Persona mapping can improve your content marketing strategy

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Persona mapping can improve your content marketing strategy

Content marketing — the use of blogs, social media, whitepapers, and webinars to attract and convert leads — has essentially replaced all other forms of lead acquisition. Sharp marketing leaders know that becoming a trusted advisor is essential to scalable sales; according to the 2015 State of Inbound (an annual marketing report published by Hubspot), the use of inbound tactics alone, independent of search engine optimization, paid search, or social marketing efforts, increases lead generation on average by 54%.

This shift in focus towards long-form articles and offers casts a long shadow. A content marketing strategy implies the creation of not only a large quantity of content, but also the ability to ensure that content is of high value; as the author and critic Theodore Sturgeon famously observed, quality is vanishingly rare.

Persona mapping to improve your content marketing ROI

Pushing your content marketing program into the top 10% is possible if you are willing to put in the work of truly understanding your audience. This exercise commonly called persona mapping requires that you put time into understanding your customers’ roles, the challenges and initiatives they face, how they make purchase decisions, and where they turn for advice and conversation. The good news is that this is within your reach, however; there are four essential components to an effective persona mapping process.

Walk A Mile

Marketing can feel like an impersonal activity — and done poorly, it is. However, starting by building a stronger understanding of who your target buyer or user is and what their daily experience looks like is the first step towards making it more valuable.

Most modern companies, despite what their org charts may say, operate in matrices. Matrix management implies multiple people being involved in decision making processes, and understanding these relationships can unlock what content that they will read and use.

Dan Steiner, marketing director at Avila Web Firm explains “Persona mapping is a rarely talked about component that is fundamentally integrated into all types of marketing, especially content marketing. By creating specific feelings with you content marketing efforts, you’ll ultimately be more successful.”

Sketch out what team your audience reports to, whom they turn to for advice, who asks them for input, and who their opposition is. The value of a contact in a sales cycle is highly correlated with his or her access to economic buying power; by improving your understanding of the role your persona plays within that relationship, you can ensure that you’re creating content that speaks to them specifically.

Feel Their Pain

Having influence within an organization also means having increasingly larger headaches; your prospective customers are likely tackling hard problems on a day to day basis. Along with understanding what role they play, ensure that you are addressing those pains.

Businesses spend for two reasons: to make money or to save money. Somewhere along the line, your target buyer is contributing to one or both of these, either directly or indirectly, and the things that keep them up at night are likely connected to one or the other of these underlying goals.

By understanding how, and knowing what their initiatives mean within this larger context, you can arm them with information that both helps them and positions your product or service as being valuable. Look for ways to demonstrate empathy, understanding, and value that aren’t simply veiled attempts to hawk your wares; understand what the key things are that they’re attempting to change or accomplish, and speak to them in your offers.

Understand The Buyer’s Journey

That said, the ultimate goal for a content marketing program is to sell something, and the time and place for doing so does exist.

At different stages of a sales cycle, your target customer will need to work through a wide range of steps in order to make a purchase. Your content marketing strategy should be aligned to this; early-stage materials that demonstrate that you are an expert in their needs and challenges can be a great way to start a relationship, but won’t be as useful later on. Similarly, offering a competitive analysis can help short-circuit a multi-vendor RFP, but will likely be off-putting if delivered too early.

In your persona descriptions, lay out the pathway from initial interest to closed deal. Your collateral, marketing initiatives, and offers should support each step of this process, and be made available at the appropriate times based on how they make their decisions about procurement.

Seek Out Watering Holes

Finally, be certain that you’re going to where your target audience is already congregating. You want to be certain that you are paying attention to the articles, stories, and trends that arise on the sites where your target goes — which should be informed by understanding their role and challenges.

Social networks, online communities, and trade publications are obvious places to start. Spend time on these sites without actively trying to promote yourself or your pitch; read what others write, track which topics generate the most interest, and look for opportunities to add new perspectives and viewpoints to the conversation through your own content offers.

The Content Marketing Long Game

Persona mapping is neither static nor simple. It requires that you spend time building a nuanced, empathetic, and well-aligned understanding of your audience, and that you continually return to the well to refresh it.

However, the return on investment can be tremendous; by offering a well-considered set of offers that speak to what your prospects care about, you can engage them in a more honest dialog; honesty and trust become the pathways that lead to fundamentally better sales.

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Image by Spielbrick Films.

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About the Author

Drew Hendricks
Drew Hendricks is the CMO of BlogPros which specializes in social media shares and the Organic Growth Marketing Manager at Nextiva.
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Jesson Jacob
8 years ago

Thanks Drew for Nice article.

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