As part of their upcoming webinar hosted in partnership with Experian Marketing Services, we had the chance to sit down with iAcquire, a digital brand strategy and marketing services agency that offers SEO, reputation management, content marketing, digital PR and social media marketing services.
Here, a team of marketing and strategy practitioners discusses the importance of persona-driven research cross-functionally within digital marketing. Read on to get insight into market research, content, social media and SEO -- and how all of these channels can be driven by persona data:
Norris Rowley, Jr., Market Research Manager at iAcquire -- and seven-year veteran at The Nielsen Company -- shares the value research can bring to a business' overall marketing ROI:
Why is market research an important element to the marketing mix?
Marketing is an essential action that incorporates the entire business and is vitally important to the health of any business. Market research views the entire business from the customer's viewpoint, taking into account every aspect of the client marketing mix - from the website (product), distribution channels and engagement tactics.
What areas of marketing can benefit from persona research and how can they benefit?
All forms marketing can benefit from persona research, from on-page SEO to traditional marketing. While some areas of marketing can use persona research in an instant actionable way (i.e. audience targeting and precise messaging) other forms of marketing can use persona research as a pure market research tool to build a strategy upon.
For example, I use persona research as a base for a client's social campaign, mobile marketing and organic search to detail for a client exactly who their audience is and how to engage them correctly. However when I use persona research for brand development or traditional marketing I use persona research to help shape a client's messaging and how they should target the brand to a particular segment.
How can persona data help customers' needs be met?
The persona data provides our clients with a behind-the-curtain look at who their audience is made up of, and how those demographics relate to their products. With that data, clients can better tailor their messaging to target that particular segment of the audience.
iAcquire's resident SEO, Tom Harari shares insight into organic search driven by persona research:
What, in essence, is persona-driven SEO?
Persona driven SEO is just that - optimizing your content, both on and off site with your audience segments in mind. Are you optimizing for keywords, or for customers? If the answer is the latter, how can you know for sure that you're speaking to your audience's needs and pain points without first understanding who your audience is.
What are five things enterprise brands can do to engage persona-driven SEO?
1. Incorporate SEO into the wider marketing strategy at the beginning, not the end.
2. Challenge your SEO team to compare their audience findings with that of the strategy team - do they align?
3. Forgot antiquated concepts of SEO like meta keywords and keyword density. Instead, look for content that resonates with the personas.
4. Use principles of Latent Semantic Indexing to incorporate semantically related words that support pages' topical themes.
5. Always be testing. Audience research and personas are just the first step. It doesn't end there -- constantly look to test assumptions validate which personas convert better. A/B tests and multivariate testing are crucial to accomplish this.
How can brands use consumer insights to identify link building prospects at scale?
Consumer insights help the marketing team understand where their target audience spends their time online, which in turn means your team knows which publications and influencers are needed to establish relationships with.
Can you use persona data for on-page SEO? If so, how?
Persona data touches almost all aspects of on-page SEO - from informing information architecture decisions, to copy, sites that are built for users to engage with and come back to will do well in organic search.
Devin Asaro, Content Strategist at iAcquire shares the importance of persona research in the enterprise content game:
Why does the "one-size-fits-all" approach to on-page content not work?
Different clients have different goals for their content, and all websites are different - especially when it comes to the way they engage their audience. A site targeting primarily older users will utilize an entirely different strategy than one trying to engage a younger audience.
How many personas should be targeted when creating web copy? How do you diversify content to fulfill multiple buyer personas?
There isn't a definite rule here. Some companies who offer a wide range of products -Target, for instance - are going to have way more relevant personas than a company like Venus, which has a much narrower target audience. You should target as many personas as are relevant to your audience -but there is a tipping point.
Some personas are in direct conflict with one another when it comes to the content they respond to. Targeting too many personas at once can lead to lackluster, middle-ground content. Go after your big fish.
When in the process should you lean on persona-driven research in the content cycle? What is the first step a business should take?
If you're going to do it right, persona driven research will factor into every strategic decision you make with "enterprise content". Integrated keyword and persona research should be the first step in the content cycle - that comes in the content strategy cycle, way before content creation starts. If you're creating content that isn't informed by that data -either because you don't have it or because you're not consulting it -then you're not really doing persona-driven content strategy.
What type of data is the most important in persona-driven on-page content on an enterprise's website?
Need states are incredibly important, because they should be the inverse of your offerings. If client needs "A", you need to align your messaging so that it reflects the fact that you offer. Figuring out what customers want, and what they need, is essential to persona-driven research.
Do you craft your content with behavior-based assumptions in mind? If so, how do you do this?
You design your site and its content based on how you think the user is going to behave. Luckily, UX is a well-developed field with a lot of research informing what we know about online behavior, so I certainly wouldn't call them assumptions (because you know what those do).
We make research-based assessments for all of our content and UI/UX decisions at iAcquire - and then we test them to see if we were right. If we weren't (or we see places where we can improve) we make adjustments. It starts as an art but it becomes a science. Within our agency, we use tools such as Experian Market Research and Nielsen data to really deep dive into our agency's and client's persona research.
How do you tailor specific calls to action to each persona?
You look for the divisions within that persona that make it complex. Personas aren't individuals - they're types. Look for issues inconsistencies or circumstances that divide the various subgroups within your target persona, and address your call to action there. If, for instance, you know that your persona comprises higher income people of both major political parties, and you're writing a blog post, a question regarding taxes is likely to spark engagement. It doesn't need to be controversial, but it does need to address users in a complex way, or they simply won't care.
If your call to action isn't focused on sharing or engagement, but rather driving action within your site -say, to get someone to sign up for a newsletter, the call to action should offer a benefit specific to that persona's need states. This isn't a difficult thing to figure out if you've done your persona research.
Megan Brown, Social Media Strategist at iAcquire unveils the link between persona-driven research and social media:
How do you use persona research for social media?
I seek out data that details the online behavior of personas - what blogs they visit, how much time they may spend on a social network, what they click on and more - which helps brands tailor both messaging and placement in order to guarantee a higher engagement rate. The behavioral and demographic data also helps me decide which social influencers can drive action from these personas, and I create relationships with these influencers to serve as brand ambassadors.
How does digital engagement shift from persona to persona on social networks?
Engagement shifts from network to network rather than persona to persona. Social networks are not one size fits all. This means that certain networks are better for certain tactics brands, organizations or influencers use to engage. For example, Pinterest is visual based -therefore, it is a great platform to engage with your customers through images, infographics and video content. Twitter is better for delivering short, to the point messaging designed to catch a reader's attention - and brands still must leave room for users to add their own thoughts so they will re-share it with their friends. So, networks themselves inherently attract a certain type of persona - however, the demographic or details of these personas may be very different, even if their online behavior or way they consume messaging is similar.
So, networks themselves inherently attract a certain type of persona - however, the demographic or details of these personas may be very different, even if their online behavior or way they consume messaging is similar.
Does an archetypical social persona exist? If so what do they look like and how do they engage digitally?
No, there is no archetypical social persona. Social networks are always changing -- that means how personas use and consume their content is changing as well. Certain alterations may bring in new personas to use social, other changes might turn some personas off to specific social networks or even social as a whole. That's why it is so important to continue to monitor and measure audience behavior and use social listening to your advantage to retain certain personas or capture new personas entering the social sphere.
Why does social media research need to come before execution?
If you don't know who your audience is, what they like, how they consume messaging, where they live online, what types of messaging they prefer, how they access social networks, who they have conversations with on these networks, who on these networks drives action from them.... You're basically throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks. Guess and check is a waste of money, time, and energy - especially when there are tools to access and analyze the research needed to create a successful campaign.
Want more information on persona research and digital strategy? Tune into Experian Marketing Services and iAcquire's complimentary webinar, Persona-driven search strategy drives better results on Thursday, March 14 at 2:00 p.m. EST. This webinar will help determine the best ways to build a campaign strategy, ultimately leading to a better customer experience and increased traffic.