You’ve heard the adage that says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” right? I’d warrant most of us can still hear our parents repeating it over and over as we were growing up.
For B2B technology content marketers, it’s not about being nice so much as it is being new. Keeping content forever fresh is hard, because we often feel like we’ve said all there is to say—answered every possible question a buyer can ask about our products. So, we just pause and say nothing at all, until something new and shiny comes along.
Now, I’ve said before that posting content just to fill up a posting calendar is a bad reason for blogging. If you have nothing new to say, why not let your existing content ride—blog posts or any other content you use to engage your customers and prospective customers—and do its thing?
Because if you just listen to your customers, you probably have more to say than you think.
Mom knew her audience—do you really know yours?
Mom needed no special knowledge because her audience—you—and her life experience taught her how people typically react to negative criticism. But while Mom was right with respect to developing our social graces, truly understanding a B2B technology audience is a lot more complicated than teaching good manners (sorry, Mom).
When it comes to content marketing, there are always buyers’ questions your content has yet to answer. Not knowing what content to create next to stay “fresh” is often due to companies not asking the right questions of the right people. To quote a line from one of my favorite movies (my Mom also encouraged me in my love for Star Trek), “It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.”
That’s why developing buyer personas is so critical to creating your messaging and building an effective editorial calendar. Because if you don’t truly know your audience—beyond the superficial facts that make them a good prospect—how can you know what questions they’ll need answered next about your product or service?
A quick definition: What is a buyer persona?
At Idea Grove, when we start working with a new client, we ask if they’ve already developed buyer personas. But let’s back up a bit and define what a buyer persona is.
As a HubSpot Platinum Certified Agency partner, let’s use HubSpot’s definition to keep it short:
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.
Why a semi-fictional representation, and not one just made up of facts and figures based on demographics alone? Developing a persona to the point of giving them a name, hobbies, political leanings, and even daily worries allows you to truly identify with each decision maker as a real person, not just a checkbook. It helps you in defining how to talk to your prospects—your messaging—and in understanding the questions those prospects need answered by your content marketing.
There’s a right and wrong way of creating buyer personas
So, when we start working with a new client, it’s important to know if they’ve developed such in-depth personas of their buyers. If the answer is no, we explain the importance of stepping back to develop those personas before attacking the messaging development. Brand and product messaging are far more effective when they talk directly to the buyers needs and concerns, in language they are accustomed to hearing.
If the answer is yes, we ask a second, equally critical question: How many actual customers did you interview in developing the buyer personas?
This single question often reveals a critical error some companies commit when developing buyer personas. That mistake is to write buyer personas based solely based on the input of internal employees. Effective buyer personas aren't something you can create after a few conversations with the sales team. While salespersons are closer to their customers than almost anyone else, their view of a prospect’s wants and needs are unavoidably colored by the company line.
A second common mistake is to develop a single all-inclusive buyer persona. During a long sales cycle, there are multiple audiences and decision makers involved in evaluating a B2B technology product for purchase. The actors change as the cycle moves forward from awareness to consideration to the final decision. As such, the questions a decision maker has at an early stage aren’t the same as those farther along the funnel.
Finally, it’s also a mistake to assume that developing buyer personas is a one-and-done activity. Buyers and decision makers aren’t static. Their attitudes and opinions are affected by developments in their industry and the world around them every day. If what’s important to your buyers changes and you don’t know it, how can your content marketing remain relevant?
What’s all this have to do with keeping your content marketing fresh?
Next time you catch yourself thinking you have nothing new or fresh to say with your content marketing, think again. Do you really know what your buyers are currently thinking? Buyers will always have questions that only effective and timely content can answer. Providing that content sometimes means exploring whole new topics. Other times it means dusting off existing content to give it a new twist and keep it relevant to today’s buyers.
The only way you’ll know is if you really understand your buyers at all stages of the journey, and that means talking to them when developing your buyer personas. Keeping your personas up-to-date means you’ll always be attuned to the current questions and concerns on your customer’s mind. Answering these constantly changing questions should give you plenty to say to keep your content marketing new, fresh, and interesting.
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