A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.
Do you know who your ideal customers are and what makes them tick? Do you know what kinds of fiction they like to read, what times they are most likely to check their email, what words get them excited, and where they hang out on social media?
Digital marketing success hinges on in-depth familiarity with your buyer personas. If you don't know them, you can’t possibly connect with them meaningfully.
How to Connect With Buyer Personas
In September 2011, Netflix announced that it was going to spin off its DVD mailing service to become an independent brand called Qwikster. The move made sense from a business perspective, as DVD use is on the decline, and Netflix's streaming service was emerging as its primary draw.
The company's community of customers, however, disagreed vehemently and vocally. Because of this ill-informed decision, Netflix lost 800,000 users and saw it's stock plummet 25%. Within weeks, the decision was reversed, and CEO Reed Hastings issued a lengthy apology.
What does this story tell us? A company that doesn’t understand its customers is likely to drive away the loyal ones and turn off prospects.
On the other hand, brands that deeply understand their fans can foster relationships of trust and loyalty.
Taco Bell, for example, is often cited as one of the most successful companies active on Snapchat, a social network that is extremely popular among teenagers. Here, the brand posts using slang that adults don’t understand. Other brands have tried to imitate the teen speak that Taco Bell uses, but they often come off sounding phony or patronizing.
7 Tips for Understanding Your Customers
When a brand uses messaging that matches the way its audience interacts, the results are devotion, evangelism and confidence. Here are seven tips for understanding your audience better and tailoring your marketing to draw people in.
1. Speak Their Language
Depending on what type of company you represent and who your customers are, there's likely to be specific lingo you should be using to draw in the right crowd. Speak the language of your customers so they know that you understand them and what they want.
A designer fashion retail shop might use terms like “boho twist” and “spring-fresh shades” to appeal to customers who are deeply involved in the fashion world. On an app building site, terms like “cloud-based” and “geolocalized couponing” build trust with customers in the tech industry.
2. Speak to Their Pain Points
Why are your customers googling keywords that lead them to your site? They have a problem, and they are looking for a solution. Base your content on providing solutions to your potential customers' pain points, and they will become loyal followers.
For instance, a website that sells baby clothing could focus on the joys of parenting, and there would be a natural fit for that content. But if the brand offers supremely valuable advice and practical solutions to the challenges of parenting – night feedings, crying babies, diaper rashes, etc. – the audience will be hooked.
3. Use the Right Colors
The colors used on websites and other branding materials can have major influence on how people view your company. Think about how your prospects view their own personalities. Motorcycle buyers are likely to perceive themselves differently from doll collectors.
As you define and research your personas, map out how they describe themselves and what emotions will drive them to connect with your product. Then pick the appropriate colors to back up this positioning.
4. Know and Follow Their Top Influencers
Every niche has its influencers – those experts, thought leaders and early adopters who have huge followings on social media and whose recommendations and content sharing carry a lot of weight with users. Get to know who these people are, follow them and interact with them to develop relationships.
Look for popular bloggers, celebrities and industry leaders. You can do this with various online tools such as Klout and BuzzSumo, or just find them naturally by being active on social. Base your influencer search on your buyer personas and connect with the people your customers look up to. If you are marketing to stay at home moms, for example, look for daytime TV personalities and mommy bloggers. On the other hand, if your target customer is a construction worker, athletes are likely to have a bigger impact.
5. Help Them Understand the Difference
Don’t be afraid to let your customers know about the existence of your competitors. This information is a quick Google search away, after all. Instead, talk about what your competition offers in the context of the attributes that make your product the better choice for some people (if it isn’t, by the way, no amount of content will hide that fact, so improve your product before you dive in to content marketing).
An honest and frank comparison of your brand with your competitors' can help make you look trustworthy. Map out which other brands are attractive to your target personas and help them take an honest look at what each solution is good for. Even if you lose a few potential clients this way, you will gain a whole lot more – and gain the respect of everyone who reads your content.
6. Newsjack Things That Are Important to Them
Create content that's important to your personas – not just your company. When Oreo posted their famous “You can still dunk in the dark” graphic during the Super Bowl power outage two years ago, it resonated because the content was funny and relevant to what a large portion of their audience was doing at that moment. That post made a bigger splash and was a bigger marketing success than a post about the cookies themselves would have been.
Last fall, Market Watch published a blog post entitled “7 management lessons from The Walking Dead,” which hooked the audience by using an especially loved and hyped TV show as an analogy. The publication's content team took a not-so-fascinating topic and found a way to get people paying attention. Get to know your customers’ interests and hobbies, and create content they will want to read. The brand message may be more subtle in these pieces of content, but it is likely to resonate even more strongly than hard-sell marketing copy.
7. Publish on Their Media
Where are your target personas hanging out? What websites are they visiting? What social media channels are they using? Where are they getting the bulk of their information? Go where your customers are, and provide them with content on those mediums.
For example, if you are targeting middle-aged women, Pinterest could be boon for your business. If your customers are CEOs of large companies, they are more likely to be found on LinkedIn. Some personas spend hours on YouTube, while others are readers of entrepreneurship magazines or trade publications. Find out where your personas spend their time, get their information, and create content appropriate for those channels. Think beyond blog posts to video, infographics, charts, slideshows, podcasts, magazine articles, newspaper columns, radio shows, Google Hangouts, webinars and newsletters.
Connect by Repurposing
When you create truly great content, you can extend its ROI by repurposing it for different mediums. A blog post can be turned into a slideshow, and an infographic can be transformed into a magazine article. If you ran a particularly great webinar, post the recording on YouTube. Write up the text of a podcast and reproduce it as a LinkedIn blog post.
Once you have invested the initial resources in creating the first version, a much smaller investment of time and effort is necessary to rework and re-share another version. This is an excellent way to reach different target personas in the various mediums they are using.
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