With so much competition out there, the content you create needs to stand out. It has to be content your ideal customer is hungry for. So before you start to write, it's a good idea to know who you're writing for, who this ideal customer actually is, what they need to know and how you can help them find out.
So, who is your ideal customer? If you haven't done so already, now's the time to get under their skin. And that takes more than dreaming up a make-believe character (leave that for tonight’s bedtime story). It takes research.
If you really want to produce a profile, or 'buyer persona', to help you create relevant and useful content, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and do some digging. Here are some questions you should ask yourself to get started:
Who do you already do business with?
Your existing customers are a great source of material. Get out there and start talking to them. Creating a customer profile using information about these customers will help you:
win business from new customers with the same profile as your existing ones, by creating problem-solving content for them;
nurture your relationship with your existing customers, by creating content for them that shows you haven’t forgotten them.
Remember, your ideal-customer profile is there to inform content. When you're taking to your existing customers, always ask ‘how will my question (and their answer) help me create content for this person?’
Who would you like to sell to that you don't already?
Is there a new customer group you want to aim at? This isn’t the same as wanting to expand your existing customer group.
You might a have a new product that appeals to a younger person or you realise that your service could be pitched to larger companies.
Remember, whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, you need to engage with people. What are the specific interests and concerns of the younger person that differentiate them from your existing customers? Who is the person within that larger company you need to build a relationship with? How, specifically, are you going to engage them in conversation through your content?
Talk to prospects and learn about their particular needs. Then you can start creating content that will attract the new customer group you're targeting.
Who have you sold to in the past? Do you want to work with them again?
It’s not much fun losing customers or clients. But they left for a reason. It may be because you've outgrown them and don’t want them back. Or maybe they felt you weren’t looking after them well enough.
Either way, you can use what you know about past customers to inform the buyer persona you’re now developing.
Who are the customers you haven’t managed to reach?
If you limit your buyer persona research to people/businesses you’re doing business with, you’ll miss out on the buyers that passed you by - and the reasons why. Find out why they didn’t buy, what turned them off, why they never considered you in the first place. Reflecting these insights in your buyer persona will have a major impact on your content strategy.
Who are the customers your competitors are selling to?
Depending on how niche your offer is, you’re more than likely fighting for business with a number of competitors. Find out who your competitors are selling to. If these are the type of people you want to sell to, use their characteristics to inform your buyer persona.
Do you need more than one buyer persona?
You may well do. Obviously, you don't want one buyer persona for the male CEO, another for the female CEO, yet another for the bachelor CEO, and so on, unless these distinctions are critical for the content you’ll produce.
If you're a wedding photographer, you may decide to have one buyer persona for the bride and another for the mother of the bride. Both are potential buyers, and if they’ve each got their own problems to solve before they’ll hire you, two buyer personas will help you create content that will resonate with them both.
What information are you looking for to build your buyer persona?
Here are the bare bones of what you’ll be researching.
Goals and aspirations
Where your buyer persona is on their customer journey
Keywords and phrases
Day-to-day pain points
Essential problems and challenges
Specific barriers to working with you
How they like to receive content
How they measure success
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves, get down to some research and put some flesh on these bones.
Speak to your sales and customer service teams
They’re talking to your customers on a daily basis, so their knowledge is gold dust. They’ll have real insight into the type of person you’re doing business with, and in particular:
the challenges your customers face
how they like them solved
any concerns your customers had/have about working with you
how you’ve overcome these.
They’ll also be able to shed light on why they weren’t able to convert leads into new business, and on any customers, you've lost.
As well as speaking to your sales teams, sit in on their calls. You’ll get a first-hand idea of what’s important to your prospects and customers.
Interview existing customers
They must like what you do, so it makes sense to find out why. Then you can keep them happy with laser-sharp content, and attract more like-minded customers.
How did they find you in the first place?
What content do they like?
What pain points have you helped them overcome?
Were there any doubts they had about doing business with you, and how did you help them overcome these?
What do they particularly like about your customer service?
What social media platforms do they use? Are they happy with your presence on these platforms?
Interview past customers
They’ll be able to tell you what worked well for them, but also why they no longer use you. This will help you develop the problems, challenges and pain points of the persona you’re developing.
Why did they leave you?
Have they gone to a competitor?
What’s the competitor doing differently?
What would it take to bring them back to you?
Interview the ones that got away
Follow up the leads you failed to convert, and the buyers who aren’t buying from you. Find out what’s keeping them away from you. If you base your buyer persona solely on the people you’re already doing business with, you’ll get a deceptively narrow view of your potential customer base.
What’s stopping them from buying?
What turned them off you?
If they knew about you, why didn't they engage with you?
If they didn't discover you, why was this?
Are they buying your product from a competitor?
What does this competitor do that you don't?
Are there any specific barriers to them doing business with you?
Use a survey tool to carry out your research
If the thought of hours and hours on the phone or Skype fills you with dread, think about using an online survey tool to get answers fast.
Of course, nothing beats having an actual conversation with a customer: being able to ask a question based on the answer you’ve just heard gives you deeper insight into the buyer’s motivations and needs.
But online surveys allow you to hit a whole raft of current, past and potential customers in one go. They’re a useful way of gathering valuable data. Just make sure you only hit people who are, or have been, genuinely interested in interacting with your brand.
Use social media to build your profile
Before diving into social media, remember what you're trying to do: you’re mining for data on what makes your ideal customer tick so you can create content specifically for them.
Have a look again at the list of the bare bones earlier on in this article of what you’ll be researching. How can you use what your customers (past, present and prospective) are doing on the various channels to help you put flesh onto these bones? Where will you get insight into their values, goals and pain points? How will you discover how they like to receive content? What about their essential problems and challenges? And the keywords and phrases they’re using?
Use the analytics tools within your social media accounts to find out who is interacting with you on social media. There should be a range of buyers on your social media channels: from casual visitors to existing customers. Depending which platform you’re looking into, you can pick up some useful data:
basic demographics (age, gender, location etc)
who’s engaging with your content and how (likes, comments, shares)
which buyers prefer which platforms
what your buyers are interested in
their tech habits e.g. the device they’re using to engage with your content.
Listen out for trending conversations in your market.
Social listening is an important way of keeping track of what the social streams are saying about the market you’re in, your brand, and the product or service you're offering. By being up to speed with the latest trending conversations, you can join in and respond to appropriate content.
There are plenty of paid social listening tools that will monitor the streams you ask them to and serve you up with the results. If you prefer to do it yourself, make sure you set up your social media channels so you’re following thought leaders and competitors; join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry; and keep tabs on mentions of your brand, your customers and relevant keywords across all social media channels.
Investigate your competitors’ social media networks to find out how they’re engaging with their followers, and what their followers are saying about them.
Look at what works. If people are liking, commenting on and sharing a competitor’s content, this content works: it’s meeting the needs of the type of customer you want to attract, and giving you valuable insight into their essential problems and challenges, and how they like to receive content.
You can learn a lot from posts, comments and reviews on competitors’ social feeds: what buyers like and don’t like about the product or service, their specific needs and problems, and the words and phrases they’re using. All this helps you with your content creation.
Time to get to work! Create your buyer persona step-by-step. See our free buyer persona template - coming soon!
Blog in a box
Here’s how I recommend you do your ideal-customer research, step-by-step.
Step 1: Decide which categories of buyer you need to talk to: existing customers, past customers, missed sales, prospects.
Step 2: Identify the specific individuals you need to contact in each category.
Speak to your sales and customer services team for guidance and inspiration in Steps 1 and 2.
Step 3: Decide how you will interview the individuals you've selected: in person (face-to-face, phone, Skype etc)? Questionnaire? Online survey?
Step 4: Develop a list of the questions you’re going to ask in each category of your buyer persona.
Step 5: Use social media to explore trending conversations, drill into your competitors’ networks and discover more about your own followers.
Step 6: Do your interviews.
Step 7: Collate your data.
If you have any questions or would like some help with copywriting or content creation, please do get in touch.