I find that there’s a “Zen” thing going on when it comes to content marketing—your ultimate goal is to generate a lead for your sales team. However, to most effectively do this, you have to create trust between your company and your customers. In content marketing, useful content is a key way to create this trust.

It’s hard to create trust when you don’t know someone. How do you break through the anti-marketing barriers your customers (and you too; we all do it) erect to avoid being bombarded with bad marketing? It’s elementary, but focus obsessively on your customers—who are they? What do they like? Most importantly, how do you help them do better in their lives? You do this through creating personas.

It’s about trust
First though, why care about trust? “The business that we're in, that you're in, that I'm in—whether it's swimming pools, whether it's marketing services, whether it’s selling rocket fuel to airlines—this is a business of trust,” said Marcus Sheridan, founder of The Sales Lion. “As soon as the company realizes that this is a business of trust, they start to focus on what matters and what they have to do to engender and generate more trust than anyone else in their space.”

Trust matters when it comes to the bottom line. According to Research Now, when people trust a brand, they are:
  • 83% more likely to recommend it
  • 78% will give the new product/service a chance
  • 50% are willing to pay more for the product/service
Earning trust is hard. It’s made easier by being human and by understanding your customers so that you can create content for them. Being human is beyond this article. I’ll just say don’t be a marketer or a salesperson or whatever title you have—be a person. To understand customers, you need personas.

Enter the persona
In my work, I’ve recently rediscovered how fantastic personas really are. For years, I paid lip service to the idea of personas, having a vague, “good enough” perception of whom I was talking to—and that worked “ok.” A well-developed persona is a fantastic reference when you begin to create a blog and asset ideas. I find myself rereading the various personas and spending time trying to see the world like they do. Here are a few tips to get you started on persona-building:

1. Ask these questions: Who is this person? How old are they? What do they like to do in their spare time? What’s their education level? What about their family dynamics? Understanding personas at a personal level allows you to better target how you write and the cultural color you can add as you develop content.

2. Pain points and goals: Go beyond the surface to understand how challenges make a person feel. For instance, if you sell exercise equipment, the 20-year-old persona may be interested in looking good on the beach, while the 40-year-old persona may be more interested in overall health (and looking good on the beach).

3. Common objections to buying your service/product: Understanding these concerns enables you to overcome them with marketing collateral and/or in the sales process.

4. Talk! While worksheets and email questionnaires are useful, there is no substitute for talking with your customers as you develop personas.

5. Don’t wish: While creating an aspirational persona can be a good idea, focus on a real persona—as in actual customers paying for your company’s products or services today. Pay attention first to the people who are keeping you in business NOW. Develop target/aspirational personas after you have a stable revenue stream.

So, start with a single persona. Don’t try to cover everything at once. Start small, and understand what works and what doesn’t. Lastly, really focus on building trust with that persona. Over time, data and analysis will help you identify other personas, and your expertise from developing and really getting to know a single persona will make future persona creation (slightly) easier. Don’t wait. Start now and begin–or keep–earning your customers’ trust.

Bryant Duhon is the content conductor for Prospect Builder, a marketing agency dedicated to exceeding the inbound needs of the dealer community. He was a longtime editor, community manager and marketer at AIIM. Contact him at bduhon@prospectbuilder.net or visit www.prospectbuilder.net.

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