You may be marketing a website that converts visitors into customers when they encounter your content pages for the first time. However, the reality of the way business works on the web is that most of us take a more long-term approach to selling. We capture leads and forge relationships with prospects over time, using content, advertising, social media and email to build brand equity in the minds of our audience members. We hope that by establishing expertise and trust, we’ll lead our prospects to eventually reach their tipping points and become customers.
But for your lead nurturing processes to be efficient and impactful, you need to think of your audience as being comprised of individuals. Marketing messages that are formulated for faceless masses simply don’t resonate, nor do they drive sales. When you create marketing content, therefore, the first question you have to ask yourself is who will be reading it. Content marketing is only successful when it draws your leads in, getting them feeling invested and interested in your brand and its solution.
In order to achieve this level of resonance, you need to know who your ideal customers are. Marketers use a technique called “buyer personas” to identify and describe the potential clients that they want to target. By including elements like fictional names, job titles, regions of residence, pet peeves, media consumption preferences and business goals, personas go much deeper than traditional marketing’s demographic profiles.
How Personas Help with Nurturing
Think about the difference between a mass email and a personal one. When you write to lots of people, you try to cover as many bases as possible and end up glossing over all of them. But when you write to one person whom you know well, you can get in-depth on a specific issue and create resources that are far more meaningful and helpful.
Visitors are not all coming to your website for the same reason, they don’t all find you the same way, they don’t all interact with brands online the same way, they don’t have the same level of familiarity with your products, they don’t all respond to the same types of voices, and they are not all interested in the same information. On the other hand, it is possible to think about your audience members as falling into three or four archetypal buckets.
By building and maintaining a small group of buyer persona dossiers, you can address your content to their curiosities, questions, needs and fears at all stages of their decision-making processes. Effective personas make for effective lead nurturing processes, enabling your audience members to take the express lane through your conversion funnel, leading them to purchase-readiness with swiftness and confidence.
Creating Useful Buyer Personas
Your solution isn’t going to be a perfect match for everyone. That’s why it makes the most sense to optimize your content to resonate with the people most likely to become loyal, long-term customers. To gain a better sense of what makes someone become a loyal, long-term customer of your business specifically, why not ask the people who have gone through that process already?
Start by using surveys and interviews with your best clients to find out what they are interested in, what they like and don’t like about your product and content, what solutions they are still looking for and how they make purchase decisions. Segmenting and combing through the information you gather in your social media and email metrics, CRM and web traffic analytics should also inform your research.
Create personas based on all of this information and put them into a dossier format. Your persona should have a name, age and profession. List his or her hobbies, non-business behaviors, purchasing criteria and pain points at each stage of the customer journey. Share this persona throughout your company so that all business activities – not just marketing – can aim to please this persona. Repeat this process a few times, until you’ve got a few dossiers that you feel cover the gamut of your ideal prospects.
Mapping out the Customer Journey
An important step in any lead nurture optimization process is mapping out the customer journey so you know what content is needed at every touchpoint and each stage in the process. Journey mapping is all the more critical, though, when working with personas. Not everyone follows the conversion funnel as you may have originally conceived it – some will jump from point to point and others will skip certain steps entirely. Create a list of all touchpoints and types of interaction with your brand. How do your leads behave at each one? What are their top concerns and issues at each one?
Customer touchpoints can span any number of communication channels and may include interactions that focus on general industry research, platform options, development approaches, customer service policies and pricing. Each of these topics requires different content, which each persona may respond to differently.
Filling in the Gaps
Once your personas are in place, it’s time to start writing content specifically for these ideal customers, addressing their pain points at each stage of the funnel. Once you have identified which content is missing, it’s time to fill the gaps. The first stages of a customer journey – research and exploration – are generally the stages that require the most educational content.
If your website and emails don’t cover the basics, leads will look elsewhere for answers. Once they have moved away from your brand, chances are they won’t come back. Keep leads interested in your brand by providing each persona with the specific types of information that will help him or her most to make an informed decision.
Distribute Content for Each Persona
Use paid media on search and social networks to get each targeted message to its intended audience. Leverage targeted landing pages, content properties and social posts to segment newly captured leads into persona buckets.
Set up triggered emails through a marketing automation tool like GetResponse to send content which is optimized for each specific persona at each stage in the conversion funnel. Provide educational content that resonates, fosters a sense of belonging and builds trust, thereby hastening each prospect’s readiness to receive a sales pitch.
Building a bridge between your onsite content, downloadable assets and your email campaigns is an excellent way to build relationships with leads segmented into personas. A lead who opts in to your marketing emails after reading about the benefits of your company’s customer service approach, for example, should receive different than from a lead captured after watching a video about much of a money-saver your solution is.
Email automation campaigns are extremely powerful when they are set up with the customer journey in mind. Identify relevant triggers such as pages visited, email links clicked on, downloads etc. Each trigger is an indication of what persona your individual audience members fit into and where they’re at in the conversion funnel.
Regularly Audit Your Content
With the core elements of your persona-driven nurturing program in place, you’re ready to start with monthly or quarterly reviews. Just because you’ve published content that addresses the needs of each persona at each funnel stage, and just because you’ve optimized your lead acquisition mechanisms to consistently feed the funnel with relevant prospects, doesn’t mean you can kick back and relax. Personas, businesses and marketing tools constantly evolve, requiring ongoing maintenance.
Use a crawler tool like Screaming Frog to comb through every page of your website so you can review it in spreadsheet form to identify the relevance of the content you have and what still needs to be published. Go through your paid media creative, landing pages and autoresponders as well, to ensure that you’re still covering your bases.
When you find content that appears to fill a need, don’t simply check off that box. Read the content to determine whether it is of sufficient quality to meaningfully contribute to the lead nurturing process. Ask yourself whether this content is link-worthy. Would another website want to point its readers to this resource? Is it share-worthy? Will potential customers see this content in their social media feeds?
Each piece of content should be evaluated as objectively as possible from a performance perspective. Is it unique or is it redundant? If you have already said something elsewhere, it might be useful to cut out content that repeats, so you don’t frustrate or bore your leads. Content must be up-to-date, accurate and formatted beautifully, so people don’t get the wrong impression about your brand or product.
Also, make sure that each piece of content is written with a specific ideal customer in mind. Your personas should be precise and distinct enough that you should be able to optimize each content item to resonate with one persona, and your conversion tracking should be segmented enough that you can evaluate page performance according to persona-specific impact. Content which doesn’t live up to its potential, however, doesn’t necessarily have to be deleted – you may be able to update, make improvements or re-purpose it.
Who Is the Individual Who Stands to Benefit?
When you optimize your content to attract and nurture relationships with relevant prospects, your business will flourish. Your ultimate goal may be your own success, but to achieve it, you need to focus on your audience. All too often, marketers formulate their messaging with only themselves in mind instead of their customers.
Avoid falling into this trap by always speaking directly to a specific buyer persona who’s at a particular stage of the decision funnel. Offer generous wisdom, give people a feeling of belonging, and speak to their drives and pet peeves. Know your audience and invest in creating content that resonates with it, and you will ultimately see increased sales conversions.