You might think this article is about how to write in an engaging, persuasive way that brings prospects flocking to your website, downloading e-books, white papers and case studies, and picking up the phone to place their orders.
That’s because good content doesn’t start with pecking out words on your keyboard. Compelling content begins with gaining a deep understanding of your prospective customers and creating buyer personas. Adele Revella of the Buyer Persona Institute says feedback she hears about buyer personas often sounds like this:
“It’s almost like cheating, like getting the exam paper weeks before the final. Instead of guessing what matters, I now know … not only what she wants; I know how she goes about (buying).”
Buyer personas answer the following questions, enabling you to create content marketing plans tailored to your prospects’ and clients’ information needs. Producing content that answers buyers’ questions in the formats they prefer helps to shorten your sales cycle and bring more buyers in the door.
- What makes solving this problem or exploiting this opportunity a priority?
Because business people lack the resources to deal with all their problems, you want to understand what motivates them to make it a priority to address the problem your product or service solves. For example, in a recent persona project I explored with a business owner why he had put a priority on addressing fraud. He told me that his company had been hemorrhaging money, and if he hadn’t found a solution to address fraud, he would be out of business. The businessman’s answer clearly revealed why finding a solution to fraud was on the top of his “to-do” list and the emotions or pain we could tap into with our marketing content.
- How do prospects envision the results of a successful purchase?
You want to discover how the prospect views the benefits of buying the product. Do they hope to save money? Increase safety? Stay ahead of the competition? Whatever it is, you’ll want to address these benefits in your content.
- What prevents a buyer from investigating a solution to their problem or buying it from you?
There are many issues that prevent prospects from charging forward to address a problem. Of course, you probably encounter price resistance all the time. But there are more subtle barriers that impede action. For example, prospects may be waylaid by internal politics or past bad experiences; fear that the learning curve is too steep; or lack the bandwidth to deal with the problem.
- How do they decide which product, service or solution to buy?
This question goes beyond the benefits, explored in question #2, that a buyer expects. Now we’re looking at which features and attributes pushed a product over the last hurdle to become the finalist.
- What are the steps through the buying process?
You want to understand how the buyer moves through the buying process. How do they initially become aware of products on the market? Are they researching on the Internet or do they gain a lot of information by word-of-mouth. Once buyers know what’s available, they consider different options. In this phase of the cycle are they looking at case studies, articles, white papers, or something else? And what do they look for to make the final decision? Perhaps they’re looking at price and data sheets, and need information to put together a business case. Once you know the questions buyers are asking as they move through the buying process and the content they like to consume, you’ll be able to map out the marketing content you need to produce.
To create a buyer persona, you’ll need to interview several buyers. If possible, it’s also helpful to talk with prospects who decided not to buy from you, either because they opted for a competitor’s product or decided not to take action. Your interviews should be unstructured conversations that enable you to dig deeply into buyer motivations and needs. By doing so, you’ll gain the insights that can only be found below the surface — those that give you the edge over your competition.