Do you know who you’re selling to – and, by extension, who you’re targeting in your content marketing?
If you’re building a content strategy, you probably have done audience research to figure those things out.
And, if you’ve done audience research, you’ve probably heard of personas, too.
A persona is a content strategy tool used to understand your audience on a deeper level and position all of your content so it speaks to them effectively.
A persona is incredibly useful because it represents the conglomeration of a lot of thought, research, conversations, data, and insights on the most important consideration in content marketing – your brand’s specific audience.
That means, yes – personas really do matter in content marketing. Let’s explore deeper.
So, we’ve already said a persona is a content strategy tool. How does it work?
A persona is a representation of your target audience. Their main commonalities, including defining traits, preferences, habits, demographics, goals, challenges, and more, are combined and distilled to create a fictional character or avatar representing your ideal customer.
This puts a face and a personality to your audience, who can easily become a faceless mass to people on your team who work disconnected from the customer experience (like content creators, who ironically have little direct interaction with your audience but are in charge of the bulk of communications).
And, if you have multiple target audience segments, you can create multiple personas to represent them and refer to as you create, publish, and distribute content.
Here’s an example of a B2C persona for a coffee shop:
As you can see, a persona can get extremely detailed. When you create one, it’s almost like reading a dating profile that makes you go, “Whoa, TMI.”
The thing is, all of these details must be backed by research and actual data. These aren’t made-up attributes. Instead, they come from studying members of your target audience, interacting with them, surveying them, and looking at data. None of it should come from assumptions or guesses.
The more you know about your ideal customer and persona, the better you can speak to them in your content, target their exact needs and concerns, empathize with them, and solve their problems. And that’s powerful.
A content marketing strategy that includes targeted personas can improve your results drastically. One case study found with this strategy, website traffic grew by 210% and leads increased by 97%.
Using personas can make your website 2-5x more effective and lift email click-through rates by 14%.
Why do personas work? Here are three reasons.
If you’re creating personas the right way, they should be based entirely on data, insights, research, and real customer interactions – not assumptions.
That means a persona represents real data you’ve learned about your customers. A good persona can represent hours and hours of research, months of social listening, and countless interactions with your customers.
This is the only way a persona is valuable. But that value is undeniable to your content marketing.
Since personas are the distillation of mountains of customer research, they have the unique ability to capture the true essence of your audience.
This is invaluable when trying to target your messaging and customize your content.
How? When you use and refer to personas to create content, you’re far more likely to hit your audience in the heart or punch them in the gut with impactful content.
For example, personas can guide the tone and style of writing used in your blog posts, short- or long-form content or lead magnets (i.e., ebooks, whitepapers, case studies).
It can also guide the topics you write about or the angle you approach certain topics. For instance, if I was using the coffee shop persona above to lead me while writing a blog about gifts to give coffee lovers, I would lean toward affordable gifts vs. luxury gifts because I know my persona is budget-conscious.
Personas are a useful tool for marketing and your entire business. They can align how you approach your customer and talk to them throughout your brand.
Sharing personas with different teams (such as sales and customer service) can inspire a better understanding of your customers and, thus, better interactions with them. And better interactions can lead to higher customer satisfaction, more sales, and more repeat customers.
You can also share personas across your marketing team to align different creators in their approach. Personas are helpful for content writers, graphic designers, video editors, and social media managers.
Lastly, personas are a valuable tool to employ as you craft your brand voice/tone and style guidelines. Your persona(s) will help inform the voice you use in content, the tone you adopt for specific circumstances, and the style and personality you craft for your brand identity.
The accuracy of your personas will directly affect how valuable they are to your content marketing. Here's how to ensure they're useful and precise.
There are many places to gather the data that will inform how you create your persona. These are some of the best sources.
Remember, if your assumptions aren't reflected in the data, you must toss them out the window.
Once you've spent some time gathering audience data from various sources, you can start to analyze and make sense of it.
Look for commonalities, recurring themes, and patterns as you sift through it all. What details pop up over and over? What words do customers repeatedly use to discuss themselves and their goals/challenges?
During this process, you might find multiple categories of people or different ways to segment your audience. You can use each of these categories to craft a connected persona.
Your completed persona will look a lot like a character fact sheet. Here are some categories you should fill in based on your research findings.
Your persona(s) can be used in your content marketing and whole business as a useful tool for understanding your prospects.
For that reason, consider turning your persona into an asset. Here are a few examples:
Personas matter in content marketing. They're a vital instrument every brand should have in its content strategy toolkit.
When done right, personas result from weeks or months of research and data synthesis. They give teams across your business a deep understanding of your ideal customer at a glance. Personas are also a boon to sales, customer service, and social media teams.
A detailed persona can help you craft the right messages and content to resonate with your audience. Your content will be more relevant, empathetic, targeted, useful, and engaging.
There are no downsides to using personas for any brand. That means it's high time you got down to business and incorporated persona-building into your strategy.