Bisk Education is a worldwide leader in online education. For 40 years, Bisk has been focused on providing lifelong-learning opportunities that enable working adults to reach their personal and professional goals. To date, there have been more than 450,000 enrollments. Click here to learn more.
We interviewed their Web Presence Manager, Frank Pipolo, to get an inside look on how Bisk does effective content marketing using audience segmentation.
What’s your guiding philosophy when it comes to content marketing at Bisk?
We are fans of content marketing leaders like John Deere, Red Bull, Michelin—companies who have developed loyal followings by creating great content rather than just ramming their product down people’s throats.
When people need a product down the road they turn to those brands. Those companies create a powerful affinity, loyalty and brand awareness through content marketing.
At Bisk, we believe in that approach to content marketing. We work to create great content on our site for nurses, teachers and the military — a big market for us — as they return home and look for education options.
We are big believers in the concept of the “brand as a publisher.” All brands have a content imperative and must find the right audience and deliver the right content at the right time. We are convinced that that is a necessary approach in today’s changing landscape, rather than just being in it for the immediate return.
I know the content team at Bisk has done some work recently on persona marketing and audience segmentation. How did you go about figuring out who the right personas are for Bisk?
It started several years ago when we recognized that SEO was shifting towards a content focus. We doubled down our investment on content development and content marketing.
When we started to get serious about it, we used Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute’s Epic Content Marketing book as a guide. We went through the book as a team and developed a contest: each group selected one persona and developed a content calendar for their persona.
The winning team presented to 30 of our marketing people. This was a fun process, and it gave us the opportunity to tap into the collective wisdom of our teams and get everyone involved and bought into the process.
You talked about how you ran a contest at Bisk to develop the right personas you are addressing. Is there any advice you would offer organizations looking to take the next step in developing personas?
The folks here at Bisk did a lot of research with our brand teams in developing our personas, but they also did offline research.
For example, I mentioned earlier the military program we developed to reach soldiers returning from overseas who are looking at their education options. We had folks who spoke with military friends and family; they discovered their pain points and the challenges they encounter returning from overseas and taking the next step in their education.
They also went on military forums and Q and A sites like Yahoo Answers to see the kinds of questions and answers consistently cropped up. They looked on social networks. They researched conferences to see what sessions were held around these issues.
Ultimately, you build your personas gathering information from a variety of sources to get a holistic understanding of your audiences.
Why do you think it’s important for organizations to take the time and effort to develop personas?
The old way of doing things in content marketing was to have a single lens through which you viewed your audience, but as an industry we’ve come to realize that’s defunct. We’ve got to tailor our content, our messaging, and our positioning based on the distinct needs of our audiences.
Not every prospect or customer is the same. Different segments of your audience have different pain points and motivations; it’s not a one size fits all.
What’s your strategy when it comes content distribution at Bisk?
Once we have a great piece of content, we want to make sure we are moving it across all our marketing channels. Whether we have a great infographic or a neat video, we want to make sure our search and social teams are actively involved, cross pollinating our content across all available channels. Then, we can track how the content is performing across all our channels with Searchlight.
How does Searchlight fit into Bisk’s effort in developing content, building personas, and measure what is and is not working?
Searchlight gives a variety of ways to understand how keywords and content are performing for each of our key personas. With it, we have a concrete way to visually quantify exactly which pages are performing and which are not.
Here’s an example of how that looks in our day-to-day: by looking at a Searchlight report, one of our team members noticed that a certain phrase was performing well. He developed content around the phrase. The site now ranks number one for that term. He discovered that opportunity because of the insight Searchlight gave him.
That’s just one example of the many ways we are getting insight from the platform. And, as we’ve developed Bisk’s personas we’ve been able to adapt the reporting and customize the system to track what keywords and content work on a persona-by-persona basis.
Do you have any parting words for the budding Web Presence Manager?
I’ve been around the industry for a lot of years and have seen it change drastically over that time. It’s happening again and this time the change is from a keyword-focused industry to one that is focused on content performance and specific audience segmentation.
It has changed from casting one broad net to casting multiple targeted nets. I believe so strongly in this transition happening that I changed my title on LinkedIn to ‘Web Presence Manager.’
My advice to the budding Web Presence Manager is to take the time to step back and assess how this transition will affect your business. What are the implications to your business of speaking to specific personas rather than to a broad audience? What does it mean for the way you build content if you need to seed early stage content that brings your audience in at the top of the funnel rather than focusing on transactional keywords?
For Bisk, this thought process led us to a focused persona development process and defining meaningful KPIs. Once you’ve had a chance to step back and consider what the change means for you, you will be better equipped to develop a plan to move forward.