personas for content marketingIt seems like only yesterday that I typed the following words into my computer:

Conversion rate is a measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take the action you want them to take. It’s a reflection of your effectiveness and customer satisfaction. For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs.

In order to help you understand what visitors need in order to achieve their goals, you need to have empathy about their journey through the buying process. Too many companies and their agencies are so wrapped up in their own sales processes they forget that customers have a different angle of approach to the problem or need that they could solve if they took the right perspective.

That is why we’ve written countless articles and books over the years about the use of personas in your marketing efforts. It certainly, is great to see so many people finally taking about personas and they seem to have entered some sort of mainstream thinking. However, it is so extremely frustrating to see so many people who have bought into personas disappointed by pseudo-experts, add-a-line-of-expertise agencies and other expensive charlatans who deliver something they call personas and fail because they paid for the wrong tool for the job.

Anyone Can Create Personas

To truly communicate with your visitors, you must put yourself in their shoes. They’re not all wearing the same shoes, by the way. There is no average visitor, or primary persona when it comes to the way people buy from you. There are many segments and your personas can represent these segments.

Put yourself in the shoes of one of those “typical” visitors. Can you imagine arriving at your landing page and clicking through your website? Does every click feel completely relevant and made just for you? If you answered no, why should your visitor feel differently?

Personas will allow you to evaluate your content and identify the gaps in your content strategy to meet your potential customer’s needs.

Content, words, and images are the interface people use in order to navigate through their purchase process online. So personas that are created for design such as those first popularized by Alan Cooper in his book “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum” are inappropriate. Then we often see these extravagant personas that are delivered by many agencies and they are great when you look at the canned demographics and pseudo-psychographics that they pull out that might be relevant to how they buy media but haven’t been given the depth of research that helps you plan the content both by what it says and how it should be delivered to each persona.

The Purpose of Personas

Personas are the representative stand-ins for the modes in which it is possible for individuals to interact with you and your business. They should allow you to capture:

  • Decision-making: In order for me to sell to you, I need to understand how you buy.
  • Empathically-different segments within the narrative: If two segments exhibit similar buying processes, ask why we’re analyzing them as separate?

With your personas in hand, I’d like you to do a search for your top keywords. If you have paid ads, even better. For each persona you have step into their shoes and evaluate the ad and the landing page (or landing experience) for the conversion trinity.

Ask yourself and be honest:

  1. How is this ad/landing page/blog post/tweet relevant to this persona? What does this term mean specifically for them?
  2. How have you framed why they should buy from you and what value do you bring to this persona to solve their specific needs and problems?
  3. How have you helped this persona decide what action they need to take and how have you given them the confidence to take that action?

If your persona doesn’t allow you to do this easily, you have the wrong tool or personas for content marketing. I’ll be spending the next few columns helping you get them right.