All businesses and people within businesses become enamored with, process, at some point. Process is good. Process can also be bad. Bad to the extent doing the process becomes more important than meeting the end goal. When it comes to content marketing today, it just may be too much process is actually preventing a human connection with customers and buyers.
The same can be said for buyer persona development as well. Misperceptions about the intent and value of buyer personas have resulted in too much process. Most common is the force fitting of buyer personas into buying processes, sales cycles, and the good old funnel. Thus, by default, buyer personas created this way are vanilla buyer profiles designed with a role in mind. This role, of course, is the one designated as the sales target.
What Is The Goal?
Personas have their origins and roots in the human-centered and user-centered design movements established in the mid-‘90’s. This is where I first witnessed the birth of personas, experienced their use, and evolved the concept of buyer personas specifically for marketing and sales. There is one principle I did not lose sight of however. Buyer personas, as is true for all personas, is a human-centered approach.
A human-centered approach means putting human goals, behaviors, and concerns at the center of everything. Where I have seen efforts take the wrong turn is when marketing, sales, and other related processes become the center of both buyer persona development and content marketing. When this happens, we muddy the waters and put at the focal point product-speak and corporate-speak language-based processes. And those ubiquitous acronyms run rampantly! Thus, we lose sight of the all-important goal specific to content strategy – humanizing content to enable customers and buyers to fulfill their goals.
Not Losing Sight
At the upcoming Content Marketing World 2014 in September, I am pleased to share, via an afternoon workshop, how to use buyer personas to accomplish this very goal. In order to use buyer personas to truly humanize your content, it means using a human-centered approach and methodology. And, it means discarding the old clothes of sales and product marketing speak, as well as processes cluttering up content.
This goal is one we cannot lose sight of. There are several ways we can make sure we do not:
Recognize a human-centered approach. First and foremost, it is important to note buyer personas and content strategy should both be viewed as human-centered approaches. Involving design thinking related to putting humans at the center of content design and strategy.
Focus on a goal-centered methodology. The methodology important to buyer personas and content strategy is one involving goals. The important perspective to embrace is to first understand the goals of your customers and buyers through qualitative research. This sets the stage for offering enabling content, which allows people to see a clear path to fulfilling their goals. What I am not referring to here are the things that get in the way, like sales and buying language, as well as old style funnel processes.
Make use of best practices for buyer persona development. Best practices have a purpose. They help us to understand what guiding principles ensure we follow a proven approach and methodology. To do so with buyer persona development and content strategy, we need to make use of such best practices as qualitative research, field observation, synthesis of goals, understanding contextual scenarios, and understanding how mental models affect choices. Without these best practices and methods, you cannot have a human-centered approach.
Focus on telling the human story. An unbalanced focus on process can result in playing a numbers game with content. I have witnessed organizations look at multiple roles and try to map content through generic buying stages and journeys. Their marketing teams then focused on producing upwards of 50 plus content pieces for five plus stages. This approach misses the human story to be heard and told. Resulting in insanity also!
Useful Buyer Personas
Buyer persona development helps pave the way for a human-centered approach towards content marketing. Getting caught up in too much process, product-speak, and corporate speak can result in missing this point.
If you are attending Content Marketing World 2014, I hope you can make the workshop “How To Use Buyer Personas To Humanize Your Content”. If not attending the workshop but attending the conference, please be sure to say hi. And, if not attending the conference, please do reach out to me for help.