More Than Personas: How to Know What Your Audience Really Wants


Your content marketing only works when your audience responds to it. That’s a “no-duh” statement – we all know that. So beyond buyer personas, how can you really, really understand what your audience wants and how you can help them?

Walk out the door

Get out of your office and make sure your marketing team is always meeting with customers. Marketing managers should set aggressive, quarterly goals for meaningful customer discussions (standing in a trade show booth doesn’t count). Just like you may have targets for content production and marketing qualified leads, make sure you have targets for customer engagement.

Steve Rotter, chief marketing officer, Acrolinx | @sjrotter

Talk, watch, think

I’m actually not a big fan of personas. But, I do love spending a lot of time with real customers, hearing their frustrations, talking to them about the industry and its challenges, seeing what speakers are talking about on stages, watching the blogosphere and social media to see what’s resonating and being discussed, and generally being part of our customers’ world. I also love doing the work myself – being my own customer and feeling the same pain our customers feel. Those experiences give me a much better sense of the field than a persona.

Rand Fishkin, co-author, The Art of SEO, co-founder, and Moz | @randfish

Ask and track

Two words: Ask them! We’re always asking our customers what we’re doing well, and what we can do to improve. We engage with our prospects via online chat, outbound calling efforts, and targeted campaigns to understand the challenges they are facing, and how our software can help.

We keep track of these insights in tools like Marketo and Salesforce – and share the information via Chatter and internal wikis so everyone in the company is updated and informed.

Mickey Mencin, director of corporate communications, Hyland | @mmencin

Don’t make this error

Messaging segmented by responsibility and role (personas) reminds me of a behavioral science term, fundamental attribution error. This is a calculation in which humans overestimate the effect of a person’s disposition on their behaviors, good or bad, while underestimating the influence of situational factors.

Think about when someone cuts you off on the freeway. You might immediately assume the person did so because he or she is a jerk. But a host of situational factors could be behind the hazardous driving, right? In all likelihood, the situation is dictating the behavior, not the disposition.

With persona-based messaging, you’re maintaining that role and responsibility matter more than the pain stemming from the status-quo situation.

To truly get decision-makers to rally around the prospect of change, your messaging should take aim at the situational factors that, if left unresolved, threaten a company’s most important business goals.

Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, Corporate Visions Inc. | @TRiesterer

Look inside

It’s a simple litmus test: Would I read/watch this? If the answer is “no,” then I know some serious aspect of it is out of alignment with the audience.

Joey Hall, vice president of client services, EnVeritas Group | @JKHallJr

Pull up a digital seat

I’m a big fan of social listening. Get as close as possible to what your audience is doing behaviorally and learn from it. The internet is a gigantic ethnography. It’s our job to pay attention.

Julie Fleischer, senior director, data + content + media, The Kraft Heinz Company | @jfly

Dig deeper into data

Learn from your metrics. Don’t just glance at your open and click-through rates, figure out the click-to-view ratio for each article in your newsletter or offer in your promotional campaign. Of those who opened, how many of them clicked on article A? Article B? What if you sent the same or a similar topic to those who clicked on article A? Were they more likely to click through on the matched topic or on another topic in your next email?

Dig in almost at the individual level to find out what your subscribers want from you. And don’t forget to watch the negative metrics, too. A bump in unsubscribe rates could mean that you’re off track, either with too much frequency or not enough value (relevance).


Source: SITE.

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