. Is it formal or informal? Do they like to joke about, or are they serious. This information will come in handy when you’re creating content for them.
Email and on-site surveys won’t give you the depth of information that an interview will. However, because they are more scalable, you can collect hundreds of data points.
Try to find patterns in all the data you collect. You might find that certain blogs or websites are mentioned more often, or maybe there’s a recurring problem that customers need a solution for. This will give you a good idea of what to address in your content.
Analytics tools are becoming more powerful and the data they track can be very insightful. Even free software, like Google Analytics, can give you access to vast amounts of data on your site’s visitors.
In Google Analytics, you can track the age and gender of your visitors, as well as their interests. You can also see what your most popular and least popular content is so that you have a better idea of what’s working and what isn’t.
When it comes to researching customers, there are no limits. You can gain insights from feedback forms, customer support staff, social media sites and online forums. Anywhere there’s a conversation happening related to your industry is a source of information.
Putting it together
Ultimately, your customer persona should look something like this.
Notice the sections on goals and challenges, and shopping and industry news preferences. This persona is looking for information regarding managing people and systems, and gets his information from specific industry publications and trade magazines.
Let’s have a look at how we can take advantage of this knowledge.
Using The Personas
As you can see, the customer persona tells you exactly what topics to cover in your content and what types of content to produce. For the above example, you might want to create an online magazine with topics related to management and industry news.
Depending on your business and customers, you might find that other types of content are more attractive to your audience.
When they launched their content marketing strategy, Skytap realized the importance of tailoring their content to their audience. They spent months understanding their customers and found that people came to them for one of three use-cases.
They did further research into the customers for each use-case, trying to figure out what their pain points were, what topics they searched for online, how they found information and the obstacles they had when it came to making a purchasing decision.
Their research made it easy for them to create the right type of content for each customer persona. To deal with different personas on the same blog, they created separate categories. Customers could then pick categories based on their interests.
They also created blog posts based on the job role for each customer persona. For example, the following post was created specifically for the sales engineers in their audience. They are excluding everyone else but, at the same time, they’re attracting the people who matter most.
You might think that, with such a narrow focus, their site traffic would reduce. On the contrary, the traffic actually increased 210%. More importantly, the number of leads they received from their blog doubled. All because their content was more targeted.
Ebooks are a great way to establish thought leadership in your market, but they also require a large investment of time and money to create. Instead of guessing what e-books their audience would want to read, Logicalis did their homework first.
By creating personas, they were able to identify the biggest pain points their customers faced. Now that they knew what areas to focus on, they could create the ebook and a microsite to host it.
The microsite contained excerpts from the book, mentioning each pain point in brief. They also sent out a series of emails, each one focusing on a pain point and bringing readers back to the site.
By promising solutions to their problems, Logicalis got visitors to download the ebook and convert to leads. In fact, the ebook was so impressive that it generated $8 million in sales! Are you starting to see how useful customer personas can be?
IBM found that many of their potential customers were talking about Big Data and Analytics on social networks. To capture this audience, they started contributing to these conversations and bringing them back to their site.
However, they found that the content on their site wasn’t doing a good job of retaining this traffic. People would land on their pages and then leave immediately. IBM realized they needed to create more relevant content around topics their audience wanted to discuss.
They already had a good idea about who their audience was, but the only thing missing from their personas was what content they wanted. They conducted an in-depth analysis of the conversations happening on social sites, bookmarking sites, online forums and various other public sites to find out what topics were trending.
They also found out how their audience liked to consume this information. For some topics they created blog posts, and for others they created videos and podcasts. They also had reports, whitepapers, infographics and presentations.
To organize it, they created a new content hub that they updated multiple times a day. Now their audience could follow up on social conversations using the hub.
Within the first year, IBM saw an increase of 291% from social referral traffic and 151% from organic search traffic. Their engagement levels also shot up by 269% as people spent more time consuming their content.
Other Content Types
When Urjanet started their content marketing campaign, they knew that generic content wasn’t going to cut it. There were unsolved problems in their industry and Urjanet wanted to be the company people went to for solutions.
Fortunately for them, they had an established sales team who already had developed customer personas. All that was left for the content marketing team to do was identify what topics these personas wanted to learn about and how they consumed content.
They started out by recreating the customer personas as a foundation upon which they could create content.
They found that content types like infographics, whitepapers and webinars resonated with their customers. For quick information they used infographics, and then linked those to detailed whitepapers that prospects could download if they were interested.
By linking content in this manner, they were able to boost their lead generation by a whopping 733%! The new content was attracting qualified leads so fast that their sales team couldn’t keep up. Just so you know, that’s a good problem to have.
Every day there are new websites being created, new blogs popping up, and new content vying for your customers’ attention. The age of spray and pray is over. A narrower focus will get you more readers, subscribers and customers than a wide net.
It’s never too late to give your content a fresh start. Look at your existing data and start doing some research to create your customer personas. Remember to focus on their pain points and content preferences.
With a solid foundation, you’ll be ready to create content that customers will love reading.