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Does your marketing speak persona?

I’ve been working lately with a very smart guy who has a wealth of marketing experience–mostly offline but growing experience online also. He is working with me to devise a content marketing strategy for a luxury product that requires regular service–that is as detailed as I am allowed to get in public. I went through all of my normal questions about the clientele, but quickly found that this very intelligent and experienced man has no experience with the concept of personas. He is talking entirely in market segments. Is this happening to you?

Understand, there is no problem with using market segments in your marketing. It is entirely reasonable that you might have different tactics to reach men 18-49 than grandmothers. But when you are entering the sphere of digital marketing, especially content marketing, you need more.

It’s not enough to understand gender, age, or even a few more demographics. You need to understand motivation. You need an idea of where they are coming from. You need to know what moves them to act–to choose you.

This isn’t simple and often it doesn’t even start out as very scientific. Sure, it would be great if you had reams of customer data that answered these questions for you (and over time that is exactly what you want to gather), but it is fine in the beginning if you approach this as an exercise for you and your team to brainstorm about who your customers really are.

In this particular case, the product has a technology component, so I asked if that might be a factor in how people approach the service of the product. For example, is it true that some people don’t understand the technology, don’t want to, and will pay a premium just to make the problem go away and have peace of mind? Is it true that some people–perhaps predominantly women–are intimidated by male service people who talk down to them and assume they don’t understand the service issues? Is it true that some other folks are techies who want to know every detail about what is being done with their product?

These questions are important because they are at the root of content marketing. To create content that persuades these distinct personas to return to your company for service after they bought the product, you need to create compelling content that gets at their motivations.

The person who wants the problem to go away is interested in testimonials from other people, in descriptions of how the interactions will not be a drain on time, and they might be willing to pay a premium for white glove treatment. But those who want to understand everything about what is happening to the product might want completely different content–explanations of service procedures, background on the service personnel (training classes, certifications, and experience) and might want service in which they are in control of exactly what is done. It wouldn’t matter much whether people in each of these groups are 18- to 49-year-old men.

We lived in the world of demographics when all we could do was advertising. We didn’t need deep content–that’s what the salespeople did. All we needed was a short one-size-fits-all message that raised brand awareness. And we needed demographics so that we knew how to distribute that message to the right market segments–through the right magazines, radio programs, and TV shows.

Now marketers need to know more. Distribution of the message is the least of the problems–it’s more about how people find your message. The message itself is very different–longer, more specific, and much more like the personalized pitch that the salesperson once did. That’s why you need to dig deeper and understand what your customers care about through devices such as personas. Only then will you know what kinds of content will attract them, hook them, and persuade them to buy from you.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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