Why Customer Personas Are Essential to Content Strategy

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‘Just what makes a good content strategy’?

It’s a question we frequently hear in our training. People want to know exactly how to create an effective content strategy for their business. What do they need to say? Which platform/s should they use? What messages should they bring? Are there any particular products or services they should highlight? Very often people want to jump straight into the doing, before addressing one key part – who are their audience? Exactly what do their customer personas want to hear?

We’ve all been there. There are so many possible ways that we can create a content marketing strategy for our business, and yet, how do we know if it’s going to be effective? It can be very tempting to want to crack on with creating content and putting it out there, and yet a little bit of preparation time beforehand can bring huge rewards in the long term. By spending time identifying your customer personas, before starting to put out content, your content is likely to reach the exact audience you wanted to speak to.

Know your audience

Any good communication training starts with this phrase – know your audience.

By developing essential customer personas, you’re able to do precisely that. The customer personas allow your audience to have a name, a face, demographic and personality. You can discover how they think, how they speak, what they read, what platforms they use, and what their pain points are.

Any strategy that is developed will be targeted to them. By creating content that is targeted, it’s much more likely to build your target audience’s trust. They will trust that you are providing goods or service that they need, at a quality they desire.

Stop trying to be all things to all men

We work with businesses who are so keen to get messages of their amazing products or services across that they want to say EVERYTHING to EVERYONE.

This just isn’t effective. By trying to be all things to all men, the chances are that you’re going to please no one. As Confucius says ‘the man who chases two rabbits will catch none’. Be targeted. By hoping that each bit of content will catch every customer, your message is going to be confused, and a potential customer is unlikely to see precisely how you can help them.

The key to an effective content marketing strategy is to identify exactly who it is that you’re wishing to speak to. By understanding precisely who your target audience is, this increases your chances of developing a strategy that can effectively connect with them. Customer personas are characters created by you, that typify your key clients.

For example, imagine a florist just starting out in business. If they communicate by listing all the services they do and every flower the offer, it may seem like the quickest method of ‘just getting something out’, but they are likely to find very few people understanding why they are better for them than the florist down the road. On the other hand, if they have developed their customer personas and know that one customer type is a husband with an upcoming anniversary, they can put out carefully created content that shows people just how beautiful their bespoke anniversary bouquets are. There will always be people with an upcoming anniversary, and, if the florist can demonstrate that they understand their need and will pay attention to their requirements through the development of personas, they will get more sales.

What are customer personas?

We advise clients to aim for 4-5 personas that will encompass their key market targets. By creating a content strategy that speaks to these people, you will be targeting your key audience. This develops a more direct line of communication and ensures that your desired audience feels that you’re speaking directly to them.

We also advise our clients to make the customer personas as lifelike as possible. This means taking time in understanding exactly who they are. We need to know their income, their lifestyle, how they like to socialise, how they like to learn, how busy they are, whether they have a family etc…. All these things enable you to create a content strategy that communicates directly with them. Giving your personas a name also helps you when communicating. They become people, and as such, you can create content and strategy that speaks to them directly.

Thinking back to our florist, they may have another customer persona that is a bride to be. By developing an understanding of exactly who that bride is, what their budget is likely to be, their background, what publications they will use for research, the florist can develop a strategic campaign that will target the bride to be’s pain points and have a presence on the platforms where she’s looking. By understanding the character further, the florist can also research who else is in that market. They can then develop content that stands out from their competitors.

Help people to see the benefit you bring

Estate agents often say that they know when someone is about to put an offer on a house because they start imagining themselves in it. This is essentially the place you are hoping that people will get to with your product or services. You want your content marketing to help them to start to see the benefit that you bring to them. To help them to begin imagining what could happen if they buy your product or service.

An effective filter

Any effective content strategy is going to understand exactly who it is speaking to. Once they’ve been identified, all of your content put out needs to go through the lens of these personas. If you’re about to put out a piece of content that won’t be relevant to any of the personas, don’t put it out. It will muddy your message and you’ll look confused.

How can you develop your customer personas?

Just how do we start to develop a customer persona? We would advocate that you start with no more than four. These personalities will then be the people you target your communication to. The more that you can understand exactly who the persona represents, the clearer your communication is going to be.

Think about the example of the florist. We’ve started by knowing that a key customer is a husband with an upcoming anniversary. The more that we can understand about who he is, his typical budget, how he communicates, his values. The more that we can understand how to create content that speaks directly to him.

We need to give him a name, know they type of area he lives in, the size of the family, his income, the content he consumes (both traditional and digital), his priorities etc. We can base him on the florist’s experience of their customers. Although the persona won’t be a direct match for every customer, they will be representative of a key element of the florist’s customers. By understanding how he communicates and what he values, his frustrations and his goals, we can develop a strategy of engaging content to reach him.

Example customer persona

As an example, the florist’s customer is called Steve. He’s 45 years old, has a family of 4, commutes for a living, listens to podcasts on his commute. He reads the papers and uses Twitter, values his time with the family, professionalism, creativity and customer care. The florist can then create content that is found on the relevant platforms and re-iterates his values and how the services provided are professional and hassle-free, giving him more time for his family, he is more likely to pay attention to this particular florist over the others in the area.

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