You Are Only As Good As the Company You Keep – Maturing Your Personas

Posted 7/24/2015 3:08 AM by Jeff Julian

I love the saying, “You are only as good as the company you keep.” It says so much in many different areas of your life. Whether it is pointing to your actions when you are around your friends, the business ethics you hold at work, or the way you handle conflict online.  The people you have around you matters.

When it comes to your content, the ability to reach the targets you want will depend on those you are attracting now and the feedback you receive.

Missing the Mark

Imagine you are producing a magazine for trail runners but your initial subscribers are mainly in the gym.  You would probably have some great feedback about what drives endurance because one of the most challenging mental activities runners face is training on a machine.

Then let’s say you produces several pieces of content about breaking through the voices in your head based on some research you did with an audience survey. They gave you all sorts of useful tips such as finding a spot on the wall to focus on, listening to music, and maintaining a consistent cadence.

That content might hit the mark for the treadmill runner but if you forget the aspects of staying focused on the changes in the trail and when to slow down, you might be leading the audience member into danger. Having headphones on when trail running is one of the easiest ways to get hit by a biker or miss that bear that is running straight at you. If you plan to find a spot and focus on it to allow your mind to rest from distractions, well good luck finding that. And with the variety of quick elevation changes on most trails, keeping a cadence and not adjusting based the direction you are going or the grade of the hill will burn you out and cause you to fall.

Since most of our initial personas are usually pretty basic, as they should be, it is easy to get caught up in numbers. Having 1000 subscribers of “runners” for your magazine is far more rewarding than 46 who consider themselves “trail runners.”

Steps for Maturing Your Personas

Having an effective content marketing effort means you reach the audience you want and not just any audience. This means the Content Owner on your team should be focusing a lot of their time reviewing the market and identifying the characteristics, goals, and needs of the audience you are building.

Once you have identified the characteristics of the personas for your audience and you have written them down, you should expect things will change. Consistent review and analysis will drive better content and the trust, impact, and authority you are building.

Here is a list of areas for your personas development you should review on a regular basis:

  • Persona Goals – My goals as the CMO of AJi change quarterly. I make pivots and adjustments based on the same data you are gathering about me if I am your persona. As each of my goals change, there are new opportunities you can create content around to help me reach them.

    I recently had a sales person consistently knock on my inbox begging for a meeting. Interruptions suck for motivated people so I kindly explained to them that I know what they do and if I have a need I might call on them. I shared with them my fears about their business model. Then I said if they would find a way to get me information that will calm these fears when I do have the need, chances are higher I will call on them. This could be the exact message your audience wishes they could tell your sales team and it is our job as marketers to step up and into this role.

  • Characteristics – If you quickly built your initial personas off of familiar things about all people in your area of focus, there is a high probability you missed some particular characteristics that will best drive your content.

    For example, the title of Chief Information Officer means entirely different things when you are talking about a company of 100 versus an enterprise of 50,000. Industry segments, geographic region, or economic status might be additional characteristics you could add to your persona. If a new characteristic causes a portion of your target audience to be lost, consider splitting the persona into two or more. Just like I suggest when beginning your persona development, don’t go too crazy here but take it one step at a time.

  • Ability to drive business – If your personas are no longer in a position to make or influence a business decision, it might be time to part ways. This is an imperative decision so do not do it without careful consideration and time to check your hypothesis. If you have built an audience, then you have most likely built trust. This confidence should not be ruined because the person is no longer making the buying decision.  They may have just moved into an influence or advisory role and are valuable brand advocates.

  • Available content – My personas are mostly in B2B marketing at the medium to enterprise level. The content we create is attempting to provide value in a sea of marketers who are also trying to offer value with their own content. Just like the early adopters of technology are usually technologist themselves, those who are thought leaders in marketing are marketers. The impact this has on our Content Backlog is huge.

    If someone else has written the article I want to write, it is better for me to write something new. I might have some initial success because my audience has not seen the other content but the pointing to the other piece of content and continuing the conversation would have similar results as well as the ability to have long time impact in the search engines. Writing “How content marketing can help you reach plumbers” will probably have a better chance of success for a plumbing supply persona than “What is content marketing?”

  • Business disruptions –Almost every company I work with, as well as my own, is facing a significant disruption to some area of their business. Whether it is your own business or in your personas industry, you should always keep a close eye on this. Ultimately it will change the value you are delivering in the content you are producing and even the types of content and their associated channels.

  • Adjustments in our offering – If you are offering a new service, product, or the expansion into new regional territories, you may need to create new personas or extend the persona you already have. If you’re targeting stay-at-home parents and just launched a mobile application, it may be beneficial to create a new persona or expand the goals or characteristics you list for an existing one to drive downloads.

  • Seasonal impact – Does the change in the season affect your personas? If it does, you should list the impact it has on their business along with the seasons. Landscapers, florist, hotels, and hospitals are just a few types of companies that have personas within who could be looking to solve different problems based on seasonal impact.

  • Ways content is consumed – Is your persona more likely to watch a short video or would they rather read an article? This answer is no longer cut and dry and keeping a pulse on the way your personas consume content will open up opportunities to the way you present the content. If the answer is yes to the question above, is there a point where you should test the waters for publishing an article along with a short video explaining the subject along? If so, then this is a characteristic of your persona or a content channel you should document.

  • Where they hang out – There is so much content out there suggesting networks and communities are where folks in “B2B” or “B2C” hang out. Even worse are the infographics and articles focused on “millennials”. They all make huge assumptions based on data that could steer you down the wrong path. If an office worker is hanging on Facebook all day because they are bored and gave that information but your persona is mostly in the air traveling between clients, your social media posts are just not that consumable at 30,000 feet, yet. Putting your content in print, eBook, video, or audio format might just be the thing that opens up the desired opportunities.

  • Entourage – Take a moment and think of your key decision makers for the products and services you offer as a rock star. Rock stars have a lot of fans but they trust the possessions and ask for advice from their entourage. For your persona, who are the individuals that are around them on a regular basis and how much impact do they have on offering advice? The answer to this question might open up a door for alternative personas you can focus on and give you another way to repurpose existing content.

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