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Implement Persona-Driven Marketing

April 5, 2021 - Content Marketing - , ,
By: Chris Riley

Content marketing should be architected around personas, not your brand. Some content marketing can be cut and dried. You can create content about yourself for self-promotion. Or, you can create content for SEO, serving clicks simply to increase traffic, irrespective of the value of your content. Both of these purposes are valid because they are clearly measurable. But, organizations that have leveraged clear content marketing to boost credibility provide value to the market. Their focus on persona-driven marketing makes them a destination for target personas. That approach has long-term content marketing value that far exceeds quick hits. 

Practitioner content marketing, a core offering at Fixate, focuses on individual practitioners and their expertise. Similarly, persona-driven marketing utilizes knowledge of your typical client, including their behaviors, experiences, needs, and goals — otherwise known as personas

General content marketing is usually impersonal. It’s based on intuiting what will drive clicks and downloads. However, this strategy is based on keyword research, and assumptions don’t always align with the expectations of the target consumer. You will get the clicks, but the value of those clicks is really low.

The long-tail value of true practitioner content marketing might be frustrating to some. But, it has a far-greater impact than showing off pretty graphs with numbers that have little to no value. By engaging in a persona-driven marketing strategy, your brand establishes a relationship with the market. This strategy also encourages repeat visitors to your blog or assets, instead of single-click visitors who are often disappointed. Organic search traffic generation does far better, long-term, than a single keyword-targeted post.

Do you really know who they are?

The biggest challenge is really knowing your clients’ personas. A lot of organizations get stuck in identifying their target market, defining too many personas, or developing an interesting persona that will never pay money. For example, a large enterprise vendor in IT wants to get into DevOps. They might incorrectly identify the cloud-native developer as someone who is transitioning from traditional IT to being a developer. This is a real example we have seen. The result was a mess of conflicting content that tried to fit traditional IT language into cloud-native modern development concepts. 

Similarly, a company whose solution is relevant for IT, DevOps, and developers might attempt to produce content that satisfies all personas in every piece. Instead, you should create clear content boundaries for each persona.

Companies can get excited about the amount of enthusiasm and traffic that developers or makers can bring to a site. They don’t realize that focusing on these personas usually results in a lot of trials, but no money.

Persona Elements

Persona development is not a trivial activity. It can’t happen in a silo. For technical audiences, it’s almost always more nuanced than you think. But, once you have your persona, something very exciting can happen when you start to develop your content strategy.

Each persona will have a favorite type of content (assets, blogs, reviews, tutorials, etc). Figure out the preferred type of content for your target personas. Each persona will also have interests indirectly related to your product. For example, if you are a log analysis vendor, you may be going after the DevOps persona. That persona is also interested in infrastructure, release automation, and public cloud.

The exciting part? You can write about those topics and reach that audience – your target audience. Your brand becomes associated with the topic. This is a much stickier brand awareness activity than talking directly and only about what your product does. It’s also more fun for would-be contributors. They want to talk about things related to the DevOps ecosystem—not always about you.

Persona-driven marketing, in my experience, is the most powerful approach to creating clear content. For some organizations, it’s uncomfortable because the metrics are not as clear and getting quick wins is not as easy. Persona-based content marketing needs to be measured by organic traffic numbers and share of voice impact over time.

Persona-Driven Marketing Starts with Defining Your Ideal Customers

The persona-driven marketing approach requires creating and utilizing the personas of your clients. So, use this 7-step process to stay on the right track for your marketing campaign:

1. Research your clients in-depth

  • This includes a combination of quantitative metrics and qualitative surveys designed to learn about your customers. Chiefly focus on their needs, behaviors, and goals as they relate to your business.

2. Model personas

  • Interpret your research and consolidate it into distinct characters that represent your typical customers. Make sure the personas’ characteristics contain little to no overlap.

3. Compare models to existing knowledge

  • Conclusions from data may lose their luster when connected to real people. Ask yourself: do these personas make sense? If not, conduct more qualitative research to zero-in on the humanity of your customers.

4. Choose your focus persona

  • Pick a persona that is especially relevant to your current content marketing. 

5. Describe the focus persona in detail

  • Add a “human touch” to your character and establish a connection with them. Give them a name and expand on their lifestyle, education, interests, goals, attitudes, etc.

6. Place your persona in scenarios

  • Add context to your persona that presents them with problems that need to be solved. How can your product help them solve this problem?

7. Make ongoing adjustments

  • Customers change, so should you. Evaluate the impact your clear content has on share of voice. Revisit your personas and make research-based changes to them as needed. 

In technical markets, marketing teams that are brave and bold in their content marketing strategies and focus on long-term, high-value gains will always come out ahead of vanity metrics and content marketing that provides little value.

For practitioner-created, persona-driven content for your business, contact us.

This post was originally published in June 2019 and updated in April 2021.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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