As marketing expert you know all the secrets to a successful advertising campaign—except probably for the one secret that has little to do with creating brilliant ads from scratch and storyboarding psychological insights. Instead of digging deep into your advertising budget to captivate and engage consumers, create a constant, real-time advertising platform through the least likely of resources: your company’s product documentation.
The most successful advertising campaigns—whether created for billboards, magazines, television or the internet—are those that in some way speak to the consumer, that offer some meaning and relevance. But while advertisers strive to touch on the universal human condition to create meaningful connections, they also know that not every consumer can be inspired with a one-off approach. The recognition of diverse cultural values, experiences and expectations, led to diversity marketing, a marketing approach that emphasizes culture-sensitive and culture-relevant messages. The same concept applies to your content strategy. Don’t create a “one-content-fits-all” bucket from which your customers pull articles in the hopes their unique problems are addressed. An Authentication section, for example, may be relevant to a diverse group of users, such as content managers, security experts, site administrators and system integrators, and who all need to accomplish a unique set of tasks.
Product-centric content management strategies leave little room for a personalized approach. A persona-based approach, on the other hand, can create meaningful interactions for even anonymous target markets by allowing users to choose their unique identity and solution paths. Persona-based strategies focus on offering relevant solutions specific to your consumers’ interests and needs.
Signs of an effective persona-based content structure
The implementation of a persona-based content structure as outlined below, has the following business impact:
- Increased web traffic through authoritative, target-specific content messaging.
- Deepened consumer engagement by using personalized, relevant solutions to create meaningful interactions.
- Detailed target market intelligence by capturing navigation behavior of specific user groups.
- Creation of brand advocates by allowing customers to become specialists in their fields.
- Increased sales as an effect of all of the above.
Implement your persona-based content strategy
The key element to a targeted, engaging content structure is relevance. This step-by-step guide outlines how to put a content structure in place that drives results for your presale and post-sale engagements:
Step 1: Know your business
Instead of forcing your product content into an unnatural structure, identify the natural segmentation of your business. Think about your business from the perspective of a consumer. Start brainstorming the foundations of your solution paths and your persona structure with the following questions:
- Who are your consumers, i.e. are you a business-to-customer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) company?
- If you offer B2B products or services, do your customers fall into a certain industry niche?
- Do you provide services or products, or both?
- Can your products or services be segmented into versions, models, styles, service levels, expertise, etc.?
- Do different demographics rely on different products or services (e.g. students/teachers; doctors/patients; consumers/businesses)?
- What results do (or should) consumers expect by buying your product or service?
Step 2: Know your customer base
Learn about your consumers any way you can. Analyze collected customer data from your internal departments and your customer relationship management (CRM) system to inform your persona-based structure. The focus of your customer data analysis will vary depending on whether your customers are end users or businesses (or both):
Business-to-customer (B2C) companies
B2C companies should focus on the following customer data to inform their persona-based structure:
- Family status
- Ethnic background
Business-to-business (B2B) companies
B2B companies should focus on this data:
- Size (number of employees)
- Use case
You likely will not use all of the collected data to define your persona buckets, but do use all data to create your representative personas. Representative personas help remind of the human element when creating customer journey maps.
Step 3: Identify your demographic customer personas
Identify your personas based on shared data gathered in the previous step:
Group your major personas into segments. Review the customer data and take note of shared identifiers (age, occupation, industry, etc.). Ask yourself whether shared identifiers affect how your consumers interact with your product or service. Marital status, for example, may not have a big impact on a consumer’s decision to purchase your product if you are selling computers. But if you are a fitness center, marital status may inform at least two of your personas: those that are interested in individual membership rates and those who are interested in a family rate. And if you also offer corporate rates, you may even have a third persona.
Focus your efforts on your largest persona groups. Ignore outlier personas (those that don’t have any or very few shared identifiers in common with the majority of your customer base), unless you have intelligence that outliers are driving a major part of your revenue.
Further segment your personas. For each identified major persona, determine whether further segmentation is needed. For example, as a fitness center, you may want to group your corporate persona by employee size (you may offer different rates for different size businesses), but not by technology (the technology your business customers use have no impact on deciding on membership rates).
Record your major demographic personas. (This is not your complete set of personas yet!)
Step 4: Identify your task-driven customer personas
Create a customer journey map to identify your specific task-driven personas and their paths. Ask where, when, how and why your prospective and current customers are interacting with your company:
Assemble a team that represents every department in your company (make sure you include employees who actually have direct contact with customers) and create a customer journey map. For each of your demographic personas, walk a hypothetical consumer (one of your representative personas) through your departments from presale to post-sale in the order they would typically interact with your company. What steps would you take first as a customer? Place an order? Compile personal papers? Install prerequisite software? If you have a trial program, walk yourself through that experience. Anecdotally identify what your customers expect to accomplish at each point (gathering pricing information, technical requirements, etc.). Think of every conceivable scenario, and for each scenario, record the path for successful and failed interactions. Get as granular as possible.
Identify tasks that are primarily performed by specific personas. Aerospace engineers want to code ground control software, not learn how to format test reports; students want to view their class syllabus, not learn how to build a curriculum; patients want to schedule an appointment, not learn how to delegate nursing staff. Remember, task-based personas are determined by the specific tasks the personas try to accomplish.
Record your task-based personas.
Step 5: Assemble your final persona list
Review your demographic and task-based personas, select the personas on which you want to focus and finalize the top hierarchy for your content structure.
Step 6: Build your content hierarchy
If you do not have one, create a cross-departmental content strategy team to produce, vet and implement the necessary product content to provide complete solutions to personas:
- Leverage a web-accessible customer success platform, such as MindTouch to house and display your product documentation. The MindTouch architecture lends itself perfectly to structuring content based on tasks and personas.
- In your success platform, create buckets for your identified major personas.
- For each persona, build paths to guide personas towards complete solutions. Use the tasks identified during your customer journey mapping to create a detailed solution path. MindTouch Paths, for example, allow content managers to pull product content into a path no matter where on the success platform the content lives and how often the content is used in other paths (all without duplicating content).
- On your company website provide a “Solutions” tab with your identified personas as selectable options that link to your persona buckets in your success platform. Additionally, with MindTouch Touchpoints link to specific persona solutions from within any of your web properties.
Step 7: Audit the effectiveness of your persona-based content structure
As with any strategy, set up test and audit schedules to ensure that your persona-based content strategies remain effective while you take action to continuously improve the self-service experience:
Once you have put your content strategy in place, measure traffic and web-generated sales upon implementation of your new structure and set baselines. A few months down the road, measure again to evaluate the strategy’s effectiveness.
Let customers field test the self-service experience. Ask them how easy it was to solve a problem on their own and adjust content and paths as necessary.
Schedule future audits to periodically inventory the health of site and content and to measure the effectiveness of your implemented strategies.
Leverage user event data to better understand your customers’ behaviors. Use MindTouch Reports or business intelligence tools like GA or Salesforce Wave to allow for informed decision-making when iterating and optimizing your content strategy.
Periodically review your customer base and note shifts in demographic data. Adjust personas as necessary.