In this age of noise, it’s critical that your message cuts through the static and connects with customers.
That’s why persona research is an essential part of your overall content marketing strategy – to ensure your content is speaking to, and connecting with, the right people.
Persona research is as much an art as it is a science. In Raven’s recent post “48 tips for SEO newbies from 48 experienced SEOs,” Sarah Peters says this about content:
“Know your audience/customer, first and foremost. What do they need? What are they searching for? How much do they know already? Where do they gather? What do they value? Find out, and then give them that.”
That’s awesome advice, and it’s really the core concept behind persona research. In this post, I’d like to walk you through my process of using this research to create targeted content.
What is persona research?
First, let’s talk about the idea of personas. Most consumers know the kinds of content they like to discover, the places they go to find that content, and their preferred methods for sharing it. If you can find out this information about them, your content will be inherently more effective – and chances are, visitor conversion rates for this content will increase.
Before creating a content marketing strategy, I ask the following six questions.
- What types of content do your customers prefer to see?
- Where do your customers discover new content?
- What types of searches do your customers perform?
- What do your customers dedicate money and time towards?
- How do your customers make their purchasing decisions?
- How can you keep your customers’ interest?
So, let’s get started on finding the answers to these questions to help focus your content on meeting customer needs.
1. What types of content do your customers prefer to see?
The content you produce should connect with your audience, communicate the benefits of the products or services you provide, and entertain or inform along the way. “Content” can include webinars, infographics, interviews, blog posts, videos or anything else that a brand produces to communicate.
Spend a good amount of time on this question by looking in Google Analytics to see what content has been successful in the past (look at social engagement, page views, bounce rate, etc.). There are a few Google Analytics custom dashboards that can give you KPIs like social engagement, organic search and referral visits, and can help you determine how your existing content is performing.
Also conduct some competitive research by looking into what types of content produce success (links, shares, etc.) for your competitors.
Online surveys can also be a valuable source of feedback, and you can even take it a step further by conducting interviews over the phone or in person.
2. Where do your customers discover new content?
New content can be discovered through a number of means, both online or offline.
From local Chamber of Commerce meetings to Twitter chats, be sure to cover all the bases and find out where your content will be best consumed and shared. Social media monitoring can help you locate these places so you can focus your time and effort on dispersing that content there.
Forums are another place where engaged, loyal fans of a particular topic or industry tend to congregate and have discussions, and a quick search for communities on Google+ can help you discover content ideas, too.
3. What types of searches do your customers perform?
There are different motivations behind searching for something on a search engine or browsing on a social network. Are your visitors looking for information? Do they want to be entertained? Are they ready to convert right now?
When it comes to understanding a searcher’s intentions, your website’s internal search can be a goldmine of data, as customers use it to find specific products or services that you may or may not offer.
You can also take a look at Google’s auto-suggest for queries applicable to your industry and find other searches that you may not have considered.
4. What do your customers dedicate money and time towards?
People tend to dedicate their resources towards specific goals, like power, profit, pleasure or prestige. You can identify these motivations by understanding how your products or services genuinely help people.
Then you can tailor your content to speak to these individual goals for a more targeted approach, and/or appeal to the emotions around these four goals.
For example, SEO helps to increase the online visibility of a website, which can increase conversions and overall ROI of a campaign. With that in mind, agencies and consultants should be creating content that helps businesses understand the value of search engine optimization by effectively communicating that process.
5. How do your customers make their purchasing decisions?
What is the motivation and process behind a purchase? Are your customers impulse buyers, or are they more strategic? When you’re dealing with a small business, the owner may also be the company’s purchaser. At a multi-national enterprise, there may be entire departments involved in purchasing and partnerships.
You can often find out by identifying the sales process for your core products or services (Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics is a good place to start to see conversion paths).
Once I consulted with a client who offered educational courses in a very specialized niche. We soon discovered that their customers would typically come back to the website a few times before signing up. At first, I thought it was a conversion issue with their website, but ultimately realized that customers researched the classes at work, and then took the information home to sign up. We discovered this trend by looking at analytics and seeing that most conversions took place outside of typical business hours.
Along with customer interviews and surveys, the information you glean from your analytics can help you craft a better message and call to action.
6. How can you keep your customers’ interest?
A good content marketing strategy is the sum of its parts. It should be based on conversations, timelines and a story that helps move customers into the funnel toward conversion. That’s why it’s a good idea to find out how you can invite their loyalty and keep them coming back.
Take a look at the bounce rate on your content. If it’s higher than you think it should be, you can bet your visitors are either losing their interest or got turned off by some particular element of the landing page.
Invite customers to give your brand their time, and the reward will be increased engagement and conversions. Maybe it’s exclusive content in a newsletter subscription, or a fun contest they can enter. Maybe it’s simply breaking up your content with different media types to keep your visitors’ interest.
Even more questions
There are other questions to drill into with a persona research, and I’ve included an entire set of persona research questions in a printable PDF download, Persona Research for Content Marketing.
The main goal with any piece of content, whether it lives on your website or somewhere else, should be to connect with the viewer. If your content resonates with your target customer base, you can bridge the gap between “tirekicker” and “buyer” and prove an ROI from your content marketing efforts.