One of the most common complaints expressed by brands and entrepreneurs is the inability of their email marketing to yield high open and click through rates. Invariably, the low rates are blamed on email content or messaging that failed to connect with the target audience.
The same holds true for content postings on blogs or social media. In a growing climate of info-besity, relevance is arguably the most critical attribute of any content intended to educate its target audiences.
For content to be truly relevant, it has to resonate with a persona’s pain points or passions. A test of relevance could start with the following questions proposed by content marketing strategist, Joe Pulizzi:
- Who is the audience and specific buyer persona you are targeting for each piece of content?
- What’s the pain point you are solving for them?
- Is what you are saying really that important?
- Could they find the information elsewhere?
From Spending Motivations to Personas
But the process of first discovering the relevant personas is not as simple as framing clients with monikers like “Debbie Downer” and “Soccer Moms.” Unless the persona evaluation leads to distinctions on what topics intrigue each persona or where they hang out, the evaluation serves little purpose.
If, on the other hand, an examination is made of the audience subtleties that reveal distinct pain points or passionate interests, any blog post, webinar or mobile app aimed at these persona nuances has a chance of at least being viewed by a target audience. Where the rubber meets the road on delivering relevant content is when it reveals a rich enough insight into each personas interest that the marketer is credited with intimately knowing the targeted persona as well as speaking their language.
To do this effectively, the following audits and analyses should be conducted as a prelude to discovery relevant topics:
- An audit of the spending motivations behind current target audiences (i.e., Why was your offering selected?).
- An examination of distinct psychographic personas most associated with each spending motivation.
- An analysis of the traits, wants and passions associated with each persona.
- A translation of these persona attributes need oriented topics of interest.
Notice how this was down for the case of a custom tailor. Starting with why target audiences pulled out their wallet, four spending motivations were discovered. Customers of the tailored suits were either seeking (1) perfection, (2) pleasing others, (3) prominence or (4) posturing. But when further examining the psychographic attributes of personas, twelve distinct personas were discovered, each with distinct traits, wants and passions.
Although this seems like an overkill, a scan of the twelve personas should convince you that these folks don’t hang out in the same circles; nor do they expect the same lifestyle image from their tailored suits. Each one showed distinct enough persona traits and passions to warrant dedicated content topics especially at the top of the funnel.
From Personas to Pain Points
Continuing with the analysis, each persona attribute now allows a consolidation of needs traced back to the spending motivations. This begins the process of defining relevant content without having to build twelve different segment strategies. In this case, eleven topics were compiled for potential blog content that addressed the following pain points:
- Not fitting in desired social circles
- Inability to exude charisma
- Fear of embarrassment from inappropriate etiquette or attire
Topics were developed as a way to brainstorm helpful tips that address these pain points. But without knowing the personalities associated with each spending motivation, pain points are difficult to derive. Consider the case of an organic food supplier whose target audiences include chefs seeking worry free appetizers; mothers looking for nutrition for baby development; adults seeking hair and skin development; and those suffering from inflammatory diseases. The latter, in turn, consists of 3 personas: a Deprived Athlete, the Closet Bound and the Les Miserable.
Each of the personas has highly distinct pain points. For example, the Deprived Athlete is mainly concerned with high burst performance in high pollen conditions. The Closet Bound is concerned with disguising ailments. And the Les Miserable needs energy and lifted spirits to get through the day.
Collectively, the target audience (inflammatory diseases) needs relief and could perhaps benefit from natural remedies; but their specific pains points require very different content. For a more complete evaluation of more small business personas and the process used to derive relevant content, you can download the free eBook on 74 Personas for Small Businesses.
Closing the Gap Between Relevance and Your Goals
The next challenge related to relevance, however, is closing the gap between audience relevance and your own content marketing goals. Too often, marketers drift too far toward a target audience’s pain points without envisioning the following:
- An accumulation of expertise perceived by the target audience from seeing your content.
- ToFu (awareness stage) topics that naturally lead into solution alternatives relevant to your value proposition.
- A trail of repurposed content that allows richer webinars, ebooks and other MoFu (consideration and evaluation stages) content.
- Topics that are readily discovered through search.
Instead, the targeted content often leaves a confusing trail of perceived subject matter expertise. And if the addressed pain points are scattered across too many disjointed topics, target audiences will struggle trying to grasp your value proposition as well as validating your understanding of their business challenges.
Building Your Trail of Expertise
To do this effectively, notice how a real estate accountant considered their trail of expertise and customer orientation in line with one of their target audience’s pain points. Nine blog posts were aimed at addressing the needs of a property manager faced with the housing and condo meltdown in South Florida.
From the blog post titles, it is clear the accountant has an understanding of property manager’s cash flow problems. Finally, the content is sequenced along a consistent cash flow topic thereby allowing for the development of a more comprehensive ebook or webinar on maximizing property cash flow. This middle-of-the-funnel content entitles the accountant to an email opt-in, an option not available for less valuable blog posts.
Rather than chasing every pain point associated with the 4 audiences and their respective personas, the accountant focused on the residential property manager. By maintaining a consistent focus on their condo and HOA cash flow issues, the accounting firm validated their expertise while showing an appreciation of the property manager’s pain points.
And in the process, a stream of blog posts was repurposed into more valuable content. Without the trail of preceding blogs, however, the resulting eBook would likely have a low open rate as property managers had little chance to examine it’s the firm’s accounting expertise and knowledge of property management.
So to make your content relevant, start your process by asking why folks buy your product or service in the first place. From these spending motivations, find the subtleties in personas that reveal new insights on pain points. Then ask yourself what questions might be asked to resolve their problems.
While doing this, consider how the question could be diced into individual blog posts later consolidated into an ebook that addresses the problem more completely. This allows you to build a trail of trustworthiness posts for your audience to examine before digesting a more complete solution to their problems.
So what other ways can content be made relevant? Please share your own thoughts.