One of the firsts things you should do when developing your marketing strategy is to first define who your target audience is. To understand what their needs and wants are. This is virtually synonymous with product or service development in itself. Because serving the good of your target audience should be your ultimate goal.
To do that, one must jump inside their minds and understand how your product or service can bring value to their lives. You solidify the reasoning for this with market research. Then, you can develop your content strategy in the same exact way.
You could even go so far as to think that each article you write, or each graphic you produce, is merely a small sample of the actual product that you’re selling.
Your content should reflect your product or service. If both align, how your target audience reacts to the content you produce is a telltale sign of how well the market will receive your product.
Amateur strategists, or entrepreneurs who haven’t taken the time to study the field in general, tend to just put content out there as per how they feel. Sometimes, this works. Most other times, with most people, it doesn’t.
This is why there are so many blogs on the Internet, yet so few people actually make legitimate money from them. It’s not about what you want to produce. It’s about what your target audience wants you to produce.
The Internet entrepreneurs who just put content out there with no strategy and just so happen to become successful coincidentally want what the majority of their market wants. This is why it works for them, but that doesn’t mean that such an approach will actually work for everyone.
In fact, it rarely works for anyone.
What Is a Customer Persona?
A customer persona is a brainstormed fictitious draft of your ideal customer. It’s based on real information and real people and is even given a face and a name.
In this draft, every relevant (and even seemingly irrelevant) detail about your target audience and their life is listed, including but not limited to:
- what books they read,
- what music they listen to,
- where they work,
- what their family situation is,
- how much money they make,
- what motivates them in life, and even
- what may psychologically pain them about their family or their environment.
This is done so that an understanding of why they’d buy your product, to begin with, is attained by the marketer, along with expected reasons for why they opt not to buy your product.
This knowledge would give the marketer an organized map to work. It can greatly help them with copywriting, content writing, and what they use as a UVP (unique value proposition) during the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.
2 Ways of Utilizing Customer Personas in Your Marketing Strategy
There are two ways of putting your content out there that I follow. I personally call them the crystalized approach and the fluid prototyping approach.
1. The Crystalized Approach
The crystalized approach consists of doing extensive market research and working really hard to grind out customer personas that you’ll use as targeting information to fire off your ads with. Or even coming up with the best hypothetical customer you can from your imagination.
2. The Fluid Prototyping Approach
The other method that you could start off with is a general idea of whom you wish to target. Then, narrow that down into a more specific and clear idea.
You can to it in the same way that you would narrow down your keyword list in a Google AdWords campaign. You would base it upon the data that comes back as you calibrate your ads to be progressively more effective over time.
I’ve used both methods, but I personally prefer the latter. That’s because no matter how much market research you do to construct your ideal customer persona, what matters most is how people respond and engage with your content. Those are going to be the people that end up becoming your most loyal audience.
And it may not always be who you initially imagined they were going to be.
I prefer this method because it isn’t about trying to predict the market so much as it is simply responding to the market, which is far easier. It costs a little bit of money at first. But this is a surefire way of nailing exactly the audience you want most for the highest amount of ROI.
On the other hand, you could spend hours, weeks, or even months performing a ton of research. That not only takes time but also money. And you may still not come up with the most effective answer.
Testing Your Marketing Strategy
To use real anecdotal experience to elaborate, I’ll refer to using the PPM ads that I used to launch this very series of articles. Ödèas Marketing & Investing is obviously a company that seeks to target aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners like yourself.
You are literally my target audience.
Planning the Testing Process
What I did was start off with a vague idea of whom I wanted to write for, and thus attract to my business. Then, I published a post. Then, I did A/B split testing with LinkedIn and Facebook PPM ads. That allowed me to see how my target audience would take to my content on either of those platforms.
LinkedIn has better targeting since that entire platform is basically for business professionals. But the price per mille was exponentially higher than what I’d have to pay for Facebook.
Yet, I was sure that my target audience would also have Facebook accounts. So, it’s not like I couldn’t reach them on Facebook. Even though Facebook is more often for B2C (business to consumer) marketing, rather than B2B (business to business).
At that stage, I only knew a sparse few things for certain about my target audience:
- they were English-speaking,
- they were either already small business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs that could use advice, and
- their budgets were likely to be very small to work with.
PPM Campaign and Its Results
Therefore, I launched my initial boosted content to a very large vague audience with a budget of $7, and waited for that to be spent. Then, I observed the metrics that Facebook Analytics graphed, listed, and charted for me in the feedback report.
I had a goal of a certain price per engagement, which I wanted to be above 3%. This means that for every 1,000 ads launched (mille), I wanted a minimum of 30 people to engage with the boosted post. If I was paying a price of roughly a dollar or two per mille, then that’s basically the equivalent of a $0.03 to $0.06 per click if it was a CPC (cost per click) campaign.
I failed to reach that goal the first time around, but that was expected. If memory serves correctly, I believe the first round of ads only got about a 1.2% engagement rate. But what I gained back for the price of the $7 was analytics about who responded the most to the content.
So, initially, I only boosted content to both males and females between the ages of 18 and 65+. Basically, everybody that exists within the entirety of America using social media with any interest at all in entrepreneurship. An audience of millions and millions of people scattered all over the country.
First Round of Results and Tweaking
The report showed that is that males between the ages of 22 and 35 responded the most to my content.
As a result, I created a new campaign boosting the same blog post. Only this time, I targeted only males between the ages of 22 and 35 accordingly.
That’s not to say that I don’t want women reading my content. Of course, I do! But understand that I’m a sole proprietor of a small business myself. I’m bootstrapping with a budget that’s not that large.
I am, in a way, my own target audience. And am simply recommending what I myself use for myself, which is the best advice I think anyone can give to anyone in any conceivable subject.
This lowered my target audience into the several hundred thousand range.
If I had a higher budget to work with, I’d absolutely focus on women if that’s what my reports lead me to do. It’s just that when you’re first starting as a small business, you need to maximize the ROI of every dollar.
Once I shot out those ads for another $7, however, I got back another report with more data that I could use to refine my ad targeting even further.
Entrepreneurship is a scary business. Lots of people dream about it, but few people actually do it. Therefore, out of the 22- to 35-year old males with interest entrepreneurship that responded the most to my content, I wondered how many of them were actually serious about starting their own business or already do.
What’s a good way to segment people by how serious they are about it? What they read.
Refining the PPM Campaign
I then considered the books that I myself had read in the past as I tried to better my entrepreneurship skills. People who are really serious about starting and launching their own business will definitely take the time to read about it.
My articles are usually at a minimum of 1,000 words each. This one is over 2,000 words on its own. So, I want entrepreneurs who will actually read my content, making them the most likely to convert into paying clients.
Because if they’re willing to devote their time and energy into reading posts as long as mine, then that’s a strong indicator that they’ve got what it takes. They’re willing to take the time out of their day to really learn and listen to what I have to say.
Thus I refined my targeting even more. I focused on a few key entrepreneurship books that most likely only people who are already in the mix of managing or launching their own business would have read, such as (but not limited to): The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki.
So, how many entrepreneurs are there in America who are in the midst of starting and/or managing their own business who read this specific list of books? Only a few tens of thousands.
Then, I decided to narrow it down even further. How many male entrepreneurs are there between the ages of 22 and 35, have read the specific list of books, and live in only New Jersey, for instance? Only about 2,000.
I then launched the ads during the hours of the day that most people would be online, and voila. Engagement rates of over 3% for a very small price. Once I feel that I’ve attracted everyone I can from that geographic location, I set the target ads for a different one. And I do it until I’ve covered the entire country in its entirety.
The reason why you don’t want to just target the entire country right off the bat is because you have to think about how competition works that affects the price per mille.
There are plenty of companies that are bigger than mine. They marketing to the same or similar audience with their ads. But they have more resources than I do and they are competing at the national level. Few of them compete at the state or city level with their ads. This makes for less competition, which makes for lower costs for me.
Repeat process for every state or major city, and voila.
The Major Flaw with Customer Prototyping
The biggest flaw with this approach is that I’m leaving out potential readers/customers. They may indeed be serious about entrepreneurship. That may want to better their strategic Internet marketing skills and would be willing to pay for custom advice/consultations to help them grow their business.
But, to reach them would be shooting in the dark if they haven’t listed that they “like” the books I target them by on their social media accounts. This is due to the resources I didn’t have to take the risk of burning at the time.
By sticking with what I know my audience has willfully listed, I can definitely hit some kind of a mark with a far higher percentage of success in the same way that one would be with card counting in Blackjack. Rather than just blind gambling with a larger audience that would yield lower ROI.
Mike Norton is an American award-winning marketing strategist with a BA in Internet marketing from Full Sail University.
He’s also a writer, entrepreneur, and a physicist studying part-time at the University of York who is a veteran of the United States military and the 7-time winner of the USS Dwight Eisenhower award for essays about world peace and respect.
As a mostly self-educated vagabond, he gains inspiration from a myriad of experiences wrought from the adventures of his nomadic lifestyle. He prolifically writes and journals where ever he goes in the world, from one country to the next.