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Writing compelling content that will make a customer jump through the page to buy your product is the aim of every content marketer.  We research topics, brainstorm headlines, and challenge ourselves to weave interesting, relevant stories that make people want to take action.

But sometimes, I read content that seems like it doesn’t know who it’s supposed to be talking to.  And that’s a problem when you’re trying to be highly persuasive.

So, identifying exactly who your audience is for your story is a critical piece of content marketing know-how.  Advertisers for years have referred to this audience as a Persona or a defined set of criteria that represent a segment of your prospective customer base.  Some clients have just one persona, while others have many.  For success in Content Marketing, it’s critical that you keep a keen eye toward the appropriate persona if you’re going to convert prospects into clients.

There are books and articles galore that can instruct you how to build really sophisticated, complicated personas.  However, you can really boil these down into a few simple points that help you better get inside of the head of your reader.  Here are the questions I like to ask my clients when I’m developing a content marketing piece for a specific audience.

How far along is your prospect in the decision-making process?

This is perhaps one of the most important components of a persona to understand, right out of the gate.  How is your prospect gathering information in order to make a decision?  How long is your prospect’s decision-making process on average?  What are some trusted resources your prospect goes to in order to better understand all of the choices available to them?

What types of topics influence this prospect?

If your client sells management consulting services to CEOs, that CEO might be influenced by his or her reputation, providing for family, being perceived as an expert, or making a mark on the world.  If your client provides roofing services for higher-end homes, his prospect might value having a neat home appearance, the avoidance of disaster if the roof caves in, or resell value.  Thinking through with your client the things that positively AND negatively influence their prospects gives you a keen insight into what types of questions you need to answer with your content, and what types of problems you’re trying to help them solve.

What are the goals this prospect has in life, outside of your product?

So, what does “success” look like to your persona?  If your client sells management consulting services to CEOs, “success” might look like increased profits, more customers, more positive press.  If we can better identify what a successful life outcome looks like for our prospects, we are better able to frame out content that helps them draw conclusions about how OUR products can help them achieve THEIR goals.

What are your prospects’ pain points?

What types of things keep them awake at night? What makes them uncomfortable?  What makes them reluctant to move forward?  Where are they resistant to change, and why?

After you apply some basic demographic information about your customer’s prospects and then couple it with the more esoteric data from having built a persona, you stand a much better chance of figuring out the key phrases and subjects that can really influence a buying decision.  And that is, after all, one of the main goals of Content Marketing to begin with – to connect with a prospect to the point that they want to learn more about your products and services.