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The secret ingredient to successful marketing content

The secret ingredient to successful marketing content Monique Torres

There's a tried and true adage by Dale Carnegie from his book "How to Win Friends and Influence People."

A person's name is the sweetest sound in any language for that person.

And it works -- beautifully. True, there are plenty of psychological rabbit holes tunneling into the depths of why it's so powerful, but the ultimate takeaway is pretty simple: When someone addresses you by name, you feel more connected to them. They validate your existence and touch you at your core identity -- warm fuzziness all around.

So what does this have to do with marketing content? A lot.

To be successful at marketing content, you need to talk to your audience like you know their names. If you don't have any insight into this, your best writing, your most compelling offer, or your snazzy new value prop (that you no doubt paid a lot for) will essentially fall on deaf ears or, worse, be disregarded.

Because if your audience is unconvinced you care, they'll reciprocate that sentiment. And your web traffic, social media sentiment, and bottom line will feel their rebuke. 

Putting the person in persona

Obviously it's unrealistic and probably downright impossible (infinite monkey theorem aside) to write uniquely for each individual prospect and customer. We're all snowflakes, after all.

The good news is that you don't have to because, just like snowflakes, our similarities are as important as our differences. They connect us and more importantly, you can write to similarities.

What your marketing content can do is speak to core characteristics that are shared by specific types of audiences -- the concerns, questions, interests, and dilemmas that connect them with each other and can connect them with your brand.

So how do you do that?  You start by creating detailed personas of your key audiences.

In "Designing for the Digital Age," user-experience guru Kim Goodwin says "personas are archetypes that describe the various goals and observed behavior patterns among your potential users and customers."

Expanding and slightly simplifying her definition, personas are detailed profiles that represent who your key audiences are, including their behaviours, characteristics, buying habits, demographics, psychographics, concerns, lifestyles, beliefs, motivations, preferences, and a variety of other attributes depending on your business.

When you understand your audience, you become a better marketer

By taking the time to uncover who your prospects and customers are, you're able to write content that resonates and makes a deeper connection with them, wherever they are in the buying process.

Here are some tips to hone your brainstorming.

Start with the basics
Take a discerning look at your best customers and see what they have in common. Distill this to some bare facts: age, gender, income, education, marital status, and anything else that helps you see your prospect. This is an exercise best done jointly by marketing and sales.

Get personal
To understand your key customer, you need to take a deeper dive into what makes him or her tick. So after you've completed the list of basics, get more specific with your persona creation by writing a few sentences on things like the following:

  • His or her likes and dislikes

  • His or her lifestyle and values

  • The issues that keep him or her up at night

  • His or her pain points and why they're pain points

  • The problems he or she's hoping you can solve

  • The outcome he or she's looking for (and do these outcomes match the problem?)

  • The factors that influence his or her decision-making process

  • What differentiators do you offer to meet his or her needs and why would they be important to him or her?

  • Historic interactions (or lack of same) with your content or process

Keep it fresh
As they say, fish and company both go bad after three days. Fortunately you have much more quality time to spend with well-crafted personas, but the point's the same: There will come a time when they need to be refreshed or tossed out completely.

Plan on reassessing your personas regularly, keeping an eye on things like shifting audience trends and adjustments in your business goals and strategies. Don't keep a stale persona around just to say you have one. It won't serve you or your prospects and customers.

Personas are critical to great marketing strategies, and the cornerstone to understanding your target audiences. And when you understand them, it's easier to create content that connects with them, which helps to enhance your value, and keep them as customers.

And customer is the sweetest sound (or name) of all.

Monique Torres is senior writer at Act-On-Software.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Red and white plastic name tag" image via Shutterstock.

Monique Torres is a senior writer for Act-On Software with nearly 20 years’ experience in all things (ok, a LOT of things) direct marketing, particularly in the technology industry. Her passion and focus are B2B communication and the dynamic...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: keith newman

2013, October 28

I was hoping for something a bit more contemporary and insightful but a nice reminder nonetheless. have a great day

Commenter: Ford Kanzler

2013, October 28

Excellent advice!
One way I've seen that helps audience members self-select desired content is by building in questions about them or suggesting they consider their preferences, e.g. "if you (do this)....?" (or) "Are you the person who...?" Completely agree the marketing writer needs to have a clear picture of the several interest areas (hot buttons) their various audience members may have.
With these questions asked, general purpose (un-customized) information may be tailored to the audience members' preference or persona characteristics. Variations may be around content, tone, length, the media applied or other variables.