by Sujan Patel
When my team and I built the corporate email look-up service Voila Norbert, we expected sales and marketing professionals would be the ones most interested in using its capabilities for prospecting and lead generation.
So, we built our buyer personas around those assumptions and started creating content to appeal to that audience.
But then a funny thing happened. When we were talking to customers, we found a surprising number of people using the platform coming from another group we hadn't expected at all: recruiters. Turns out recruiters were using the service to get in touch with potential job candidates.
Once we knew those users existed, we were able to support their needs -- and bring in more of them -- by drilling down and creating hyper-targeted content. Here's how we did it.
Step 1: Develop your buyer personas.
You can't drill down into your buyer personas until you have them in the first place. So, while standard buyer-persona generation strategies won't uncover all possible audiences -- those recruiters we missed being a case in point --- they're still a helpful starting point.
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Step 2: Build content for your established buyer personas.
Once you have your general buyer personas established, start building content to support their needs. This might include content that:
Addresses their pain points
Supports different stages in their buyer journeys
Answers important questions they have
At this point, don't worry about hitting all possible audiences or buyer personas. Your goal for now is just to start gathering information about who you're reaching with content.
Step 3: Look for indicators that your buyer personas' needs aren't being met.
As you publish content, you generate a significant volume of engagement and conversion data. If you're thoughtful about this information, you'll be able to pick up on signs that you aren't meeting the needs of all possible audiences with your content, including:
Regularly getting the same questions posed to customer service
A high churn or low engagement with content (as measured by bounce rate and average time on page)
Onboarding or survey results that aren't in alignment with your buyer personasEvidence that new (sometimes unexpected) types of customers are finding value in your product or service.
As an example, say the content we'd created to support sales development reps using our client Voila Norbert for lead-prospecting was generating high bounce rates. Or, say that it wasn't driving the same conversion rates as content targeting marketers using the tool for influencer marketing campaigns. Both of these signs could have pointed to a need to refine our buyer personas.
If you aren't sure how to find or react to these indicators, there's an easier way: Just talk to people. Talk to your customers and survey them about what they're looking for and how they're using your product or service. Doing this in our project helped us find the new audience of recruiters that we wouldn't have thought to target otherwise.
Step 4: Refine your buyer personas.
Take the data you gathered in Step 3 and add to your understanding of your buyer personas, creating "sub-personas" as needed. Two things might happen here:
1. The need for a new buyer persona. If your data and research suggest you have a new audience you haven't addressed, you'll want to ask yourself some key questions before investing in the full buyer persona creation and content roll-out process:
How large is this potential new audience?
Which of their problems does my solution solve?
How closely does my solution match their needs?
If you're looking at a small audience ("small" relative to the size of your primary personas), or if your solution will really only band-aid their needs until a better option comes along, all that trouble might not be worth it. But if you see a potentially large audience with a strong use case for your product, you might find it worthwhile to incorporate them into your content strategy.
2. The need to improve an existing persona. Sometimes, the data you gather through content creation and promotion helps you identify misconceptions you've made about your audience. For example, it might prove you're wrong about:
Who they are
The pain points they're experiencing
How significant these pain points are
How they're using your solution
We'll test these assumptions in the next step.
Step 5: Create hyper-targeted content for your new personas
Following your analysis in Step 4, drill down into your new personas to create content that's hyper-targeted to their needs.
In the case of our client,that meant connecting with recruiting professionals to better understand their needs, and then building content that supported them -- whether or not they were using our tool.
So, continually revisit your buyer personas. Watch your engagement and conversion data to determine whether or not you've made the right corrections. The more you use this process to dial your content strategy into the needs of your actual customers, the greater the impact it will have on your business's success.
Have you ever found an unexpected audience using your product?