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Content marketing success starts with defining your personas

Not too many years ago, but way before research by InboundWriter revealed that over 80% of online content drives little or no organic traffic, there lived a man named Cragney. Now Cragney decided that he’d had enough of his job harvesting candlenuts, so handed in his notice. The hours were long, the pay barely enough to feed his three children and seven rats, and he was severely allergic to candlenuts. But crucially, he had a big idea. An idea that was going to make him rich.

Content marketing success starts with defining your personas

Wherever he looked and whoever he spoke to, Cragney noticed that everyone was buying and selling homes. Big houses, small houses, flats, garage conversions, even houseboats moored on the M25 towpath. The more he searched the small town of Knutlingfield, the more he was convinced of the excellence of his idea to open an estate agent there, right on the high street in a premises between The Money Shop and an old Greggs bakery that had been taken over by a particularly violent badger set.

After serving his 12-month notice period on the candlenut plantation, Cragney got down to work. He devised a business plan (get lots of homes on his books and sell them for a fixed fee – it would be a case of success via low margin, high volume), bought the location, commissioned a sign (Cragney & Lucy Estate Agent) and then prepared himself for the hoards that would pile through his door on opening day.

The trouble was, however, no one came. Not even a curious bypasser keen to sample the small selection of cakes Cragney had taken inspiration from the Great British Bake Off and produced himself to mark the grand opening. In all his fervour to start his business, Cragney had failed to take time to consider his marketing strategy. He’d failed to promote his new shop, but even worse he’d neglected to identify his ideal customers.

As the weeks and then months dragged by, trade was sluggish at best and Cragney’s losses started to mount. He hit upon the bright idea of organising a leaflet drop around Knutlingfield, took out full-page ads in the local press and brought in web development specialists to build him the most functional estate agent website the househunters of Knutlingfield had ever seen.

But all to no avail. The other estate agents in the regional mid-west to east stretch of swampland that lies between the M25 and the M25 towpath had already cornered the market. And nobody wanting to buy or sell a property would touch Cragney because they didn’t believe he had the expert knowledge they demanded. After all, what did a former candlenut harvester know about the property market?

Not only that, Cragney’s efforts to market his business had fallen wide of the mark because he’d bought a vast database containing the details of 3 million under 18-year-olds, who were years away from entering the property market. Some of the girls on the list weren’t even ready to sell their dolls houses on eBay.

Know your audience

The lesson learned by Cragney and Lucy – Cragney’s adopted half-sister, who he had brought on board to cope with the expected rush of clients – reminds us that knowing your customer is a cornerstone of any selling relationship. And while that might be most obvious when opening an estate agent in a provincial English town with very little passing trade, it’s also an important step in building a successful content marketing strategy.

When it comes to creating online content, you need a clear idea of the audience you want to engage, what you want them to get out of it and what action you want them to take. It’s impossible to do this without knowing who they are. That’s where personas come in.

Unlike demographic descriptions (although they are heavily informed by demographic information), personas are detailed descriptions of a fictional person who you would like to attract – a set of ideal imaginary customers. The important thing is to know who you are marketing to.

How to develop customer personas

First, take whatever demographic data you have available and use it to paint a picture of who your personas are. Male or female? Old or young? Weak or crippled?

Using this as a starting point, you can build up a full picture of your personas (a good marketing strategy should have a number of different ones, although not too many). Considering your target audience’s media consumption, job, leisure activities, what is causing them pain in their lives and even what they look like, you can build up a good idea of your customer.

Armed with a coherent picture of who you are trying to attract, you will be far better positioned to actually draw them in. Of course, this is only the beginning of any good content marketing strategy – the next stage is brainstorming a steady drumbeat of content that is going to appeal to each of your personas, and allow you to be seen as a source of expert knowledge.

The content you serve up to those personas stands a very high chance of joining the 80% of online material that drives little or no organic traffic if it is of low quality and fails to build trust, credibility and engagement.

When content marketing first became a buzz phrase a year or so ago, too many businesses jumped on the bandwagon and started to produce vast amounts of worthless material that failed to take into account the objectives of their content strategy.

A far better approach is to focus less on the volume of content you publish and more on the quality of that material. If only a small portion of your content truly drives results, your challenge is to create assets that will have a significant and sustainable impact, as measured by an engaged audience, strong returns on your content and marketing investments, and ultimately a competitive advantage.

Be seen as the expert in your industry

Your website, like the one run by Cragney & Lucy, may contain every last detail about the properties on your books, (or whatever you sell) but do you offer visitors anything else? To be the number one estate agent in your area, you need to be seen as the property expert.

Here are three ways content marketing can help you achieve this:

  1. Include pages on your website containing detailed information about the areas you cover. You should aim for these pages to be the go-to sources of local info.

  2. If you previously started a business blog but are struggling to remember when you last posted any content on it, it’s time to give it a makeover. Your company blog is an open window on your business. It allows you to comment on anything occurring in the local, or even national, property market and lets you demonstrate your open and friendly company culture to visitors to your site. It’s also a very handy way to build up your email database by getting readers of your blog to subscribe to its content.

  3. Use social media and your email database to amplify the content on your website. Whenever you include a new property on your site, send a tweet. And a weekly email newsletter keeps you top of mind among past clients, who will then be more likely to recommend your services to their friends and family.

Unfortunately, this advice came too late for Cragney. He and Lucy were forced to sell their high street premises (the badgers had already claimed most of it, anyway) and use the proceeds to open an online headgear store directed at a clear and concise set of Francophile personas.

Today, Cragney lives a comfortable life running his Raspberry Beret online store and living in a rather grand houseboat that is moored not too far from Knutlingfield on the M25 towpath. The moral of the story? Make sure you define your personas before you set about devising a content marketing strategy that will position your business as a source of expert knowledge.

The Art Division blog aims to entertain, engage and share our content marketing expertise with our current clients and prospective customers. For more information about how Art Division can improve your digital marketing, contact us today.

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