Persona Development Crucial to Online Business
Let's just get this out of the way: persona development is crucial to an online business. And using solid data should drive that development. Don't guess. But I would also argue that data can get in the way, too.
Start with the Facts. Just the Facts, Ma'am.
Luckily, we can get through this quick and easy. Someone else already wrote this part of my blog article for me. Adria Saracino wrote this excellent, thoughtful article on Content Marketing Institute called Build a Better Buyer Persona: 5 Creative Data Sourcing Ideas which says exactly what I would have probably said. She does a great job of finding some creative ideas to try to find out what your clients really want and need from you.
And it is really important to listen to them. You really can't assume you know what they want from you, or what their problems are. So compile a bit of data, look at that data, and draw some conclusions.
But know when to stop.
Don't hide behind data. Don't keep looking for more data, either to finally prove your assumptions about who you think your clients should be or to bury data that you don't like. Or to simply procrastinate. That's bad too.
Get a Solid Picture of Your Persona/Audience in your Head
If you are the head of a large company, and if you have an actual marketing department, you need to have a written, cohesive persona written out for each of your potential client types. But if you are working on a smaller scale, I urge you to scale back on how much you write this out. I urge you to get a strong feeling about both your persona and, collectively the audience you are writing for. Once you know their likes, their problems, what makes them tick, I suggest you take that data and get a very clear picture of that person in your mind.
See that person in front of you while you write. If you know someone similar to your persona, imagine that person when you write blog posts, website content, landing pages. Write (or produce) for that person. No one else exists while you are writing.
Why? Because Stephen King Says So.
Many great books on writing have been written, but the one I recommend above all others is Stephen King's On Writing. I have had that book with me for over 10 years now, and regularly remember bits of it when someone asks me about writing. Stephen King wrote what I think many writers wish they could have written.
And when you are creating content, whether it is a landing page, blog content, tweets or your Facebook status, you need to remember that you are telling a story. A cohesive story to your audience. And your audience is made up of "personas" Sure, it's helpful to know, as Hubspot suggests: (The following points are taken directly from that Hubspot article. You should read it. It's good.)
- What are the biggest problems they are trying to solve?
- What do they need most?
- What information are they typically searching for?
- What trends are influencing their business or personal success?
- What do they do online? Do they read blogs? Are they active on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks? What kind of search terms do they use? Are they email newsletter subscribers?
- What kind of information do they tend to consume online? Educational pieces? Trend articles? Interactive tools like calculators or worksheets? Do they watch videos or listen to podcasts?
- Which of your products do they spend the most time researching? How do they use those products?
But once you know this, you should give yourself a largish amount of time and really get to know this "person" or "audience" -- don't, as many suggest you should, name your personas "Maverick Mary" or "Busy Bob" or whatever. Do whatever you can to bust through two-dimensional crap and create a real, breathing person in your head. Someone, hopefully, that you would like to hang out with. Drink a beer with. Or wine -- whatever your persona would drink.
And create content for that group of people, where they would hang out, and when they'd hang out.
Write to solve their problems. Write to educate them -- to entertain them. Write like you mean it.
In fact, and I know you know this, but "scientists" have proven that content "goes viral" when our emotions are tweaked. You can't tweak "Busy Bob's" emotions, because he's a flat, two dimensional blockhead.
So take your data, let it simmer a bit and turn your persona into a person. Your audience will applaud your efforts and thank you for it.