For Content Marketing Success, Know Your Customers « Goldberg Communications
Creating content that’s useful and compelling starts with getting to know your customers. You need to understand their most pressing challenges, their deepest concerns, and their greatest hopes for a solution. Gaining this insight takes some digging. But the effort will pay off in content that hits the mark and compels buyers to take the next step in the buying process.
The Ideal Solution: Buyer Personas
Adelle Ravella, leader of the Buyer Persona Institute, suggests that marketers get to know their customers by creating buyer personas — descriptions of the different types of people who participate in your customers’ buying process. Since the best content talks to a single audience, identify people with a common set of concerns and learn what they need to know at each step in the buying process. For example, companies often find they need to create different personas to address the differing concerns of the CFO, line managers, and IT. But they may or may not need different personas for companies of different sizes.
To gain the greatest insight into your personas’ needs, speak with actual customers. Ravella recommends conducting about eight to twelve interviews with buyers who recently purchased your product as well as those that considered it but bought a competitor’s product. Ask about their goals and most pressing business challenges. Ask the buyer to go back to the day he or she began considering your solution. What made that person realize he or she needed to solve the problem rather than stick to the status quo? Go through the buying process. What steps did they take? Who was involved? What did they want to know at each step? Did your company give them the information they were looking for? Where did they find this information? Where was your information lacking? What prevented them from considering your product? What would success look like to them? What were their final decision factors?
Most important, Ravella advises interviewers to listen carefully and continually press for further details. For example, if the customer says they’re interested in ease of use, find out specifically what ease of use means to them.
Once you have in-depth information about what your buyer wants to know, you have a roadmap for the type of content you need to create to address their concerns.
The advantage of creating a buyer persona is that you gain insights into issues from a customer perspective — which may be completely different than you would have expected. For example, while initially product marketers for an anti-virus software company believed that customers were interested in the latest and greatest in virus protection, interviews revealed that customers were more concerned about the product’s impact on system performance.
What if you Don’t Have Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas give you in-depth insights into your customers, their purchasing process, and their concerns that your competitors don’t have. However, many companies don’t have buyer personas. If that’s the case, you as a content marketer need to be creative:
- Ask customer-facing employees (e.g., sales, technical sales, product management, product marketing, and customer service) the types of questions you’d ask a customer to create a buyer persona.
- Review success stories from existing customers. While each customer is different, if you read a large set of stories you may detect trends, such as common triggers that cause people to begin to look for a solution rather than accept the status quo, reasons people select your solution, and the outcomes customers achieve.
- Read trade publications and review research from industry analysts. This research can give you insight into the overarching trends impacting your customers’ industry. For example, you can often find articles on the top 10 trends in workforce management. You can also glean some of the vocabulary and common terms used in that industry.
- Monitor social media—see what customers are saying on social media. What comments are they posting on your blog or facebook page? Are your products sold on a buying site that solicits comments, such as Amazon.com? Are people tweeting about your company or solutions?
The more information you have about your customers, the headwinds they face, and how they make their purchase decisions, the better equipped you’ll be to plan content that addresses their needs and spurs them to action.