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Content Strategy: Understanding Your Audience by Creating Personas Using Research

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Content Strategy: Understanding Your Audience by Creating Personas Using Research

A content strategy is critical to producing high-quality, relevant content for your customers. One component of a content strategy is a content audit, which is composed of inventory and a qualitative analysis. See my previous blog posts on audits, including specific blog posts on technical documentation, marketing collateral, web content and localization.

One of the measures to analyze in the qualitative analysis is how content applies to customer goals. In order to make sure your content is relevant for your customers, you first need to understand who they are and their responsibilities and goals. Your content should then fit in with what they’re trying to accomplish with your product or service at each stage in the buyer’s journey. If you conduct an audit based on customer goals, you can analyze the relevancy of your content.

To gather customer data, you need to create personas based on research.

Create Personas

gpi-content audience-1

A persona defines a customer segment that’s developed using real data. You can capture a lot of data to describe a persona, but in general, you want to get information such as job title, summary of job description, key stakeholders, work environment, responsibilities and goals. This information is summarized in a 1- or 2-page document. You should also give a persona some fictional information such as a name, picture and characteristics to make the persona more alive and real.

Here is an example of what a 1-page persona might look like:

  • Name: Software Suzi
  • Role: Senior Software Developer
  • Goal: Internationalize and localize software into multiple languages
  • Age: 30-40
  • Income: 70,000+
  • Education: Bachelor’s Degree+
  • Location: urban area, United States

A lot of companies have more than one targeted customer segment so you may end up creating several personas. A best practice is to create three to five personas.

To take a persona one step further, you can create one or many scenarios, which are narratives describing the major tasks in a persona’s day. A scenario brings all the information in a persona together. To write a scenario, you describe the work environment and the goals and challenges a persona faces.

For example, Suzi’s firm developed a software to help hospitals keep track of patient records. It is used in the United States, Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe. It has been translated into Latin American Spanish, Swedish, French and German. She was contacted by a group of hospitals in Dubai who are interested in their software. Suzi needs to localize the software into Arabic, but they aren’t sure how to tackle the problem of making their product capable of handling right-to-left languages, like Arabic.

When you understand a particular scenario, it can help you envision what your customers’ days are like and should give you insight on how they might work with your product or service. These types of insights can help with product development as well. Scenarios can either be included in the persona or in a separate document.

Conduct Research

You need real, factional information about your customers and not internal assumptions. There are several methods to obtain this information such as:

  • Conducting interviews with real customers
  • Conducting contextual inquiries, which is a method of interviewing by observing people doing their jobs
  • Requesting third-party research

Once you have the data, you can examine it with sales, marketing and customer service for additional insights.

Next Steps

After the personas and scenarios are developed, focus your content development around them. You can use them to audit your content to see if it’s relevant and in the way a customer needs to access it. You can also see if you’re missing content or if you need to add or remove content. Personas and scenarios should be used across the marketing organization and development teams, and they can be helpful training tools for all functional areas of a company.

Conclusion

You need to understand your customers and their goals in order to provide content that’s relevant at each step of their buying lifecycle. By conducting research, you can develop personas for your customer segments to help you understand your customers and their needs.