Hi everyone, my name is Andrew Johnson, and I’m a marketing content strategist based in Salt Lake City. My cousin Jessica asked if I wanted to write a post for this blog, and I had just the right topic in mind.
But before we dive into this particular subject, let’s talk about the specifics of content marketing first.
Everyone seems to be buzzing about the latest trend in Internet marketing called “content marketing”, and like other trends many brands feel the need to jump right in. The problem, however, is not with getting left behind if your brand isn’t ready to produce this content. It’s a problem when brands don’t connect with their core audience.
Jessica posted an excellent guide to connecting with an audience through storytelling, which is at the very heart of any effective content marketing strategy. It’s less about pushing your product or service, and more about connecting with people by solving their problems.
Research and Segment your Customer Base
Much has been written about psychographic segmentation and market segmentation, which is how businesses divide their customer base by lifestyle, social class and other characteristics. Big brands do this all the time. Consider television ad campaigns for Audi, and compare with those of Hyundai. Marketers may take the same strategy when creating paid search campaigns for brands, and often work with broad demographics when targeting a particular segment.
Persona modeling for a content marketing strategy is a bit different, in that the source of this traffic is going to come from organic search results and social media. You may decide to pay for Facebook ads, or pay for Stumbles, but a piece of content can do fairly well without the need for a paid push.
It all depends on how well you can get inside your customers’ heads and answer their greatest needs.
Wikipedia (which technically shouldn’t be a “source”, but works in this particular example all the same), defines personas as “fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way.” When creating a content marketing strategy, you should understand the search habits of your potential customers, and create content that answers their questions and solves their problems.
I like to divide my persona research into two segments:
• Where do my customers spend their time?
• What types of content do my customers like to see?
For a good example, let’s dive into a video game enthusiast segment, and how a gaming laptops manufacturer would conduct persona research for a content strategy.
A hardcore gamer may spend money to attend the Phoenix Comicon, dress up in his or her favorite character’s costume, compete in local or region video game tournaments, and regularly host LAN parties. This customer is looking for content that’s more technical and competitive than a casual gamer. They want to know the latest tips and tricks for a particular video game that can give them an edge over their opponents, so it would be wise to include this type of content into an editorial calendar for the website’s blog.
Aside from conventions, this hardcore gamer likes to spend time on Internet forums, other gaming blogs, and also likes to answer people’s technical questions on Quora. Knowing where your customers discover content and how they share it will give you a distinct advantage when you’re creating your content marketing strategy, and also a few options for outlets when it comes time to share that content.
The Persona Modeling Process
Here is a step-by-step process for analyzing your target audience through persona modeling. While these questions aren’t definitive, they should help to spur a brainstorming session and start your content marketing strategy on the right track:
1.What types of content do your customers like to see?
a. Blog posts?
c. Audio podcasts?
2. Where do they discover new content?
c. Q&A sites?
d. Social networks?
3. What types of searches are they performing on search engines?
4. What are they talking about on social media?
5. How can you attract new customers?
b. Twitter chats?
c. Trade shows?
d. Paid search?
6. How can you keep their interest?
b. Exclusive content?
c. Free products?
7. How do they make purchase decisions?
c. Chain of command?
8. How do they dedicate their time and money?
You can gather this intelligence through a variety of means, including Internet searches, social media, drilling into the segments with ad builders from Facebook and LinkedIn, or even conducting interviews with the customers directly. Once you have compiled these answers, perform a quick keyword research for each of the persona types, and use those keywords throughout your content to increase the incoming traffic from search engines.
Behind any content marketer’s strategy should be the element of empathy, and persona modeling is the vehicle to get you there. Chris Garrett, who has worked with brands like Hugo Boss, Procter & Gamble and Toshiba, says this about empathy: “Understanding your reader has to be the most important part of any writer’s job, but it’s especially true when writing persuasive copy. Knowing what a reader is likely to be thinking helps you to anticipate and mirror those thoughts, offer clarification where it is needed, and build trust.”
Every piece of content on your website should be written with your specific customer in mind, and your overall strategy should continually seek to understand what your customers and potential customers want and need.
About the Author
Andrew Johnson has worked in Internet marketing since 2010, and currently serves as a marketing content strategist for an Inc. 500 SEO agency in Utah. Andrew also runs a hyper-local news and information site called 24 Salt Lake, and recently started a new blog about content marketing at Pacific Guest Post Center.
photo by viZZZual.com