When you create content for everyone, you're essentially creating it for no one. Learn why personas are a vital part of a targeted content marketing strategy.
When you’re in the midst of a content creation marathon, it’s tempting to try to make every piece as widely appealing as possible. After all, the narrower your focus, the fewer people you’re going to attract and the more content you’ll need to produce, right?
Yes, technically, that is true. But let’s take a step back from our exhausting workloads and look objectively at the pros and cons of creating content designed for everyone:
- One and done. You can cover a given topic one time in one way and then move on to something new.
- Short and sweet. Since you’re speaking to everyone, the total number of angles you need to cover is actually smaller (since not everyone’s interested in every angle.)
- Nice and simple. You don’t need to dig deep into any topics, because the majority of people you’re trying to reach (which is everyone) don’t care that much.
- You have to send it everywhere. Since you’re trying to reach everyone, you’re going to need to distribute your content to every possible channel.
- It’s way too high-level. Since you’re only covering the bits and pieces everyone wants or needs to know, your content only skims the surface, which turns off everyone who wants to know more.
- It kind of sucks. Since you’re talking to everyone, in a way, you’re talking to no one in particular. So that’s who enjoys your content: no one.
You can’t please everyone
Here’s the key takeaway from this exercise: No matter how tempting it may be when you’re crunched for time, don’t settle for shallow, lukewarm content made for everyone. You can’t please everyone, and it’s not worth trying.
So what’s the alternative? How can you avoid the trap of creating content for everyone while still managing to stay productive and keep up with the flow of content your marketing strategy requires?
You should create personas and target your content to them.
The power of personas
To illustrate the power of personas, let me tell you a story from the early days of a freelance content marketer.
This marketer — we’ll call him Bob — was lucky enough to pick up a local client who manufactured compression wear for the feet and legs. They had a great product, and they were excited to start talking about it online. Not having any previous experience in the field (or any retail apparel marketing, for that matter), Bob did a lot of research and went into the discovery meeting ready to absorb everything his new client had to say.
Unfortunately, what Bob came out with was exactly that: everything they had to say. As a relatively new content marketer, he made a rookie mistake. He failed to narrow their information dump down to a specific target persona. And he compounded that rookie mistake by writing the first two months’ worth of weekly blog posts on topics generated in that initial meeting, but without targeting them at anyone in particular.
So let me stop there a moment and tell you: If you haven’t yet created individual buyer personas for every unique audience your content needs to reach, you’re shooting at a target you can’t even see. That’s what Bob was doing for those first two months.
Bob gets smart
Finally, Bob went back to the basics and realized where he’d gone wrong. He met again with the client and forced them to help him identify and flesh out their target personas. There were two: senior citizens dealing with leg and foot pain due to poor circulation, and athletes dealing with leg and foot pain due to injuries and/or poor form. Suddenly, he had what he needed to attack the exact same topics but in far more effective ways.
The statistical results were stunning.
This client’s site was already well-established as an ecommerce site, and they got a fair amount of traffic because one of their products had recently won awards and they had invested heavily in advertising. So, even those first eight posts got eyeballs, in the vicinity of 1,200-1,500 hits apiece. No sales could be tied to them, however.
But once Bob established the personas, the next eight posts generated slightly lower visits (between 800-1,100 hits), but they averaged a 3-4 percent sales conversion. Obviously, with the right personas in place, the content was reaching the people Bob’s client needed to reach.
How to create powerful personas
This subject is too broad and important for me to try to cover it in this brief article, so I’m going to direct your attention to an excellent source of information about what personas are, how to create them and how to use them to inform your content creation and distribution strategy: HubSpot Academy – How to Create Personas.
While that page uses screenshots and directions from the HubSpot software for illustrative purposes, the principles are valid even if you’re fleshing your personas out on a legal pad.
The important thing — once you have a good idea what a persona is and how to create one — is to understand why they’re so important to a successful content marketing strategy. You see, without personas to refer to, you’re forced to try to speak to everyone. As we already know, that’s not a good option. Well-thought-out personas provide an effectively narrow audience that you can tailor each piece of content to for maximum results.
This not only aids in creating the content and ideation, but it also will help make your distribution more efficient and effective, because part of the persona-building process involves figuring out where these people hang out online, which sources they trust the most and how they prefer to absorb their content.
Don’t get stuck in the trap of trying to speak to everyone. You’ll just end up speaking to no one. Instead, speak to someone specific by creating and using buyer personas.