As more and more companies, organizations and businesses discover the value of content marketing, the more content gets created—and marketed. According to Statista, industry surveys repeatedly show that companies both big and small and across industries turn to content to create and build brand awareness, educate audiences and generate revenue.
Content marketing revenue reached $63 billion in 2022, according to Statista, and the content market industry is set to hit $107 billion by 2026. But just because more businesses welcome this form of marketing and allot bigger budgets to it doesn’t mean they do it well.
In theory, the more content marketing generated means more people are consuming content to educate themselves, but the problem is that the content is often one-dimensional, homogenized and rarely adapted to the audience it’s targeting. It’s probably human and business nature that leads a company to talk to all their audiences the same, in a way that promotes products, services and initiatives to itself rather than talking to audiences based on their personas. It’s self-serving and short-sighted. But it is fixable.
Know Your Audience
To fully understand audiences, businesses need to know what mix of personas comprise those audiences. It’s not just tombstone data and Census categories. Demographics are a good place to start, but awareness, loyalty, education and revenue come from understanding customer and prospect psychographics. Complete and effective personas should be primarily about the problem audience members are trying to solve, their role in their organizations, and what they expect and need from your product or service—and when they need it.
For content marketers who do consider their audiences’ buyer personas, it often stops there. But the smartest content marketers realize they need not only the information buyer personas offer, but the context of each persona as it relates to the buyer journey.
Let’s look at what an effective buyer persona contains:
Do Your Research
Use data and insights gathered by your sales team, surveys, web and other digital metrics to uncover trends and patterns about how prospects or current customers find and consume your content. This might include small-scale interviews of top customers and form fields that capture key persona information, including how prospects find you, or what their experience was with your site and customer service team. Data is waiting in multiple places, so search thoroughly. The more information you have, the better constructed your personas will be.
- Demographic information, or what we call the Census Bureau stats. Age, geographic location, sex and nationality (if its relevant), income (or the size of the budget he or she is responsible for), size of the company, education or certification distinction, and position or job responsibility.
“It’s also helpful to include some descriptive buzzwords and mannerisms of your persona you may have picked up on during your conversations to make it easier for people on your team to identify certain personas when talking to prospects,” according to HubSpot, (or take this shortcut to see HubSpot’s buyer persona guidelines.
- Psychographic or behavioral information. This includes buying behavior, challenges (pain points), interests and communication preferences. Knowing customers’ wants, values, motivations, expectations and pain points affects how you communicate with them. This is also where people start to form into personas, as people make decisions based on how they spend their time, energy and money and not (usually) if they’re a baby boomer or their business is in a suburb.
- Categorization. After you collect and assess information down to your customer and prospects most common attributes, categorize these characteristics into separate personas. Identify those who share the same pain points, expectations and goals and place them in their respective categories. Each category represents a specific persona. Then give them a story to bring them to life. Data isn’t a story, but the fictional representation of your audience helps you reach them more effectively, according to Entrepreneur—and almost everyone else.
Once buyer personas are created and tested for accuracy, it’s time to link them to their journey. Most B2B buyers go through some type of journey when they choose which products or services to purchase—or companies to partner with. No matter how appealing a product or service is, customers don’t usually decide to purchase or engage with it the same way. They are on different journeys. Understanding of buyer personas helps develop and target content that reaches each of your customers or prospects, no matter where they are in the sales funnel.
If your prospects are in this stage, they experience a problem or pain point as they become aware that they have a need and must identify and solve it. Prospects and customers are usually looking for informative content at this stage. Think blog posts (loaded for top-shelf SEO), how-to videos, eBooks, case studies, tip sheets and white papers—all of which can provide valuable information for those looking to investigate their perceived problem.
Keep content more educational than sales-oriented (remember, try to avoid being self-serving) at this stage. If content delivered here helps contextualize the issue for your prospects, that helps build awareness of you and starts to identify you—or your product—as a solution.
In this stage, your prospects or customers are considering solutions to their pain or problems. Your content (and buyer persona) has shifted from a broad range of prospects or customers searching for information to those who are stronger leads. Now is the time for your content to build trust and nourish the budding relationship, so consider what will help your prospects consider you, such as product comparison guides or samples that help buyers evaluate their options.
Video marketing and blogs can help build relationships with your prospects at this stage as you provide them with potential solutions to their problems and position yourself as the authority or expertise on—or just a company that care about—their problem. They aren’t ready to purchase or act just yet, so continue to illustrate how you could help.
In the decision stage, your content should encourage your prospects and customers to choose your products or services rather than other options. Because this is where people start to question their choices and decisions, your content must include things that address their objections (you already know what those are, if you’ve done the research) and remove their indecision.
Live demos, special deals or video product tours can be persuasive at this stage, so prospects can test your product before they buy. For larger and more complex purchases, a consultation offer can help remove their hesitancy by answering questions and providing value, advises HubSpot.
Whether its awareness and exploration, then information, engagement, and ultimately, a sale, or some completely different path, most B2B buyers don’t choose only one way to move through the buyer’s journey.
The buyer persona must accommodate and mesh with the buyer’s journey. If a company only looks at one of these two components (a 180-degree view), its audience may miss the perspective of the overarching message. This is what we call Buyer 360: the intersection between buyer persona (to whom you’re selling and what is important to them) and where they are in the sales funnel. Forbes Advisor agrees.
Too much of the content B2B companies produce is singularly self-serving and that must change for them to generate more revenue, educate more customers and build greater awareness. It’s a paradox, but a truth. You’ll serve yourself more and better over time by making your content marketing less self-serving.
If you’d like to talk more about buyer personas or journeys and where they intersect—and why that intersection is important, call or email us to start a conversation.
Content marketing helps create brand awareness, educate audiences, and generate revenue for businesses of all sizes across various industries.
Content marketing revenue reached $63 billion in 2022.
The content marketing industry is expected to reach $107 billion by 2026.
While more businesses embrace content marketing, the content often lacks adaptation to target audiences, being self-serving rather than audience-centric.
Businesses need to grasp a mix of personas comprising their audiences, delving beyond demographics into psychographics like motivations and pain points.
A comprehensive buyer persona includes research-backed insights, demographic details, psychographic behavior, and categorization for effective targeting.
Businesses can gather data from various sources, including sales teams, surveys, and web metrics, to construct well-informed and effective buyer personas.
Psychographics reveal buying behavior, challenges, interests, and communication preferences, providing a deeper understanding of customer motivations.