There are many factors that go into great content. If I had to identify the single most important thing you need to know to write great content, I would say that you must understand your target customer. Right now, Imagine is doing persona exercises for some new customers, so we’re in the thick of figuring out who the target customers are and what they’re struggling with. (Here’s another blog that gives an overview of the process.)
When I was mulling this blog over in my head, I googled the subject, and personas weren’t even mentioned in any of the top-ranking blogs. In fact, SEO seemed to be the hot topic. That’s all well and good--but isn’t going to do much good if you aren’t attracting the type of prospect who is likely to become a customer.
If you’re trying to tell a customer that you can solve their problems, you better have a very strong understanding of who that customer is, what they do every day, and what keeps them up at night. If you don’t, you’re wasting a lot of time and effort, not to mention money.
Right now, my daughter is at summer camp and she’s gotten really into archery, so I’m sorry to say that you’re going to have to bear with me as I do some imperfect archery metaphors.
It occurred to me that the bow is equivalent to the persona. You use it to aim the arrows, aka different content tactics, at your target. (I guess this would make the quiver, which contains the arrows, the overall editorial philosophy/content strategy.)
As you can probably tell, I don’t know much about archery beyond what I’ve seen in the movies, but hopefully, you get the idea. What I’m getting at is that without taking careful aim, you’re just shooting wildly, accomplishing nothing (except perhaps some pain).
At Imagine, whenever we take on a client, we go through a few weeks of messaging calls and client homework to ensure we’re taking aim at the right targets. It’s helpful for everyone. Whenever I write a content brief, I include the persona we’re writing to so the writers understand the POV and the problem we’re trying to solve. It’s useful for the client in many ways, but for the clients who have a million ideas, all of which they want executed immediately, it helps to use the persona to figure out what ideas are on track. Then we can prioritize accordingly by using other factors like industries and any gaps we might have in terms of content--but persona is always the first step for me.
And for clients who don’t have a million ideas and need some help figuring out that content, it’s always a useful exercise to look at the personas we’ve created and to figure out what problems they’re trying to solve. (That’s another part of Imagine’s messaging process.)
In fact, when I took Joanna Wiebe’s Copy School course a couple of years ago, I was interested to see that her “pre-messaging process” had a lot of similarities to Imagine’s launch process. And she runs one of the preeminent copy courses in the country! I’m biased, but I think Imagine’s advantage is that we have our founder Doug’s perspective, since he was a salesperson who used content as a sales tool, before it was cool.
All of this is to say that personas are grossly underestimated in terms of creating targeted content and marketing strategies. If you haven’t done persona research before creating a content strategy and editorial calendar, you’re already behind.