It is that magical time of year again that brings us all together. I am not referring to the joys of the holiday season, however. I am talking about the joys of strategic planning for next year! If the following represents you (or someone you work with), then keep reading. Or, if you are just looking for some practical guidance on persona building, read on as well.
Content strategy is hard. We intuitively know at a high-level what needs to be done, but often getting there can be a challenge. Many teams and stakeholders are still not on the same page; the good news is that they are trying. This is where customer personas can help. Not only are personas the cornerstone of your content strategy, they can help your teams get on the same page – the customer’s.
Putting a name and a face to your customers helps drive empathy across the organization. At least it should. Too often, we find that many buyer personas lack that important element.
There are literally hundreds of variations on buyer personas and what they should contain. Many seem overly driven from the company perspective rather than the buyer’s, and different stakeholders want to know different things based on their own goals and what they are measured on. You don’t have to capture every data point under the sun – you want to capture the right information. You can also take a phased approach and consider your persona a living breathing organism that grows and changes just like people do.
Based on our collective years of content experience in large B2B organizations, I have compiled a representative list of Must-haves versus Nice-to-haves when building personas. All data points are useful, however if you have limited bandwidth or resources start with the items on the left.
Look at the column on the left and pretend that I am your customer. Knowing my role in the organization, who else is part of that buying center and what I am charged with doing provides insights into my responsibilities at work. If I am a CMO, for example, my day in the life is much different than my colleague, the CIO. It also tells you the level of influence I have in terms of considering a purchase–so the assets and tools you develop will be different for me. For example, I may drive a technology decision but am not tasked with evaluating the technical case for the investment; rather, my focus is largely on building the business case – why having this technology will support demand gen, lead nurturing and an enhanced customer experience. It is not a “one size fits all” approach. In addition, I have to collaborate with others on the buying team throughout the purchase process so I need content that can be shared appropriately at different stages for different colleagues.
Challenges and pain points are the things keeping me awake at night. So how can you create content that helps me work smarter rather than harder? Providing utility and examples of other success stories will inspire me to innovate and try. Also, it is not just about you and your products. I need relevant information on a variety of topics to help me be successful at my job. And I have other trusted sources besides yours. I need independent verification from a variety of channels. I read reviews, opinion pieces and reports and I rely on my peers (even ones I don’t know personally but can access digitally).
My content preferences are also different than the CIOs. Let’s say I don’t do well with long form, text-based content, but rather I like to learn visually. So, short and to the point, graphical assets interest me versus a twenty-page white paper. We both prefer to have the same content and experiences regardless of which device I am using at any given time. How you communicate to me matters as well. You can “market” to me up to a point — and likely have a higher tolerance for it than my more technical counterparts — but if your content is over salesly then I will opt out of your content too.
Now, imagine if your Sales, Marketing, Service, Social, PR, AR, Product and Search teams all knew the items in the Must-haves column about your targets? It would be persona-topia right? You will have something to rally your entire organization around. Be sure to include verbatims and quotes if you’ve got them–they help bring personas to life. With the customer as everyone’s hero, you collectively will have more accurate measures for the best “cut” possible when it comes to your content marketing efforts.
Jenny is a digital content strategist, who leads customer-centric engagements that focus on understanding B2B buying behaviors and developing custom roadmaps.
Her expertise is creating buyer personas and mapping digital content journeys to assess the multi-channel user experience. She helps clients operationalize plans across workstreams and identifies processes to create efficiencies in marketing operations. Jenny also has extensive time under her belt developing and managing customer advocacy programs and community building.
She has helped a diverse group of organizations including Cisco, VMware, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, BMO Harris, Capital One and many others become more customer-centric.