Riding the range in search of leads...

Chapter Two: After finding what looks like a good marketing automation tool and developing the personas (fictional representatives of each of my target prospects) I spent last week in a dive into the deep end of the pool: Creating a strategy to define what content I need for each of my target audiences.

I expected this would be hard work, which is why I kept avoiding it and why it felt so rewarding when I did it. This required thinking very, very hard about the key segments of my target audience is (and, just as importantly, who is NOT a target segment) and about exactly how I think I can add value to each. This refining and zeroing in is always one of the hardest things for my clients to do when outlining a white paper or response to an RFP, and the same was true for me.

A little background on who I’m trying to reach and why: After about a dozen years in the IT trade press, most recently as technology editor at Computerworld, I’ve spent the last decade creating high-quality B2B marketing collateral for everyone from Microsoft to BMC and AT&T to EMC and Cognizant. I now want to use these editorial skills, and my understanding of what customers need from information technology, to help craft content marketing campaigns that produce high quality leads.

I had to keep remembering this as I refined the personas (which you can also think of as customer profiles, or customer segmentations) the questions I think these individuals would have, and the content I would produce to answer those questions. Whenever I found myself repeating general observations about content marketing or trends in the IT industry, the more I felt I was spinning my wheels. What felt much more useful in creating my plan was when I focused very specifically on my specialty – understanding IT and the IT buying cycle – and explaining how I would use that to help B2B marketers  create more leads.

When I couldn’t do direct research through conversations with experts in areas such as PR, scanning LinkedIn groups and Twitter for blogs in which my other target customers (marketing types inside and outside of vendors) discussed content marketing and related areas. Following their Twitter feeds about their off-hour activities helped me “flesh out” the personas and keep a fully-formed person in mind as I write.

I originally doubted the value of personas, but now see it helped keep me focused on the specific value I hoped to bring to a specific, even if imaginary, person. That kept my mind focused because I care about what an individual thinks about me, but not a generic customer category. In the case of my PR persona, for example, this narrowed my writing from a generic description of the benefits of content marketing to thinking about the needs and pressures facing real PR people I knew. I then, for example, included suggestions for how they could build off their current PR practices to include content marketing. The more focused the story, the better the information the reader gets – and the more I learn about them from their interest or lack of interest in each story.

Once I had my questions, and the list of content required to answer them for my prospects, I needed to track them. After toying with the idea of a spreadsheet, I settled on a more graphical Word diagram that helps me visualize where each story fits in the flow, and where the gaps are. Creating a hyperlink to each piece as it is written also gives me a quick view of where I stand in content creation.

Speaking of which: On to a content audit, and then to writing!

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.