We chatted with Paul Manz, the Director of Strategy at allwebcafe — a digital marketing agency known for its creative, persona-based approach to B2B brand strategy — to examine the importance of persona marketing in content strategy.
What is allwebcafe, and what do you do there?
allwebcafe is a digital marketing agency primarily focused on supporting B2B clients with brand strategy, integrated media, and digital experiences. Of course, we offer all of the traditional services of a digital marketing agency (website design, SEO, SEM, and creative services, etc.) but our sweet spot is focusing on the buyer’s journey, connecting prospects with content at various key stages of their research process.
My role is focused on working with our clients to develop a fundamental understanding of their business model, competitive landscape, and target audience. Once we understand that, I work with our team to determine how we can increase and broaden their web presence online.
Our sweet spot is focusing on the buyer’s journey, connecting prospects with content at various key stages of their research process.
While we have a thoughtfully structured process for brand development, persona modeling and content experiences, the final solutions we offer our partners are creative, and far from predictable. That’s part of what I love about engaging with our clients — no two are alike. Once we‘ve determined a web presence management strategy for our client, we circle back and make sure it maps appropriately to their business objectives.
Let’s say you’re working with a new client. How do you go about building their personas?
As with almost any engagement, a lot of the process is driven by time and resources invested by the client. For many of our engagements, we have an initial client discovery meeting with 10-12 stakeholders who are on the front lines with their customers. Sales, Customer Service, Product Managers, Marketing — all are represented at the table.
We have an initial client discovery meeting with 10-12 stakeholders who are on the front lines with their customers. Sales, Customer Service, Product Managers, Marketing — all are represented at the table.
We develop a series of questions that help to establish a day in the life of the target persona. We typically segment down to 4-6 personas, and then ask the stakeholders questions to figure out who their targets are: their main responsibilities, motivations, and pain points, and so on. We are also looking to discover whether the persona is an influencer or decision maker in the buying process since the content can vary based on their role.
Is there any ancillary research that takes place above and beyond the in-person stakeholder interviews?
You bet. In step 2 of the persona building process, we conduct follow-up interviews with their target audience to validate the stakeholder interviews.
On our more complex engagements, we also field a quantitative study to bring more contrast to the qualitative results. The more we understand who we’re targeting by digging into their world or challenges and pain points, the more we can inject our client’s brand into the conversation with content that builds trust and makes a brand connection.
The more we understand who we’re targeting by digging into their world or challenges and pain points, the more we can inject our client’s brand into the conversation.
How do you figure out the content that is right that maps to each step in the buyer’s journey for the clients’ personas?
We start out by creating a matrix and list each persona on the y axis, and the choice and retention gates of the buying journey on the x axis. We complete keyword research for each persona at according to their specific stages of the buying journey using Conductor Searchlight and other tools.
We ask “What questions might this persona ask when they are first researching a product?” and “What are the early stage symptoms of a pain point that will eventually be resolved by the solution our client offers?”
We enter exploratory terms such as “what is…”, “how do i…”, and “can I…” That research process helps us discover the kinds of searches the persona makes throughout the buyer’s journey. We then repeat the process for each stage of the buyers journey, asking, “What questions would the buyer ask at this stage of the buyers journey? By the end of the process we end up with a series of questions each persona would ask at each stage of their buying journey.
What are some of the benefits you have seen both for allwebcafe and for your clients in developing content based on persona marketing and the buyer’s journey?
We’ve seen specific growth in key metrics that is directly attributable to developing content for personas. Typically, deeper engagement from audiences starts with early stage content. Early stage content makes a brand connection by educating prospects which in turn creates repeat visits and further adoption.
We’ve seen deeper engagement from audiences. Bounce rates have dropped and time on page has increased. We’ve been able to measure that as a ‘before’ and ‘after’ where we’ve seen those metrics increase after shifting to a persona-based approach.
We’ve seen specific growth in key metrics that is directly attributable to developing content for personas.
This shift has taken place because we’ve become far more strategic with content for our clients by understanding their personas’ needs and pain points and then developing content that maps to that. As a result of the increased engagement, we’ve seen conversion rate growth for many of our clients. If you are more targeted with the traffic that you deliver, you are going to see growth in conversions as a result.
Can you give us an example of a successful content strategy you built, based on persona marketing?
Sure. We have been working with Joe Hand Promotions, a major TV distributor of UFC pay-per-view fights. Using personas, we identified targeted type content that speaks to a passionate fan base and content generating audience that follow the UFC.
Here’s a snippet of the infographic we created (full version here). It was part of a content strategy designed to increase page rankings and link building for Joe Hand Promotions throughout the UFC community.
The infographic, “Where We Watch UFC,” was #1 traffic driver for all referred content to Joe Hand Promotions in Q3 2014.
How has technology fit into the persona marketing and content strategy that you described?
Searchlight allows us to research our clients’ keywords by persona and, as a result, we can clearly understand the digital market share by persona before we ever embark on any work for the client. This allows us to be very targeted about who we are creating content for effectively measure the impact of on digital market share as well as more accurately calculate ROI of our efforts and make informed adjustments as needed.
Searchlight allows us to research our clients’ keywords by persona and, as a result, we can clearly understand the digital market share by persona before we ever embark on any work for the client.
allwebcafe takes a sophisticated approach to content, but do you have any plans for growth? How do you keep improving your internal processes?
We have several internal teams at allwebcafe referred to as “operations” that are dedicated to R&D. One of the teams is focused on content personalization: extending the persona concept to additional interactions. We are looking at several marketing automation platforms, and we really want to start attaching personas to marketing automation.
We’ll extend the persona approach to email and send targeted content to those people who have interacted on the client sites based on the content that they consumed.
Then, extending that to the client website, we could show the visitor content based on the product they viewed in the past. Then, we can start to segment the user into personas based on their content consumption behaviors and what we know about them.
We can dynamically personalize the website based on the persona and even things like geography. That’s the direction the B2C space is going, and we think the B2B space is headed in the same direction and of that revolution.