This isn’t your first rodeo. You know your business and you know your customers, so why is that every article about digital or inbound marketing starts with what seems like a no brainer?

Define your ideal customer persona

You’ve been told to build these persona profiles time and again, but for most small business owners, it feels redundant. But it doesn’t have to be. Sure, writing a short description of your ideal customer doesn’t do much, unless you are training new sales and marketing professionals, but what about an in-depth persona profile that really gets to the heart of what the people you want on your website actually need?

That’s why this is so important. Let’s take a closer look at what a persona is, and more importantly, how to write content that targets them effectively.

The Definition of an Inbound Marketing Persona

An inbound marketing persona is an avatar of sorts. It’s a high level “bucket” that captures everything that matters about the ideal customer you want to engage with.

More importantly, it puts a name and a face to that avatar, building out a fictional character who can interact with your brand.

Why is this so important?

Because it vastly improves the quality of the content you produce. Think about how differently you talk on a conference call with eight other people vs a quick call to a good friend or a family member. You open up, you relax, you know your audience and you stop being so careful.

The biggest problem with poor performing marketing campaigns is that they play it safe. They use a scattershot approach that never commits. It’s written for everyone, and as such it’s written for no one.

The solution is to write for one person – the ideal persona you’ve defined who should be being your content.

This doesn’t need to be a brain burning exercise, either. A good inbound marketing persona is short – no more than a page and a half – and touches only shortly on background and demographics. The heart of what you need to know is how this person asks questions and how they get answers to those questions.

Here’s a summary of what a good persona profile looks like:

  1. Background – Who is this person. Where do they live, how old are they, do they have children, what are their life goals and major job duties.
  2. Primary Concerns – What are the biggest problems and concerns that keep this prospect up at night? Your sales team is a gold mine for these types of problems and questions.
  3. Content Desired – What kind of content are they most likely to want? Again, your sales team can help here, but so too can your competitors who are likely already creating some of it.
  4. Decision Making Influence – Can this persona make a buying decision? If not, what influence do they have?
  5. Where Does This Person Gather News? – What websites, magazines, social media sites, and forums does this person visit to gather information and answer their questions?
  6. When Do They Consider What You Offer? – When does what you offer cross their mind? It’s not a problem if it doesn’t at all, but it’s important to know that now, so you can create content that educates them.
  7. What Industry Knowledge Do They Have? – Will jargon work or do you need to take a few steps back to explain what you provide and why?
  8. What Are the Most Common Objections? – From a sales perspective, what kind of push back do they most commonly give?

It seems like a lot, but you likely already know 75% of this. It just hasn’t been written down before. And more likely than not, you’ve mixed and matched what you know about the different personas your company has.

Yes, I said personas.

The average small business has at least two inbound marketing personas and as many as five. The decision makers you target, verticals you work within, industries you sell to, and people you engage with on a regular basis likely cross a spectrum of different life stages and positions.

Your marketing should do the same.

Creating Content that Targets People Based on Inbound Marketing Persona

Once you know the answers to the eight questions above, the rest gets a lot easier. Instead of wondering what types of blog posts or emails could possibly be interesting to these people, you now have lists of:

  • Their most pressing problems and questions
  • The places they go to find answers to these issues
  • The types of content they look for to answer them
  • The objections they make to your sales team

That’s a whole lot of information, and without doing any additional research, you should have a half dozen or more content ideas. But we can go deeper. Here are three steps that get to the heart of what these people want:

  1. Let’s see what other people are publishing

Step one is to do a bit of light research. There are some very powerful free tools out there that will help us understand:

  • Which keywords people are searching for – AHREFs, SEMRush and all offer keyword search tools, or you can go to Google AdWords Keyword Planner for their ad data. Watch our short video about how to get this data.
  • What competitors are writing about – These same tools can give you an idea of what your competitors are writing about and which topics are working best. Watch the video here.
  • What competitors are advertising for – Similarly, you can pull a list of what keywords your competitors are paying money to show up for in Google. Watch the video here.
  • The most shared content on these topics – Finally, what are people sharing and engaging with in social media. BuzzSumo is a great tool for this.

With this information, we now know the top 10-15 topics related to your persona’s problem. If you wrote responses to all of these topics, you’d be set right there, but more likely than not, you’ll have new ideas to go with them.

  1. Build at least three content pillars

If you use Hubspot, open the Content Strategy tool. If not, you can do this in a mindmap or on a piece of paper. We’re going to build Content Pillars that help to structure the campaign.

What is a content pillar? It’s a central focal point around which we can write four or more pieces of content that relate to the key concerns of our persona.

For example, if you are a startup offering real estate search services to millennials on their smart phones, you know that they have questions around things like how to get a mortgage, how to evaluate neighborhoods, what type of real estate agent to work with, and similar questions about buying and moving into a home. If your persona is a 31-year-old millennial professional who has been married for two years and is ready to move to the suburbs and start a family, your first content pillar could be:

Neighborhood Selection

This content cluster will deal exclusively with choosing the right neighborhood based on a number of important questions that our inbound marketing persona may not have thought of yet. Related topics could include:

  • Amenities to look for when moving to the suburbs
  • Common questions about the suburbs for city-dwellers
  • How to evaluate schools before buying a home
  • Does it cost more to live near mass transit?
  • Suburb moving guide for New York City/Los Angeles/Chicago/Houston, etc.

These topics all relate to our core content cluster and provide value to the reader who may not have lived in a suburb since high school (or never if they grew in the city).

  1. Build content around singular actions

Good inbound marketing content is actionable and designed to help your visitors. It should certainly lead them to your products and services, showcasing items that you want them to engage with – whether an app download, a software demo, or a contact form – but that is not the primary goal.

To ensure your content meets these minimum requirements and speaks to the needs of your audience, write content that solves at least one problem and drives them to take a singular action. Want to do more? Great. But don’t write short, high level information they could find on a dozen other websites and then link to your consultation form. It won’t work.

Engaging with Inbound Marketing Prospects to Drive Sales

Content is all fine and good, but the goal here is to make sales, right?

It’s a fine line we walk when building a content strategy. It needs to be actionable, interesting, and educational, but no matter how much people like that content, if it doesn’t drive action, it’s hard to justify the time or money spent.

That’s why inbound marketing persona identification and optimization is so important. Your personas will allow you to speak directly to the core needs of your target audience, address their key problems and concerns, and provide a viable solution they will be more eager to engage with. Generic, high level sales speak may feel like a better use of these resources, but it’s instantly forgettable. Be an authority who is legitimately in it to help and you’ll drive much better results for your prospects.