Knowledge Hub

Inbound and Content Marketing 

It’s Time to Rethink the Way you Build Personas

Personas are a vital part of content marketing. Personas are semi-fictional personifications of each of your target audiences. Defining clearly who your customers are helps you to understand their pain points or challenges, where to reach them, how to talk to them and eventually how to get them to perform a specific action on your website, app or social media. Combined with a good understanding of their buying journey, your personas can help you write relevant, targeted and useful content that will push them further down the funnel.

Unfortunately, too many businesses don't take the time to define personas, or maybe it's because they don't know how to do it, or they don’t think it’s important. The problem is that they end up writing content that doesn’t resonate with their actual audience and leaves them wondering why their conversion rate is so low.

However, if you’re reading this article, you probably already have personas and are looking to improve how you define them or maybe you understand that you need to define personas and want to understand how best to do that. You might already have information about your key persona's, their age, gender, how many kids they have, where they live and work, where they spend their time online, which magazines they read, what car they drive, where they shop, etc. So that’s it, you can start writing amazing content that will convert every time. Well… not so fast.

London women holding a bike

How do you tell your 30-something woman working and living in London, who has an iPhone, shops at Waitrose and earns a decent wage to buy your stuff? How does this information help when you’re trying to get her to request a quote from your business? How do you know your Unique Selling Points (USPs) will resonate with her, and especially, which ones in particular will push her to take action on your site? That’s where the jobs-to-be-done framework comes in.

If you'd rather watch Clotilde; our persona evangelist, instead of reading about buyer personas below. We've prepared the following video. Clotilde discusses some great actionable advice, that'll be sure to support whatever marketing endeavour to do next.

Introducing the jobs-to-be-done framework

HubSpot and Nielsen Norman swear by the Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework to help build your personas. This framework is based on finding someone’s motivation for buying your product or service. They use your product or service to do a specific job that will achieve a particular outcome for them, and ideally solve a problem they might have. Their situation forces them to seek something new and once they find it, the job is done, their life is better.

Claire Suellentrop from Forget The Funnel, gave a fantastic presentation on the JTBD framework at Learn Inbound 2019 in Dublin. She used the following sentence to help define a job to be done:

When _____                                                                              Situation that triggers the struggle

help me _____                                                                        “Job” => a struggle motivating them

so I can ______                                            “Done” => the whole process results in a better life

To illustrate this, Claire talked about her husband who needed to buy a briefcase after he was promoted as a SaaS consultant:

When I’m visiting the offices of our most important clients…

Help me look put-together, but not old-fashioned…

So I can show clients that I’m professional and also modern/tech-savvy.

This example gives relevant information about what the persona needs in a briefcase. The seller can then use it in their copy to reassure the potential buyer that their product will do that exact job.

Identifying your customers’ jobs-to-be-done helps you to understand what triggers their need for your product or service, which makes it so much easier to sell it to them. You can then reach them when they’re likely to encounter this problem and push the USPs that will resonate with them the most, because you know what their goal is and what job your product or service needs to do for them.

You can then combine this with all the data you have about their demographics, where they go online, etc and use this information to reach them on the right platforms, at the right time with the right message. That’s strategic content marketing for you!

How to find your customers’ jobs-to-be-done

Find your best customers

Identify your ideal customers, the ones who are low maintenance but really engage with your products/services and make sure they purchased recently. This will depend on what you’re selling. For consumer products, a few weeks to a couple of months should be enough but for software or B2B services you might want to wait about 6 months. Not only this, but for more complex products there may be more decision makers involved in the buying journey. Your best customers need to have had enough time to interact with your product or service but not so much time that they’ll have forgotten what it was that happened when they were searching for to “hire someone to do the job”.

Talk to those customers

Get those best customers on the phone for an interview. Tip: you should never tell them it’s an interview. Say it’s a chat, it’s much more informal and they’ll be more inclined to talk to you.

Man talking to customer phone box

The idea is to build a timeline of what happened when they were struggling, but not a testimonial. Avoid asking them directly why they bought from you because they’ll make something up. They simply don’t know why. Also, don’t ask for their opinion, questions like ‘what do you think’ should be banned.

Claire Suellentrop shared some of the questions she uses for interviews:

  • Take me back to life before [PRODUCT]. What were you using back then?
  • What happened to make you realise [OLD SOLUTION] would no longer work?
  • How did you go about looking for a new solution?
  • How did you eventually find [PRODUCT]?
  • What made you realise [PRODUCT] was the right fit?

Build a timeline

You should interview about 10 customers if possible to start drawing out patterns and uncovering your jobs-to-be-done. Look for the following:

  • Common struggles that push people to shop
  • How they evaluated the options
  • What they were skeptical of or worried about
  • How they found your solution
  • How they knew it was right for them

All this information will feed into the way you present your product or service and what USPs you’ll push depending on who you’re talking to.

What if I don’t have any customers?

It will be more difficult to gather the data because you can’t speak to actual people. However, you can look at reviews for products/services sold by direct or indirect competitors. Identify the language people use, look for reviews that talk about their problems or how something changed their lives. This will build a base to start with and as you get more customers, start the interview process at the right time to check that you’re on the right track.

Start writing content that converts

The jobs-to-be-done framework combined with the traditional way of building personas helps you to develop content that will resonate with your audience and convert them into customers. However, remember that your job is never done and you’ll need to keep interviewing your customers regularly to ensure you’re always aligned with their evolving needs.

I hope this was useful to you and that you’re now excited to uncover your customers’ jobs-to-be-done. If you feel a bit overwhelmed or if you need help with building your content marketing strategy, do not hesitate to contact our team of digital marketing experts who will be delighted to help.