We cram a lot of hopes and expectations into content marketing—that prospects will have a preference for our brand and use our content as stepping stones in their consideration journey. Expectations do not decrease. We need content to work harder.
One strategy to make content work harder is by making it more ubiquitous so that their answers are the ones that come up first in a search, their logo is around every corner. Which is an effective tactic up to a point, and that point is efficiency. Ubiquity is a numbers game. If I get so many hits, a percentage may become leads. Efficiency gins that conversion-to-lead percentage. Efficiency is driven by the quality and relevance of the content. The more value a prospect finds in your content and the closer it hews to their needs and preferences, the harder it will work. Ubiquity, without quality or relevance, is a shallow benefit. The ultimate goal is to provide value over time, to build a legacy of trust and respect.
Everyone on the marketing team gets a vote on the quality and relevance of content, but the only votes that count come from the prospects. They are the sole arbiter. Perhaps we should ask them what, how, and when they want content, especially since the majority of people working on these programs have never actually seen, spoken to, or met a prospect.
To make content work harder, some companies utilize personas—archetypes or synthesized summaries based on qualitative research—with real people representing their characteristics, specific information behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and goals. Companies have learned a great deal about content from personas:
- Asigra, a backup and recovery software company, learned how nuance can have a huge effect. Looking to move from the SMB market to the enterprise, they research and came up with two personas in the financial market—one of CIOs open or favorable to their offering and the other absolutely opposed. Demographically, the companies they work for are identical. This offered marketing a way to separate the wheat from the chaff.
- Maxwell Technologies learned that just because their new ultra-capacitors are more powerful, smaller, and cleaner than traditional industrial batteries, no one is waiting with open arms. The road to acceptance is, shall we say, circuitous. They learned how to talk, who to talk to, and the specific circumstances for “crossing the chasm” into sales, implementation, and ultimately test cases.
Personas have one thing that data and research reports do not. Personality. And, as a very wise friend once said to me, the B2B sale is all about personalities. This can put the personality on the planning table.
We recently conducted proprietary research among marketing professionals to begin to understand and benchmark how companies are using personas and where and how they have been effective. When asked where the greatest potential for personas lies, respondents pointed to content marketing, but analysis reveals an Achilles heel. As one respondent wrote:
“In the main, personas tend not to drive any new learning, but rather skin existing learning with a newer, somewhat obvious conclusion.”
Where implementations were deemed less than expected, personas were developed from existing data. If you base the persona on old data, you can expect more of the same. If someone, long ago in a galaxy far far away, opined that prospects are generally left-handed, expect the persona to be a southpaw.
But, as the psychiatrist said, enough about you, what about ME? What is your input? What are your experiences? Would you come to praise or buy the persona?