Content Marketing Is Dead
Content Marketing Is Dead Podcast
Segments > Personas and Aligning Your Customer and Website Strategy

Segments > Personas and Aligning Your Customer and Website Strategy

Interview with Adrienne Barnes and Sam Howard

When my guests and I discussed a theme for this episode, we decided on persona-driven copy and content vs top-down marketing. What this means: if your messaging and content strategies are based on high-level personas as opposed to deep market and user research, you’re missing out.

But I’m hopeful that most experienced marketers know this by now.

The problem is that even if you know you’ll see more success when you align your marketing strategies and content around this deeper market research, you still need a strategy to conduct this research and figure out how to use it.

That’s the conversation I had with customer research and copy experts Adrienne Barnes and Sam Howard.

Listen to the full episode for insights into conducting better customer interviews, creating better audience segments and personas, and a lot more.

Below you’ll find two highlights from the interview.

About The Guests

Adrienne Barnes helps early-stage B2B SaaS companies find product market fit through market research.  Her marketing superpower is “pulling information from people, pulling information from internal demands, and then turning that into something that's useful for the organization.” Connect with Adrienne on LinkedIn.

Ekaterina (Sam) Howard works with growing B2B SaaS startups that need help speaking to their best customers in a way that would resonate and convert. According to Sam, their superpower is translating customer research into copy. (Per this interview, if I had to guess, I’d say it’s aligning content, web, and user experience strategies.)  Connect with Sam on LinkedIn.

Why Prioritize Segments Over Personas And Tips on Creating Both

Personas have their place when they’re built using research rather than assumptions. But when it comes to building and executing marketing strategies, segmentation is also key. And your personas and segments may not overlap.

Here's how I understand the difference between personas and segments:

Persona: a grouping of customers or prospects based on similarities in what they do and how they'd use your product/service.

Segment: a grouping of customers, prospects, etc. that you'd like to engage with in a specific way. A persona and a segment could overlap. Or you could further segment inside of a given persona.

One use of segments is deciding who to prioritize when conducting customer interviews. There are three types of users (IOW segments) that Adrienne recommends talking to:

1) Your Biggest Fans

“You want to talk to … the ones who have been around the longest and have spent the most money. They're recurring customers. They talk about you on social media in very positive ways.”

2) Your Newest Customers

Those who have “just recently converted where it's all fresh in their mind.”

3) Your Biggest Enemies

The folks “who hated your product, who like basically left poor reviews.”

She explains: “If you can talk to those three segments, that's how you can identify who your personas are. And those personas are really in-depth and nuanced ways to describe buyers within the organization.”

Adrienne recommends creating customer personas according to “jobs to be done.” In other words, everyone trying to accomplish the same thing using you product or services.  You want your personas to answer questions like common job titles, common industries they work in, “their roles, their rituals, their relationships, and their responsibilities. Here's where they sit most likely in the organization. Here's who reports to them, who they report to, their buying process, their entire journey.”

So wait, why segments over personas?

Obviously, both are necessary. But my point is to not stop researching your users and considering unique ways to engage with them once you’ve happy with your personas.

Some examples:

  • Special offers for your biggest fans or biggest spenders.

  • Email campaigns that target users who use specific features or who are prime candidates for upsells.

How do you learn what segments to create? You just have to do the homework.

“You go through the data, you read the insights over and over again, and you're like, ‘Oh, these people are devout, and here's how they're segmented.’”

Your Content, Copy, and User Experience Strategies Need to Align

“Talking to content folks and making sure there is a strategy that works for the website as a whole is probably the most important and sometimes missing piece,” Sam explained when I asked them about creating a user journey on the website.

Here’s my 30-second mockup of what it should look like when your strategies align together and are all based on well-done research:

In the interview, we touched on two really important points about how to align these various strategies.

  1. Don’t assume that the homepage is the most important page.

“I've had cases where, based on the search terms, it was the folks that were already brand-aware that were landing [on the home page]. So there's drastically less work there. They already know what they want, why they're here. They just need a quick confirmation that this is the right place,” Sam explained.

In ideal situations, they explained, you’re controlling a larger percentage of how folks enter your website and what you know about them. You’re using tools that tell you who’s landing on your site. You’re conducting well-segmented campaigns that direct people to specific landing pages, etc.  And if they’re coming to your site directly, it’s because they’re aware of what you do and the home page doesn’t need to start their education from scratch.

“But for organic traffic, that's a much more fun challenge, especially if it's content-driven,” Sam added. “Like, okay, they read the post. What's next? How can we get them to go to the proper web pages and start their journey to conversion?”

  1. SEO-driven content should educate people about your product or services (or at least show them where to go to learn more).

Here’s Adrienne: “Sometimes when I've come in as a content strategist, it looks like the blog is completely separate from the website. Like it's got its own branding, it's got its own name, and that kind of has been perpetuated by the ‘every B2B SaaS company should be a media company’ theory out there.”

The big takeaway here is to maintain one cohesive strategy. Personally, I think it’s fine to consider your blog as a media company if you remember what funds it. Like Sam asked: how do you get people who happened across your blog to start associating the content with your product or services? If you’re asking the right questions (and interviewing the right people instead of building your strategy off of assumptions), you’re on the right track.   

Content Marketing Is Dead
Content Marketing Is Dead Podcast
Interviews about the future of content and brand marketing.