If you’re like most content writers, you’ve probably been told about (or read about) buyer personas. It’s one of those terms that’s been used so many times it has started to lose its meaning. A quick trip back to basics: Hubspot, defines buyer personas like this:
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
Having the buyer persona is a good start. But it’s not enough. Only when you know how to write content targeted to your personas can you start to breathe life into your words.
Choose Words Wisely
… especially when you’re writing B2B content.
The internet is full of garbage. So people are learning to have better BS detectors when they read, especially in the B2B space. You should treat writing content—whether it’s a blog, brochure or white paper—like you’re walking a tight rope. One misstep and your content falls flat.
But knowing which words might knock your reader off balance and which will resonate is easier said than done.
Imagine you’re looking at a house. An architect will see that house far differently than you, and so will a plumber, firefighter, construction worker, property manager or home buyer. And yet, they’re all looking at the same thing. All this to say, it’s not enough to know about your subject.
You must know how your buyer persona thinks, and thus talks, about the subject you’re writing on.
Learn to speak your buyer persona’s language by reading industry publications and listening to podcasts and webcasts.
There are also a few tools you can use to help you learn the language. (BuzzSumo, Social Searcher, Google Trends)
And be considerate of your audience’s reading grade level.
When you’re thinking about how to write to your buyer persona, understanding what level of education they have is very helpful.
But don’t think of your buyer persona’s grade level as the target you must hit each time you write. Instead, think of it as the cap. For example, if your readers have a college degree, it may be okay (but not ideal) to write at the 13th grade level. But if your buyer persona only has a high school degree, you’d want to avoid writing at the 13th grade level.
The Hemmingway App is a super easy way to get a rough idea of your writing’s grade level.
Don’t shy away from slang and jargon.
You’ve probably heard that you’re supposed to avoid using jargon, acronyms or slang. But if that’s the way your buyer persona communicates, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by avoiding it.
Let’s say you’re writing about software that helps construction contractors manage their projects. You might tell them that the product helps them organize RFIs, closeout documents and change orders. To people outside of construction, RFIs, closeout documents and change orders don’t mean anything.
But for the purposes of your writing—in this example scenario—the people who don’t understand those terms don’t matter. They’re not who you’re writing for.
Write to Deliver Value to Your Buyer Persona
…which means not stating the obvious.
Anytime you sit down to write content, whether it’s to inform, educate or sell, you should be focused on delivering value to your buyer persona. With that in mind, don’t tell your readers what they already know.
Many writers are guilty (I confess I’ve done it too) of writing an intro that starts something like the following:
Everybody knows it’s important to do x, y and z.
It’s common knowledge that a, b and c lead to d.
If you’ve ever stopped by the post office, you know it can be…
These types of sentences in introductions do nothing but take up space. If it’s “common knowledge” or “everybody knows it,” then why are you wasting your reader’s time with it?
Use a “thesis statement.”
For every piece of content you write, you should be able to state the purpose of the piece in one sentence. If you remember anything from school, think of it like your thesis statement.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab gives tips on how to write an effective thesis statement. These tips are easily adapted to make sense for content writers. But without going into great detail, a thesis is simply “the sentence that states the main idea of a writing assignment.”
Once you have your thesis statement, decide if this statement delivers sufficient value to your buyer persona. Even simpler, will it make them smarter or make their day better? If not, the piece is not valuable to your persona.
Further, everything in your writing should flow from and support this “main idea.” When you go back and read over your content, anything that doesn’t tie back to your thesis needs to be cut. Or you need to change the thesis. This will provide the dual benefit of organizing your own thinking and making it clear to your buyer persona what value they’re getting out of your content.
Tailor the Length
Take advantage of knowing who you are writing to by customizing the length of your content. I’ve seen otherwise competent marketers fall into the trap of following some “best practice” they heard or read about. There is no secret sauce. You have to research.
Luckily, BuzzSumo has a great resource that makes doing this research extremely easy. Unfortunately, that means there’s no excuse not to. Just plug in the urls of your site, your competitors’, and your industry’s leading publication.
Check out the content length section, and you’ll find out which length seems to be shared the most by your readers.
Of course, one data point does not a conclusion make. So supplement BuzzSumo with Google Analytics. Navigate to your site content, apply an advanced filter to get rid of any pages you don’t want, and see what’s performing well.
Mastering the art of writing to specific buyer personas is an iterative process. Approach it with humility. Don’t make assumptions. And do your research. In a later post I’ll talk about how to write to specific buyer personas within the context of the buyer journey.