How to Use Buyer Personas to Create an Endless Well of Content

By Beth Cochran

According to Orbit Media Studios’ recent Department of Blogger Labor Survey, 54 percent of the more than 1,000 bloggers who responded publish content at least once per week.

You might ask, how are they producing so much content and consistently producing it? And how are they generating so many topic ideas?

Chances are they know their audience and know them well. Beyond basic demographic information, they likely know the minute details, like what their interests and struggles are, what other types of media they consume, where they get their news and information, what motivates them, who or what influences them, and so on. Within this knowledge lies a content marketing pot of gold, and it’s the source of epic ideas and content that deepens engagement and hopefully gets people talking.

How do you find this information, and once you’ve got it, what do you do with it?

It’s all about tailoring your products and messaging to specific segments of your audience; you’re problem solving. And when you do that, you appeal to certain pain points specific to them, and you speak their language.

Discover your avatar

You may have heard them called avatars or buyer personas, but whatever the moniker, it’s essentially a prototype of your customer or reader. This prototype is created from the research you conduct about potential buyers or readers through interviews and analyzing their behaviors online and off.

Once you know what influences their emotions; the questions, concerns, and fears they may have; what they are most interested in; and what motivates them, you can use this to plan your content marketing strategy. These insights are your honey pot.

Finding people who are willing to talk

To uncover these insights it does take work, but it will prove to be time well spent. If you have an existing audience, you might start by talking to your customers or readers. Typically one-on-one interview style conversations are best, as they allow you to dig a little deeper with follow-up questions. You can also survey or poll your social networks and email database.

What if you don’t have an existing audience from which to glean information? Fret not. There are a number of fact-finding approaches you can take. These also work for those who do already have an audience, and in fact, I suggest not limiting your research to just your current audience. You might uncover an untapped segment and new ideas by discovering what motivates those who aren’t consuming your content. A few tactics include:

  • Get out and network – Attend industry conferences and trade shows, and actually talk to people. Take note of your competitors. Do they have booths set up at the expo? Who is stopping by that booth, and can you talk to them after? This one takes a little courage and grace, but when done correctly, you can gain powerful insights. Also look for networking events, meet-up groups, and associations within your industry or target market to attend or join. You’ll make amazing connections and gain great information.
  • Search social networks – Who are the top influencers in your target market, and how is their audience interacting with them? What types of questions are they asking in blog comments or in forums? Also, search Twitter for hashtags and conversations, browse Google+ communities, and explore specific audiences on Facebook by typing in “people who like (name of a specific page).”
  • Explore industry forums – Peruse Q&As and discussion threads in which people are discussing your industry, similar products, or areas of focus. Take note of the questions, concerns, and comments they make. This will help you identify the types of concerns you need to address in your content or marketing language.
  • Check out comments – Comment threads on popular sites can be gold mines. Often you can find conversations about challenges people are having or solutions for which they are searching. You could also look at e-commerce sites that specialize in products in your niche, or look at Amazon for specific products or book titles that might relate to your area of business or expertise. Take note of their Q&A and review sections.
  • Seek out surveys – Let the big guys do the legwork. Look for surveys conducted by others. This could include larger corporations, media outlets, educational institutions, and the list goes on. These surveys typically yield a high response rate and provide ideas about the type of content for which your potential audience may be looking.
  • Look to your competitors – Some don’t believe in this approach, but if you do, you might check out their website for blog posts, FAQ pages, or forums for comments or questions from customers. You could also peruse their social networks to see what kinds of topics they address, but more importantly questions and commentary people who follow them are asking.
  • Research media outlets – This can give you great insights into topics in which your target audience is interested. If you know the types of media your target audience consumes, take note of the type of content they produce and topics they cover. Look at posts for comments, or check out their media kit, which often provides demographic information. You might also read the letters to the editor section, and look at the type of the language they use. Are there any themes there you can glean?
  • Use your CRM tool or email marketing – Identify folks who continually engage with content you are putting out but are not taking action. For instance, with emails, are there any recipients on your list who regularly click your call-to-action links, but don’t take action? You might try reaching out to them individually for an interview. This will require some digging and cross-referencing.

Bottom line, get out there and start having conversations online and off. Keep a pen and pad (or Evernote) handy, and get ready for the ideas to start flowing in. 

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