FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.


Topic:  Creating better personas to improve content marketing impact

Is always reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message an attainable goal? Creating personas truly representative of people who will engage with brand content is an art and a science that begins with having the right data.

This week we continue the conversation from last week about how to use search and social data to create better personas for content marketing.

Erin O’Brien, President & COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager Marketing & PR GinzaMetrics


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Karen: Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of FOUND Friday, our YouTube video and sound cloud podcast where we talk about trends and challenges in SEO and content marketing. I’m Karen.


Erin: And I’m Erin.


Karen: Today we’re continuing the conversation we started last week about creating effective personas as model audiences for our content creation efforts.


Last week I think we left off talking about the different types of personas and how best to match personas to their intent. I want to pick back up on that conversation and talk about how you are not your audience and how that plays out in content creation and strategic marketing decision making. I know you have a lot to say on this. Care to comment?


Erin: Yeah. Obviously you’re not your audience. What we really mean by that is that you’re a marketer and while you might use the product or service that you’re marketing, you’re no longer a typical consumer because this is something that you have a vested interest in, probably know more about than the average consumer (at least I hope so), and you have more intimate knowledge of what’s going on. This introduces the possibility of bias for your marketing decision making and your data analysis. So by assuming that you know what your audience wants and how they want to be marketed to just because it’s what you want, you’re at risk for making judgment calls that aren’t always really optimal.


Going back to my statement from last week which is that while the Golden Rule is that you should treat people how you want to be treated, the Platinum Rule is that you should treat people how they want to be treated. To do that, you need to know how that is. That starts with data that reflects their habits, preferences, interaction styles, etc.


Last week when we were talking about persona development, what we’re really talking about is understanding people in a better way that helps you understand how they want to be spoken to what that really means for them. We even touched on negative personas in terms of getting some generally good points for getting bad information.


Karen: If we go back to that dating persona that we talked about, when you decide that you know what your audiences want, it’s like going on that bad date when someone orders dinner for you: “I know you’ll like this,” without asking you. That’s annoying for everyone. Making sure that you’re actually responding to your audiences and giving them what they want and listening probably more than what you’re speaking is always a good rule of thumb.


What are some ways that we can use search data to get to know our audiences?


Erin: I really feel like search data has gotten overlooked pretty often in persona creation and that’s really a mistake. With search data, you’re able to tell how people are talking about products and services natively and how they’re really speaking about your industry natively without typical paid prompts. It’s not advertising. It’s not, “Hey, click on this.” It’s not like you have not forced yourself in front of them, it’s how they are seeking these things on their own time and via their own devices which is obviously a big part of search.


What you’re really able to look into here is how they’re actually describing, what words, what phrases are they looking for. Alongside that, what content are they consuming when they find it? You know what people are talking about and how they’re talking about it, there are a lot of different really good things that can come from this such as better outreach on paid efforts because you know specifically what phraseology they want to use. You can better optimize social things like that.


The other thing that you can do when you’re talking about better personas with this is if you’re working on your personas, you start to create this group – we talked about groups last week – you can see how there are differences within each group in terms of how they discuss and describe your market. For instance, this may vary across regions, ages, incomes, different types of styles, however you break down your personas. But people may describe your product and services differently in each so you need a different set of search terms. You should understand how those people are looking for things.


The second part of that is the content side. When we’re talking about your persona groups, looking for things in a different way and how they search – like some people may search on certain types of devices more frequently, some people based on location or education level or whatever may use one type of style of conversation more – you’re also going to see them match up with content differently. So that can even be broken down into maybe one of your persona groups really likes to be marketed to using e-mail while another one maybe really likes social media. Or one group may really respond well to video content while the other one may respond really well to blog posts or infographics or something. Understanding how those things really work from a native perspective will help you build out much more comprehensive personas.


Karen: I think historically, a lot of these personas were originally built based on existing customer profiles. Who are our customers? Who have already bought our products? That’s not enough. Can you talk a little bit about why creating personas based on customer base is just not enough?


Erin: That’s so dangerous I think. People who have already bought are already doing the thing that you want. Obviously analyzing what went right in that process is really important. Even back in one step away from that to missed opportunities so people got really far down the line with you, say software or whatever. Maybe they did a trial or used it for a month that didn’t convert to being a paid contract customers or something. They bought your product one time and never bought it again or visited your store and then left without a purchase, whatever this case may be. When we’re talking about somebody who was highly motivated and was at the right place at the right time and knew you were there and got information about you and still didn’t choose you, what happened here?


Analyzing what’s going on there is really important. So is analyzing – as we were talking about last week – people who fit your persona group and still don’t engage with you. Either they shouldn’t be in your persona group and you need to narrow down your persona further or you’ve got a section of people in there who aren’t really converting.


Again, we’ll go back to medium, method, and message. Is it your messaging? Are you not able to reach them because you’re not saying the right thing? This is where search data can come in and really help you out because you can find out what is it that they’re searching for and how are we not doing it?


Is it your medium? Is it how you’re getting things out there? If these people really like video and you don’t have any videos, missed opportunity.


Is it your method? Are you just not in the places that they are. Maybe you’re doing Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and whatever but you’re not on Pinterest. That’s where they are. You have to look into all these different things. All of those are really different.


When we’re talking about examining our customer base – we go back to this dating example from last week – if you keep having all of these failed relationships, not looking at how it was that things went wrong or didn’t work out with those people is what’s going to prevent you from having a more successful situation in the future. If you go out and you just presumptuously order dinner for people all the time or take somebody who is a PETA member to a steak house or something, you’re probably just really not paying very close attention. Conversely, sometimes you’re just picking people who aren’t very compatible with you in general and you need to shift your view and your expectations a little bit.


There are all these different ways that only looking at people who have already made this choice can be kind of dangerous. The other thing to do obviously – I will say obviously and it may not be obvious I guess – is you need to look at who is choosing your competitors and see if you can analyze the types of people who are picking other people in your market.


Do their personas look different than yours? Is it more likely that people in suburban areas pick your competitors than urban areas pick you or is it more likely that people who shop at organic stores pick you and don’t pick your competitor? All these weird, different things but you really want to get in there and figure that out because that’s going to help you use your marketing time and money much better and it’s going to lead to more appropriate and probably richer conversions that last longer.


Karen: Earlier in the process, if you’re losing audience to your competitors, then that’s where you use your Competitor Discovery. You figure out what content is taking that audience away early. That also helps if you figure out there’s a whole section of audience is going to your competitor, to find out who those people are and how they fit your personas and how you’re targeting messaging to them too.


How important do you think it is to know the vocabulary of your personas? How can that be included in persona profiles?


Erin: This goes back to what we were talking about a few minutes ago with understanding at the group level, how people describe things differently. This can be across regions like regional dialect differences. This can be across education types. This can be across even the difference between how a person who’s a sports fan versus not might refer to things, the types of analogies and colloquialisms that they would use.


When we’re talking about the importance of vocabulary choices, you can’t get much more important than that because you want to optimize for how somebody might look for something or you want to optimize your paid opportunities for the things that are going to connect with them the most readily. The best way, in my opinion, to do that is via search because people are going to type things in or look for things or interact with things that when they’re natively looking for it, they’re telling you what their vocabulary is. You don’t have to guess. They’re using their vocabulary to find things. If you have content that matches how they want to be spoken to or uses their own linguistic pattern, you’re much more likely to convert or they’re much more likely to click on you first.


Same thing with paid. In your advertising, in your medium, look into using these particular dialects and styles. Look into using the exact types of words and phrases. Same thing with social posts. If you’re going to make a bunch of posts for social media, why wouldn’t you want to use the words and phrases and terms that people are already looking for to get to your content or to get to your competitors’ content? We can show you the words and phrases and things that are driving traffic to your competitors’ content. Why wouldn’t you want to get out ahead of that and take traffic from them? That just seems like such a no-brainer to me when we’re talking about getting out ahead of stuff.


One size does not fit all when it comes to creating content, creating media, creating social posts, even e-mail subject lines. I would recommend – considering varying e-mail subject lines by persona group and just making really small tweaks based on how they converse natively on both social and with search.


One of the things I’d like to talk about next time is a lot of this conversation around this intersection of search and social when what we’re talking about is discovering really how people are talking organically and then what these organic conversations look like for the rest of your marketing mix or how they can tell you where markets may shift or how you can better interact with that. But obviously getting to know the vocabulary and understanding what people’s natural preferences are in terms of how they want to be spoken to, how they speak to their friends, how they speak to their family, how they talk to their own technology gives you a little leg up.


Karen: Let’s talk about quantity of personas. It sounds like people need to have hundreds of personas for their brand and I think that’s a mistake. Limiting the number of personas seems like something a little bit more manageable. What do you think?


Erin: I don’t think that there really needs to be a limit. I don’t think that you have to market individually to every persona. I think you can build personas and group them together and market to groups of personas. The idea with the personas is when it comes down to measurement, when it comes to if you want to be able to market to them individually, I don’t think that there’s any harm in developing more than two or three.


When we’re talking about personas, you can have master persona groups the same way you can have master keyword and content groups and then you can filter down more specifically in there. An example of that would be – I was talking to Home Depot about some of the stuff and I was using lawn mower as an example. A starting keyword group might be lawn and garden, then underneath that might be mowers, and then underneath that might be zero turn mowers, then it would be gas-powered zero turn mowers.


You can keep getting more and more granular. The real idea there is better analysis of information, not necessarily creating a bigger management structure. I actually think that setting it up this way from the get-go makes your life way easier as opposed to harder. I actually think things get decidedly less complicated when you’re able to slice and dice things at these levels because you can make smarter decisions. When you can make smarter decisions, you’re moving the ball forward faster.


Karen: That’s interesting. I’m glad I asked you that question. That kind of counters to some of what’s being said out there but it all makes sense.


That’s all the time we have for today. We’ll be seeing everybody next week. In the meantime, send your questions and comments to me, You can always join the conversation on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday. Until then, we’ll see you next week.


Erin: Bye.


Karen: Bye-bye.

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