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Service Persona’s not your brand

June 13, 2019 - Practitioner Marketing - , , , ,
By: Chris Riley

Content marketing can be cut and dried. You can create content about yourself for the purpose of self-promotion. Or you can create content for SEO, serving clicks simply for the purpose of traffic versus providing content that imparts value. Both of these are valid, and nice because they are clearly measurable. But organizations that have leveraged content marketing to boost credibility provide value to the market. They are focused on being a destination for target personas, and that approach has long-term content marketing value that far exceeds quick hits. Content marketing should be architected around personas, not your brand.

The “practitioner” part of practitioner content marketing, a core offering of Fixate, implies something very important. It implies individuals with specific skill sets and personalities — otherwise known as personas.

General content marketing is usually impersonal. Its architecture is based on intuiting what will drive clicks and downloads. However, because this strategy is based on keyword research, and assumptions do not always align with the expectations of the target consumer, you will get the clicks, but the value of those clicks is really low.

While the long-tail value of true practitioner content marketing might be frustrating to some, its impact is far greater than showing off pretty graphs with numbers behind them that have low to no value. By engaging in a persona-driven content marketing strategy, your brand establishes a relationship with the market, and encourages repeat visitors to your blog or assets (instead of single-click visitors who are often disappointed, and are discouraged from coming back). Long-term does far better with organic search traffic generation than a single keyword-targeted post.

Do you really know who they are?

The biggest challenge is really knowing your persona. A lot of organizations get stuck in clearly defining their target market, defining too many personas, or defining a persona that will be interesting but will never pay money. For example, a large enterprise vendor in IT that wants to get into DevOps might incorrectly identify the cloud-native developer as someone who is transitioning from traditional IT to being a developer. This example is a real one we have seen, and the resulting content was a conflicted mess 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 try to produce content that attempts to satisfy all personas in every piece, versus creating 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, not realizing that focusing on these personas usually results in a lot of trials, but no money.

Persona development is not a trivial activity. It can’t happen in a silo, and 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 build out your content strategy.

Each persona will have a favorite type of content (assets, blogs, reviews, tutorials, etc). Figure out what type of content your target persona(s) prefers. Each persona will also have interests that are indirectly related to your product. For example, if you are a log analysis vendor going after the DevOps persona, that persona is also interested in infrastructure, release automation, and public cloud. The exciting part about this is that you can write about those topics and still get the same audience. You become guilty by association, which is a much more sticky brand awareness activity then talking directly and only about what your product does. It’s also more fun for would-be contributors, because they want to talk about things related to the DevOps ecosystem, and not always about you.

Persona-based content marketing, in my experience, is the most powerful approach to creating 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 conversation/voice impact over time.

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


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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