Tag Archive | "personas"

Earning the Link: How to Pitch and Partner with the 5 Publisher Personas

Posted by QuezSays

I stood up from my office chair, stepped behind it and leaned on its back with both hands so I could stare at the email from a new angle. I was silenced by the response of the blogger:

“We’ve had a recent policy change here, and we no longer offer followed links. It’s hurting our reputation and being flagged by Google.”

In that moment, the game changed for me. I’ve received some interesting responses from editors and bloggers about links before, but never as adamant and uninformed as this. I realized that I needed to develop a communication strategy for my emails to publishing partners about links.

The challenge

Content marketing is a great way to amp up the reputation and visibility of your business. This includes well-placed bylines on high-authority sites that cover your market place. From our perspective, it’s completely appropriate to receive an attribution link in return. Creating interesting, authoritative, and valuable content is something my team excels at — that’s not the issue. The issue is working with publishing partners who have preconceived notions about links.

Publishers, bloggers, and editors have a wide range of opinions when it comes to links and how they’re treated by Google. This can create challenges for content creators who want to submit their work to these publishers but are being refused a link back to their site in their author attribution. A variety of people find themselves in this situation — SEOs, content marketing professionals, freelancers, thought leaders, etc.

The fact that people have different opinions on links is not exactly breaking news. My CEO, Eric Enge, does a good job recapping how this nofollow madness came about.

So how do you communicate with publishers in these circumstances in a way that’s credible, respectful, and effective?

After placing roughly 150 pieces of content on a wide range of sites, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to identify someone’s perspective to effectively communicate with them. There are so many myths and misconceptions about links and how Google treats links — you never know what perspective you’ll be dealing with.

This piece will help you quickly identify the perspective at hand, personify it, and from there, help you strategically communicate to give you the best chance of attaining that well-earned attribution link.

Step 1 – Pitch properly

As Rand Fishkin said in his 2012 Whiteboard Friday, “Stop link building and start link earning.” This context is the foundation of all communication with publishing partners.

Practice good pitching etiquette and do your homework researching the site. There are many resources that cover this, so I won’t go in-depth here. However, I will touch on my pitching strategy because I truly believe in its effectiveness.

When I draft all of my pitch emails, I refer to a sticky note stuck to my monitor that outlines the four sequential questions an editor is going to have when they receive my email:

Sticky note.jpg

1. What does this person want?what they want.png

Answer this question in the subject of your email, and in the first sentence. Eric Enge suggests you treat this as your value proposition.

2. Is this credible?

is this credible.png

Ask yourself the question, “What would make my communication more credible in this person’s eyes?”

For example:

  • Name-dropping a big brand that is a part of the collaboration
  • Mentioning an accolade that your writer has earned (e.g. rated top Southern mommy blogger back-to-back years)
  • Highlighting other places the author has been published (e.g. monthly Forbes and USA Today contributor)
  • Mentioning a very specific piece of information that proves you’ve spent a lot of time on their site:
    • “Penny Pens has a lot of tips to share on how to road trip around the Midwest. I think this would complement your travel-heavy July editorial calendar. It would also build nicely off of Christina WritesALot’s piece on Choosing Travel Buddies Wisely.”
  • Speaking directly to their content strategy:
    • “I think that Bobby Beers UCLA Tailgating guide would be a great piece to help promote football ticket sales on your events page.”

Worth noting: If you’re unwilling to do the in-depth research that allows you to speak this way, don’t slapdash this communication. Go another route. “I read your recent article on plants and found it very interesting” doesn’t give you any credibility, and it can even hurt you by coming off as insincere. Emails like that already plague editors.

Don’t believe me? Check out Michael Smart’s article on how we’ve ruined the compliment approach to pitch introductions.

In fact, I’ve even seen software that mimics this approach for marketers that are trying to scale their outreach. The user selects the publication and editor and the software creates an email template that automatically pulls in the title of the last article the editor published. That is how manipulative the email outreach environment has become.

3. Is this valuable?

is this valuable.png


4. Will this work?

will this work.png

Ask yourself what details would be worth including here. Is the detail crucial to the communication? Would including it prevent the recipient from misunderstanding your offer or not responding?

For example, when I pitch writers that work for a big brand, sometimes I mention that we’re not interested in giving or receiving any compensation for the contribution I’m offering. I’ve had experiences where the editor sees the name of my Fortune 100 client and immediately thinks that I’m offering a sponsored post. Or they think that my writer wants payment and will immediately write off the opportunity because they don’t have the budget for another writer at that time.

By answering these questions clearly and in this order, I’m helping the editor quickly determine if this is an opportunity that interests them. Assisting editors in being able to make that determination quickly, and prioritizing that over being persuasive, is the best gift you can give them. It shows that you respect their time and will keep the door open for future opportunities. It’s how to begin building trust in a long-term relationship.

Side note: Talking about links during pitching

I generally don’t talk about links with an editor upfront and often wait until they’ve had a chance to see the completed content. First of all, the attribution link is only one of the benefits we’re looking for (reminder: the others are reputation and visibility). It just doesn’t seem fair to talk to the editor about your author attribution before they see the piece. They don’t know you and want to see that you can deliver something valuable and non-promotional first.

It can also come off as unnatural to some editors. Do you really want to risk having your email mistaken for one of the hundreds of spam emails they regularly get promising “high-quality relevant content in exchange for only one dofollowed link!”? Unfortunately, talking about links right away can sometimes trigger an editor to see your content opportunity as low quality.

Step 2 – Earn the link

Once the editor requests your content, work with the writer or content creators until you have something that you’re proud to represent. Ask yourself this question: “Is this link-worthy?” If the answer isn’t a resounding “Heck yeah,” then you won’t have the leverage that you need later on if you end up in a sticky situation (i.e. if you aren’t given a link or you’re given a nofollow link). In those situations, you need to make a powerful request to remedy the situation. Are you willing to make that request for a piece of content your team created half-heartedly? That’s up to you. You need to decide what type of content you want associated with your personal brand.

In short, there are no shortcuts. Earn the editor’s respect and earn the link.

link building vs link earning.png

Step 3 – Write a simple “white-hat SEO” author attribution and submit

For example:

  • Usually no more than two to three sentences
  • Avoid direct-match rich anchor text
  • Link to a page that has high relevance to the author or the content
  • Don’t include more than one to two links

Step 4 – When encountering a nofollow link or missing link, communicate strategically

Once in a blue moon, when you check to see if an article you’ve submitted has been published, you’ll find a nofollow tag or a missing link.

What you SHOULDN’T do in this situation is send an email that justifies or explains why you deserve the link, or why the link is important to you. Don’t make an assumption as to why the link isn’t there. You don’t know what happened.

What you SHOULD do is make a simple request. There is no need for the email to be longer than three sentences:

“Hi Max, thanks for making Sally McWritesALot’s article look so great. It looks like the link in her attribution is nofollowed. Can you remove that nofollow tag?”

The editor’s response will give you hints on how to proceed. Below, I’ve outlined some of the flavors of responses you might get, with a publisher persona associated with each one that will help guide your communication strategy.

Skeptical Sally

skeptical sally.png

  • How to identify:
    • Skeptical Sally might respond with something like this (real examples I’ve received):
      • I don’t allow follow links on the site in sponsored or guest content. As I’m sure you are aware, it can dramatically damage our Google ranking. I love Andrea’s piece, but can’t risk a portion of the site … this is my full-time job — and one that I love. My Google ranking can affect future business opportunities.
      • We do not allow dofollow links any longer; this is in an effort to abide by SEO best practices for our blog.
  • Skeptical Sally’s perspective:
    • Sees links in general as very risky, especially a link that may be associated with a brand
    • Due to their policy change, she now plans to put a nofollow tag on every outbound link, “just to be safe”
    • Has an immediate skepticism of people asking for links
  • Communication strategy:
    • Move on. It is unlikely that Skeptical Sally will be open to a new perspective about links. If you try to educate her on the issue or talk through it, she may even get offended. Oftentimes, it’s just not worth impacting the relationship. After all, there may be ways to collaborate in the future that don’t involve content links (social media cross-promotion, interviews, etc.). Best to say thanks and move on. You still get the reputation and visibility benefits of the article that was published, but you now know that Sally’s site isn’t one where you can expect fair attribution.

Pseudo-Smart Steve

pseudo smart steve.png

  • How to identify:
    • Pseudo-Smart Steve might respond with something like this (real examples I’ve received):
      • The [client] link is just to [client] and will appear spammy to Google. Big red flag.”
      • Other language to look out for — any mention of “PageRank sculpting” or “retaining link juice”
  • Pseudo-Smart Steve’s perspective:
    • Has absorbed some SEO advice from outdated or unreliable sources
    • Knows that links are important, and wants to cash in on the best way to use them on his site
    • May attempt some type of “page sculpting” strategy to prevent precious PageRank from leaking off of his domain (note that this notion is a myth)
  • Communication strategy:
    • Make an attempt to educate these people, standing shoulder to shoulder with them. Sometimes they are just doing the best they can with the knowledge that they have and are open to new information.
      • For example, if the editor responds, “We prefer to nofollow as it retains the link juice,” then perhaps there is an opportunity to send them a link to a resource that will explain that the PageRank that would have been distributed to that nofollow link is NOT redistributed, it is essentially wasted (such as this Matt Cuts blog post).
      • Important – I wouldn’t recommend explaining SEO concepts in-depth over email. What would be more credible and powerful is to make your point in a sentence or two and then provide a link to a resource that backs up your point from an obviously credible source (Google’s blog, something that contains a quote from Google, a reputable study, etc.). Empowering an editor with the information they need to make their own decision is powerful and helpful.
      • Here are a couple of recently published resources to have bookmarked in case you are in a situation like this:

Here’s the extent I’d recommend explaining something in the email itself (real example):

  • Me: “Regarding the link, you can nofollow if it’s an absolute sticking point for you. However, we do feel that since the link is going to a relevant page (where you can find more writing by Julia), there won’t be any risk. Also, there are millions of websites linking to [client], so we feel from that standpoint, it’s not really going to raise any red flags.”
  • Editor: “OK — that all works. The nofollow link really isn’t a sticking point … I appreciate your feedback.

Savvy Shelby

savvy shelby.png

  • How to identify:
    • Responses that comment on how a topic relates to user experience, engagement, visibility, or other editorial areas
  • Savvy Shelby’s perspective:
    • Knows what she needs to know about links — that they are important to people, relevant to search engines, and are a form of currency when working with writers and freelancers
    • Knows that there are things that she doesn’t know about links — that search engines and technical marketers know a lot more than she does about exactly how links work
    • Knows that user experience is what really matters — that if a link doesn’t feel valuable to a user and isn’t a gesture to reward a contributor for a brilliant piece (trusting the contributor enough to know that it won’t be harmful), it may not be something she wants to include
  • Communication strategy:
    • If the link was omitted entirely, explain why including that link will positively impact user experience.
      • Will it provide author credibility?
      • Help users find more content that the author has written?
      • Expand on the topic somehow?
    • If the link has a nofollow tag, let the editor know that the author you are working with prefers to have the freedom to include a followed link in their attribution. This is why it’s so important that you’ve earned the link and provided incredibly valuable content to her and her audience. Trust must have been built by now.

Side note: Make this editor your best friend. They are your most powerful publishing partner.

Oblivious Oliver

oblivious oliver.png

  • How to identify:
    • There may not be specific language to look out for here, besides hints that suggest complete apathy or a lack of editorial structure or direction. Look for off-topic content or grammatical errors during your initial research. You probably don’t want to do a lot of work (and build an association) with a site that doesn’t scrutinize the work of their guest contributors.
  • Oblivious Oliver’s perspective:
    • Doesn’t know anything about links or an association between links and search engines
    • He’s willing to do almost anything with links, as long as it doesn’t make the page look bad
    • May be so hungry for original content that he’s willing to sacrifice quality in general
  • Communication strategy:
    • If you’re just realizing that you’re dealing with an Oblivious Oliver at this stage, it may be a sign that you’re not doing enough detailed research on the site upfront. Perhaps there were some hints within content on his site that you could have picked up on.
    • Regardless, at this point it doesn’t matter. Follow through on your word to deliver a high-quality piece of content and move on to the next opportunity.

The biggest takeaway here is the simplest one: Email communication around controversial or misunderstood topics (such as links) is difficult. Because of this, it will benefit you to keep your communication in simple editorial vernacular until you have earned the right to talk about links — by providing something valuable. When you identify a Savvy Shelby, cultivate the relationship. And for the rest, I hope that this guide empowers you to respond in a manner that’s more effective and will get you results.

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Energize Your Content Strategy with Buyer Personas & Buyer Journeys – December 4 Webcast

Killer content is only “killer” if you know your audience. Your content needs to relate to your buyers in meaningful and lasting ways. Join us Thursday, December 4th for this Digital Marketing Depot webcast with Bryan Eisenberg. He’ll discuss why it’s essential to develop the right…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Energize Your Content Strategy with Buyer Personas & Buyer Journeys – December 4 Webcast

Killer content is only “killer” if you know your audience. Your content needs to relate to your buyers in meaningful and lasting ways. Join us Thursday, December 4th for this Digital Marketing Depot webcast with Bryan Eisenberg. He’ll discuss why it’s essential to develop the right…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Posted in Latest NewsComments Off

Energize Your Content Strategy with Buyer Personas & Buyer Journeys – December 4 Webcast

Killer content is only “killer” if you know your audience. Your content needs to relate to your buyers in meaningful and lasting ways. Join us Thursday, December 4th for this Digital Marketing Depot webcast with Bryan Eisenberg. He’ll discuss why it’s essential to develop the right…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Search Marketing: Can your marketing team identify your buyer personas?

Developing a strategy to identify the personas of your customers can be daunting. Read on to learn how Jacob Baldwin, Search Engine Marketing Manager, and Christina Brownlee, Director of Marketing Communications, both of One Call Now, identified four different personas applicable to a wide variety of verticals within their target and how they related these personas to their marketing team.
MarketingSherpa Blog

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Keyword-Driven Personas – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by RuthBurr

As inbound marketing is gaining traction, marketers in all inbound disciplines are realizing the importance of taking on keywords with a more holistic approach. It's time to start building your keywords into the bones of your site, rather than adding them once your site is already completely mapped out. 

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Ruth Burr discusses how you can use your keywords to drive personas, and ultimately affect your site mapping process for the better. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below! 


For your viewing pleasure, here's a still image of the whiteboard used in this week's video!

Still image of Whiteboard Friday - Ruth Burr - Keyword-Driven Personas

Update: Ruth referred to some code that Mike King of iAquire put together that may help your site if integrated into your analtyics. Give it a look!

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans. My name's Ruth Burr. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. I'm the Lead SEO here at SEOmoz, and today I want to talk about using keywords to drive personas and ultimately your site mapping process.

One thing that we're really thinking a lot about as we move more and more toward an inbound marketing model, where there are multiple different people with multiple different functions all working together to have the best inbound marketing possible, is what we're doing with keywords and sort of when we're adding keywords into the site. I know that we've all had the experience in years past where we would get a site or get a piece of copy that was completely written and then just kind of have to plug our keywords into that existing content wherever they would fit. You might have an entire site that's already completely mapped out, it's got a sitemap, it's got information architecture, and then you're supposed to go in and put in your keywords. I've found that that is not always the best user experience for the keyword, and also isn't as effective as taking a more holistic approach.

So what I'm really hoping you guys will get out of this is take it back to your UX and your IA teams and really think about how you can build keywords more into the bones of the site.

One thing that Google is thinking a lot about that is really important for us to be thinking about as marketers as well is searcher intent. Search engines are spending tons of money and tons of time and tons of effort trying to figure out what people are searching for when they use a keyword. It behooves us as marketers to do the same thing because that way we can give people what they want when they tell us they want it, and that's the beauty of search engine marketing.

My example here is chocolate cookies, because I like to think about cookies. You might have somebody that's searching for the keyword "chocolate cookies," and maybe you own ChocolateCookies.com, a great domain. If that's the case, you don't really know what they want when they want chocolate cookies. They could be looking to buy chocolate cookies. They could want to learn how to make chocolate cookies. They could want recipes. You might also have ingredients. Maybe in addition to cookies you sell ingredients for cookies. Maybe you have recipe content and sales content, and you want to know how to serve up each of those pieces of content in a way that's really going to serve the user. What you can start doing is really thinking about the search intent of each one of these keywords and building that in to a traditional persona-based marketing model.

This is my example model. All of these examples are made up. The data is not real. You cannot use this data and take it out and just go build ChocolateCookies.com. You could, but results are not guaranteed. To reiterate, this data, made up.

In my ChocolateCookies.com example, we've got three different personas. We've mapped out who they are and what they want. Now we can actually assign keywords to them. Say you're trying to target people who want to make cookies. What they're looking for, they're looking for recipes, they're looking for ingredients. They are not looking to buy cookies. If somebody googles "chocolate cookie recipes" and they click through to your site and it's a page about how you can buy cookies from you, that is a bad user experience. Those people are not going to buy cookies, and they're also going to bounce right back to the search results.

That is the kind of thing that search engines are tracking. How quickly did somebody return to the search results page from your site? Did they do it without taking an action? If so, that can be a signal that you're not serving up quality content. It's bad from a ranking factor's perspective, and it's also bad because that person did not give you money and that's what we're trying to do, trying to sell cookie recipes.

So you really want to make sure that this person when they're searching for these keywords, which you've mapped back to their persona, you're serving up chocolate cookie recipes. And if they're looking for ingredients, you're serving up ingredients. Then you're creating an entire experience. You're not just paying lip service saying, "Oh, here's a recipe and then buy a bunch of stuff." You really are serving them up that high quality content that users love, that brings them back to the site again and again. If the recipe content is good enough, this baker might even share your content and share it with their friends, and maybe even link to it from their blog that's all about making cookies. Wouldn't that be nice?

Then you might also have somebody who does not want to make cookies because they don't have that kind of time. They want to buy cookies. They just want to buy them and then eat them. It's a model that I practiced for years. So they're going to be looking to buy cookies online. They're not going to care about recipes at all. They're not going to care about ingredients at all. They're going to be much more purchase-driven and be looking at keywords around their favorite brands and looking for sales. These are the people that you can really incentivize with calls to action and trust signals, like free shipping, delivery, sales, coupons, join our mailing list, and things like that. You've now mapped these back, so again you're creating this entire experience and all of this content based around the fact that this person does not care about recipes at all, they just want to buy.

Then our third persona is somebody who's buying at the corporate level. Maybe they're an office manager, or at SEOmoz, Team Happy is constantly buying us goodies and snacks, and we love that. But this person is in charge of the cookie supply at their office. What, does your office not have cookies? I'm so sorry. Get some cookies.

So this guy, he doesn't care about recipes at all. He's not going to make cookies every day for 100 people. He wants to buy them, and he's not spending his own money. He's spending the company's money. So he's looking for things like a corporate discount, a bulk discount, Maybe he's catering a party. He needs same-day delivery. These are the things that are really going to be important to this person. Since you know that, you can create content that is solely targeted toward this one person, this one buyer. Especially if you have things like a corporate discount, this is the place to really show it off.

So you've got these three different personas, and they're taking three very different paths through the site and they're consuming the site in different ways, whether it's buying a bunch of stuff, buying one thing, consuming your content and buying ingredients, coming back. Each of these personas is experiencing your content in very different ways. Rather than just creating one site and popping in keywords all willy-nilly so that all of these people are having the same experience, you can start crafting unique user experiences for each of these people based on their paths through the site.

Great, except that that takes a lot of time and money. Both in the fact that at most businesses time in some ways is money, and you may actually have to spend some money on it. One of the things that I actually really recommend doing during this part of the process is running some PPC campaigns around the keywords where you're trying to define user intent. If somebody's just searching on chocolate cookies, you might not know if they want to buy them, or if they want to make them or what they want to do. So use PPC, run a little test, and see whether people respond better if you've got recipes, or free shipping, or what the different calls to action are for those more generic terms. Over time you can start to see what the majority of users' intent is and what they really respond to and craft experiences for those more generic terms based around that. That's a really great way to use PPC as a little guinea pig test.

Now here comes my favorite part because it involves metrics. What you can do is go into your Google Analytics or whatever, use your analytics tools and start looking at these behaviors based on keywords. Once you've got your persona and you've got your keywords assigned to your persona, first of all make sure that all of these keywords really are the same persona. Make sure that users who enter on those keywords are taking similar paths through the site and executing similar actions. That's a great secondary indicator that all of these keywords do belong to this same persona.

Start looking at what they do. Maybe you get the most traffic from the baker, but you get the most revenue per order from the corporate guy. Maybe the shopper doesn't return as much, but she does convert at 2.4%. The baker spends the longest time on site, but maybe she doesn't buy as much. These are the things that you can start to look at and say, "Okay, so we know that the baker spends a lot of time on site, that's great. What can we do to encourage her to turn that into a purchase? How can we brand message to her in ways that make her feel more comfortable buying ingredients, or what can we do to incentivize her sharing this content which clearly she's consuming or loving?"

The same thing with the corporate guy. If he's got the highest revenue per order, obviously we want more of this guy. We want to figure out what does he want, what is he doing, and what are the triggers that we can use that get him to buy more or get him to return to the site more. You can start really testing, and that's great because it allows you, even just before you've done any of that amazing tweaking and testing, to say, "Okay where is the biggest mover of the needle among these two personas? What are the activities that we could be doing that could encourage them to do more of the activities they want to do fastest?" Then that'll help you prioritize and it'll help you target your efforts and your budget.

Then if you want to go above and beyond and really get in there and be a little bit creepy, what you can do is actually link up your site to Facebook Open Graph so that people are opting in to a Facebook app when they're registering on your site. They're connecting with Facebook. So there is that opt-in. You don't just want to take people's information. Once you've done that, you can actually, in your Google Analytics code, link it up to your Facebook Open Graph data, and you can start getting real demographic data on the actual people who are using these keywords and coming to your site. Now in addition to knowing that the baker is 40% of searches, you know that she's 35 to 40, you know she's female, and you know she's a mom. The corporate guy you know that he works at a company of more than 100 people most of the time. So you can really start targeting these people based on their demographic information.

What you also learn then is who these people are that like you so much. They're coming to your site over and over. They're buying things from you, which is really what we're trying to do here. And you can start targeting more of those people in your own SEO efforts, in your own customer acquisition efforts. You're targeting them on social. You're reaching out to them for links. You're buying ads to put in front of them, and you have more confidence that you'll have a return on those ads because you already know these are the kind of people who like you.

So you have all of this information about keywords and about personas. Now you can take that back to your user experience team, to your information architects and say, "Hey, let's redo the sitemap and have it be based on these personas, based on these proven user behaviors that start with a keyword and end with a purchase, and let's build experiences for those keywords." Now instead of just saying, "Well, here's what I think. We've got like About Us, Contact Us, Products." You can really say, "These are three main personas, so in the header we should probably have cookie recipes, shop cookies, corporate discount," and know that even from page one on the site whenever one of your target people comes to the site, it's really easy for them to find the experience they're looking for, make their way through the site, and then buy something.

Mike King of iAquire, who blogs at ipullrank.com, put together some code using Stack Overflow, which may or may not work on your site. Take it to your devs and see if they can make it work with your analytics. Every site is different. Your mileage may vary, but there is a link to it here at the bottom of the screen. There should be. It's invisible to me, but you can see it.

Now that you have this data, go to your UX people and show them the power of keyword-driven site mapping. Show them how SEO has so much to do with what they do, and not only will this project work for you, but in the future they'll be more likely to come back to you and say, "Hey, we're going to change the whole site, and we thought you should know before we do it." That's what you want.

That's it for Whiteboard Friday this week. Thanks for coming by you guys. See you next time."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Use Customer Service to Spruce Up Your Buyer Personas

marketing personasintermediate

The buyer persona defines what your potential customer values, wants, fears, and objects to when they shop for your product. This affects everything from what blog topics you cover to the kind of offers you distribute. And these insights are invaluable for maximizing your marketing team’s spend.

But what happens when you get these hypothetical customer profiles wrong? You risk sending the wrong message, to the wrong audience, at the wrong time. And that’s a huge waste of time and money.

Even more frustrating is the fact that, even with diligent research when compiling your buyer personas, understanding every customer nuance isn’t always that simple or obvious. So how do you find those little details — love is in the details, after all — that paint a more comprehensive picture of your buyer personas? You leverage your front line employees that interact with your customers every day; your amazing customer service team! Let’s review some of the oft-missed opportunities that marketers have to learn more about their buyer personas … through their customer service team!

Learn Their Communication Channel of Choice

One of the first things customer service can reveal about a buyer persona is the communication channel of choice. Their preference is typically pretty easy to suss out based on how they request support, in fact. At the opening of every service ticket, your reps should record both the persona they’re speaking with, and whether the connection was first made through email, phone, live chat, or self service. This allows management to later pull a report by persona and identify whether they prefer one communication channel over the other. Knowing this trait helps marketing decide how they should interact with a persona during the pre-purchase phase — or the upsell phase for current customers. After all, it’s to your advantage as a marketer to communicate in the way your leads and customers prefer!

Assess Technical Savvy

Meet with your customer service team and identify the most common questions they receive about your product or service. Then, for each question, discuss what technical bucket they would fall into — whether that’s “highly technical,” “general,” or “basic.” You could choose more macro tiers that are specific to your company, too. This aggregated data should reveal technical savvy, which also dictates how marketing and sales communicate with that persona, as well as what kind of content they should create. And remember, if your customer service team has access to your CRM, they can just input that information during any communications they have with your customers!

When would marketers use this information? Well HubSpot, for example, discovered that large enterprise clients ask complicated functionality-related questions — many which actually generate new ideas for product features — while smaller businesses have more general questions. These questions dictate the marketing content we create … from blog posts, to sales collateral, to email messages, to product page copy.

Refine Fears, Wants, and Values

Your marketing team should work with customer service to identify other possible support behaviors that reveal buyer intent for your product, or realized fears from the pre-purchase stage. Let’s take a HubSpot customer, Goodbye Crutches, as an example. They have a persona, “Mary the Motivated Mom,” and perhaps she’d call customer service wanting to know if the she purchased could be disassembled because it wouldn’t fit in the trunk of her car.

That’s a really good question. Probably a question a ton of other potential buyers have. It also reveals a concern she and many others have with your product that would be pretty handy to clear up during the pre-purchase stage, eh? Marketing might, knowing this information, include a diagram in marketing materials that shows how the scooter folds up and fits the dimensions of most standard vehicle trunks.

To record and track this data, allow space either in your customer service software or CRM to track these “fears” “wants” or “values.” Ideally you can export the information into Excel to sort and look for patterns that will help you refine your buyer personas as you gather more and more information.

Identify Timely Marketing Opportunities

Sometimes your customers purchase your product or service … and then don’t use it right away.

What’s up with that? It kind of makes getting feedback hard when your customer bought, say, rain boots from you but hasn’t even put them on yet.

Well, did you ever consider that mom bought those rain boots for Junior as a back to school item before the school year started? So it wouldn’t make sense, then, to send a follow-up email asking for feedback on the rain boots, or trying to upsell or cross-sell another product, right?

If your customer service team, however, gets an idea of when your customers are actually using your products and services, you can start to understand customer buying patterns a bit better. This lets you not only follow up at the right times, but anticipate future purchases for which you can prepare marketing campaigns. Is your persona a mom who needs to prepare for back to school every year? A contact lens wearer that stocks up on monthly, quarterly, or yearly supplies? A marketing director who gets new budget every January? Understanding the right time for your customer will help you nail the right time to marketing to similar personas.

Test Upsell Potential

Customer service is a great testing ground for your upsell techniques. What are the triggers that result in a customer purchasing more from your company? It likely aligns with some additional problem they need solving at this particular stage in the customer lifecycle — but what is that stage? And what’s the value proposition you can offer that resonates with different segments of your customer base?

For example, there comes a point with HubSpot customers that they start rocking so hard at marketing, they need more robust software. I mean, eventually you might graduate from basic top-of-the-funnel activities and need a little marketing automation software, right? If our customer service reps started to get questions from one persona like, “Is there any way to automate my social media?” or “Is there a more advanced way to get up my email marketing?” It might be an indication that persona is graduating into another persona. That needs another suite of tools. Pretty cool stuff.

Prioritize Marketing Spend

Customer service can also enable your marketing team to prioritize spend better. What’s the support volume required for each persona? How often does each persona call? How long does each call last? How often do they refund? Depending on what percent of sales that persona contributes, you might choose to decrease marketing investments for that particular persona if the cost to acquire them as a customer exceeds the cost to keep them on board.

It Takes Dedication

In order for this checklist to work, you need to make sure your customer service team understands the persona traits and the value of refining them. Keep a poster in the service department that provides a visual representation of your personas so they are always top of mind. Or download this Power Point Template that lets you easily fill in your buyer personas so they can keep them within arm’s reach at any time on their computer.

Equally important, however, is your customer service team to record and track these buyer persona traits. You could do this all anecdotally at first, but if you prefer a more methodical approach, set up your CRM with the fields your customer service reps need to fill in information as they talk to customers. You could also go one step further by integrating your CRM with your issue tracking software.

Ashley Furness is a CRM Analyst for research firm Software Advice. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising.

How else do you leverage your front line employees to help you be a better marketer?

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11 Savvy Ways to Use Buyer Personas to Strengthen Your Marketing

target audience buyer personaintroductory3

Do you know your best customer? Seriously — do you really, really understand your best customer? For example, do they live in the big city or the suburbs? Watch Jeopardy or Modern Family? Use their iPhone nonstop, or get nervous about new technology? If you don’t know the answer, it’s time to do some research. Asking these types of questions will help you paint a clearer picture of your target customer — what marketers like to call their “buyer persona” — which will help you make smarter marketing decisions that always cater to the needs of your target customer.

The key to successful marketing is making marketing people love. And the first step to making marketing people love is understanding *what* your best customer loves. Once you understand your buyers’ loves, needs, and interests, you can use this information to guide all of your marketing moving forward. Not only will you be successful, you’ll make your buyers happy! So here are 11 ways for you to start using those buyer personas you created to make smarter marketing decisions that make your target audience love you a whole lot more.

11 Ways to Use Personas to Be a Better Marketer

1) Write blog content that reads like their favorite how-to magazine.

Have you ever read an article that was so relevant to your life — right at that moment — that you thought it must have been written just for you? That should be the goal of ALL your content for your potential buyers, particularly your blog content. By knowing what your buyers want to read and then writing it in educational and how-to blog posts, you’ll generate avid, loyal readers and subscribers.

2) Post social updates that speak their language.

HEYYY! we bet u wouldnt follow @HubSpot 4long if we twtd like this ALL TH3 TIME!!!!! Alternatively, choosing superfluous and ostentatious terminology for your social interactions may alienate your network … ahem. Be relatable to your buyer persona by using the language your buyer persona uses. That way your network will be able to relate to your brand, and your marketing will flourish!

3) Hang out where your buyer persona hangs out.

Does your network live for LinkedIn, but hate Twitter? Is there a specific niche social website that your persona can’t live without? That’s where your business should be most active! Hint: Look for trends in your web traffic from social networks. The channel that has the highest visit-to-lead conversion rate will most likely be the network that works best for you. 

4) Customize your SEO strategy to target the phrasing your persona uses.

This can get interesting! Say you sell electronics and you’re optimizing your website for the term “tv remotes.” But wait … what if your target audience actually calls those gadgets clickers? That’s a major difference! Be sure to optimize your website content based on the way your buyer persona speaks, and by extension, the way they search.

5) Use humor that your buyer persona finds funny.

Injecting humor into your marketing content is a great way to humanize your brand, but you have to make sure it’s actually funny to your target audience. Even more important, you have to make sure it’s not insulting to your target audience. The tastes of a 21-year-old man might be a bit different than a gentleman in his 50s, after all. Truly know what your buyer persona finds entertaining. It’d be a shame to accidentally upset one of your prospects when you were just trying to make your brand a little more relatable, and your content a little more engaging.

6) Create an offer that solves your persona’s problems.

What does your buyer persona want help with? Is there often a problem that most of your best customers have? Or had when they were your leads, at least? If you can create a document that helps your target audience solve that problem — and put it behind a form to help with your lead generation, of course — you’ll have a true win-win on your hands. Your target audience gets the help they need, and you generate some seriously high-quality leads!

7) Optimize your landing pages for your buyer persona.

Don’t talk about why you think your offer is important. Describe your offer in terms of what it will do for your prospective customer. That type of content is appealing and compelling, and you should see a higher conversion rate after optimization. Not sure what words will resonate best? A/B test your landing page copy to see what resonates best with your target audience!

8) Use technology that caters to their technical level.

Don’t ask your customer base to use a technology type that they aren’t comfortable using to interact with your website or content. For example, forcing your customer to download a mobile app when they don’t have a smartphone might not be the best call. Make sure you understand what type of technology your buyer persona knows, has, and is comfortable using so your marketing content is easily accessibly.

9) Collaborate with partners that excite your persona.

Co-marketing is an amazing way to make your marketing soar — after all, two heads (and resource sets) are better than one! When choosing your co-marketing partners, try to think of companies that your buyer idolizes, whether they’re small or big, and consider if a partnership might be beneficial. You could do anything from launching co-marketing webinars to simply making a donation to a non-profit your persona cares a lot about. You’ll develop your brand’s authority and thought leadership position, and earn some major likability points with your target audience.

10) Align your campaign timing with your persona’s lifestyle.

Does your buyer persona go on vacation every August? Stop work at noon? Live in a different time zone? Read emails from her iPhone when waking up at five in the morning? Cater your campaign launches around these lifestyle nuances. So if your target audience is, say, a night owl, you’ll probably want to schedule the majority of your social content around 9:00 to 11:00pm in your target’s timezone. Right? Right.

11) Mold your sales process to your persona’s decision making process.

This might be the most important tip. Different people need different types of information to make key buying decisions … and at different stages in the buying cycle, to boot. Make sure you understand what type of details and information your buyer will require before they sign on the line that is dotted, and when the best time is to divulge that information.

What else do you use your buyer persona for in your marketing? How has developing a buyer persona helped you?

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Gaining Business Leader Buy-in: 7 CEO personas

If you want to get the budget you need to buy a new tool or platform, you have to convince the CEO that you can deliver some serious ROI. Kristin Zhivago, President, Zhivago Management Partners, broke down CEOs into seven “functional personas” to help you understand how to work with, and pitch to, your business leaders.
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