Brand image is of paramount importance to a business. In fact, as all savvy marketers know, more than “what” you sell, “how” you sell creates a bigger emotional, and thus bankable, impact.
And in the era of information when more than five exabytes of content are created almost every day, blog posts, videos, infographics and social posts all contribute to this “how” and establish a company’s voice and personality.
What Are Personas (Empathy Maps) & Why They Are Effective
There is a lot of information online about buyer personas. But generally speaking, it is a content research tool that allows marketers to put themselves in the shoes (and the mindset) of different segments of customers.
According to the Buyer Persona Institute, which is the foremost authority on the subject, a good persona is a fictitious representation of an actual ideal buyer and should detail out the metrics, concerns and triggers that influence the buyer’s purchase decision.
To understand why research tools such as personas provide such invaluable insights, one has to only take a quick look at Maslow”s “Hierarchy of Needs.” It is a widely accepted fact that individuals who peruse products online or espouse brands are people whose base physiological needs are taken care of. They mostly seek a sense of belonging by being part of a community and try to enhance their self-esteem by purchasing items from companies that resonate with their values and philosophies.
Both can be achieved through carefully tailored content that speaks to their problems and gives them a reason to revel in their beliefs, and these objectives are satisfied by robust empathy maps.
Dove does an astonishingly intuitive job of using its tag as a “beauty soap” to its advantage by turning the focus from outer glamour to resilience and marshalling thousands of women raging against impossible ideals of prettiness into a movement of “Real Beauty.”
How to Fix Your Buyer Personas
Simply using a buyer persona isn’t a guarantee of success. Anyone can download a template for free and fill it with invalidated assumptions that do little to enlighten the content creation process. Real persona assembly takes time and prep work, and here are two reasons why most miss the mark:
1. They focus on trivialities.
Everything from age to marital status find place of pride, even in B2B personas that have nothing to do with personal demographics of the decision makers. Many empathy maps simply point in the wrong direction and distract users. They stay mired in dry details and leave out the psychographic analysis.
What to do instead: The Buyer Persona Institute has identified Five Rings of Buying Insight that should be a part of every persona. These include Priority Initiatives (possible reasons why a client may be interested in your products), Success Factors (results expected from the solution), Perceived Barriers (objections to trying the product), Buyers Journey (the nuances of who and what informs and transforms the desire to purchase) and Decision Criteria (the actual product features and benefits that drive the Priority Initiatives). These sections are non-negotiable and the rest can be considered icing on the cake.
2. They are not created keeping buyers in mind.
Personas shouldn’t reflect the thoughts and beliefs of the company. The whole point of the exercise is to get closer to buyers. This is where businesses falter. They assign the critical task to inexperienced workers who conduct rudimentary online research, visit a couple of forums and end up with apocryphal insights that mirror what competitors are doing.
What to do instead: Focus groups are an excellent qualitative research tool which can complement buyer personas. Conduct open ended focus group interviews with six to eight clients and prospects, and you will hit the heart of the matter in 30 minutes flat with real concerns, perceptions, opinions and suggestions.
Thanks to the presence of videoconferencing tools like ClickMeeting, which offer the functionality of private chats for brands, this often tedious process can be brought online, recorded and used in parts for persona creation. I’m also a strong advocate of using persona-building apps such as Personapp and Up Close & Persona to use your audience insights and customer data to create content that resonates with your target market.
There is really no excuse to stick with lackluster content that rubs people the wrong way or leaves them disinterested. Buyer personas have the potential to catapult businesses into the big league with personalized marketing wins.
3 Content Marketing Wins with Buyer Personas
There are myriad ways in which personas can be leveraged to the advantage of brands. But here are a few that get noticed and boost market reputation.
1. Persona-driven content creates moments of serendipity.
What would you rather read? A blog post that looks mildly interesting or one that seems to literally pluck a query out of your head and elaborate upon it with a worthwhile answer?
When personas get very specific, they allow marketers to tailor their content to hit the raw nerves of their prospects. In fact, since a persona includes the buyer’s journey from frustration to solution, companies can set up a conveyor belt of posts, articles, slideshows and videos that cater to each phase and bring prospects ever closer to the final goal of conversion.
In a comment on Glen Long’s epic blog “The Only Six Posts worth Writing,” the use of the word “catalyst” is very telling. Glen knows his personas and understands that bloggers are always in search of inspiration and tried formulae that work. He has established himself as an expert in the domain of boosting blog traffic and this renown has spiked enrollment in his guest blogging course.
2. Persona-driven promotions generate useful hype.
Simply creating enticing content that solves real problems is not enough. Since competition is cut-throat, it is essential to go beyond assembly and think of distribution. Buyer personas help in this regard as well. A well fledged out empathy map unerringly guides marketers towards social platforms that are meccas for target audience.
3. Persona-driven content collaborations score brownie points in terms of traffic.
Why speak to just your prospects if you can also speak to the prospects of other market giants with similar values and audiences? Collaborations and joint ventures are a rage with independent entrepreneurs. But they can also spin some content magic for larger, more established brands.
A buyer persona helps narrow down leaders and innovators in parallel industries who can spread your message farther and wider than your own network. HubSpot and LinkedIn have forged a very close content relationship and have created quite a few viral pieces like the ever-popular “The Sales & Marketing Love Story” and the insightful “Master the Art of Social Selling.”