The two characters I have in mind, of course, are the two distinct parties involved in every content interaction: your brand and your customer. While content development and execution may take a team of strategists, writers, and designers, there’s an in-the-moment intimacy shared between the reader and the content itself, whether it’s a blog article, white paper, infographic, or even social post. And it’s in that moment that your message either connects—or doesn’t connect.
As a content strategist and copywriter, I’ve learned to channel the personalities of both my clients and their target customers—simultaneously—while developing content designed to truly connect. It’s not unlike how a playwright pens each scene to accommodate the wants and needs of each character. True, marketing content rarely presents itself as a two-way dialogue, per se, but you better believe there are living, breathing “voices” behind the experience being created through the writing.
Let’s take a closer look at how this plays out during the B2B content development process.
The Brand Personality
Whether you want to say brand personality, brand persona, brand archetype, brand voice…for all intents and purposes, for the content writer, they amount to the same thing: the personification of your brand that needs to shine through your marketing materials. Brand personalities give direction to content writers, like so:
B2B Brand Example
- Character/Persona: Professional, wise, knowledgeable
- Tone: Direct, personal, smart-yet-approachable
- Language: Serious, somewhat complex (assumes readers have technical proficiency on subject matter), actionable
- Purpose: Inform, educate, empower
- Key messages: “I’ve been in the industry for 30 years and have seen the trends come and go. I know what works—and which innovations are built for longevity. You can trust me to provide sound advice and reliable service, and to help you maximize your investment over the long-term.”
For this brand’s content to connect with a person, it needs to “speak” to them with authenticity. This is where the rubber meets the road! The writer needs to develop engaging copy that personifies the brand while making it completely—and I mean completely—relevant to the brand’s target customer.
The Customer Persona
It’s difficult to write relevant, compelling content without a thorough understanding of the audience we’re writing for: Who are they, precisely? What matters to them (as people, not simply decision-makers)? What makes them tick? What are they looking for in a vendor/partner/favorite brand? How do they research solutions? Where are they looking and who do they listen to? (And so on!) Development of a useful customer persona involves several steps, but critically, it rises out of deep-dive interviews with company sales people and—you guessed it—customers.
The result is content that effectively connects with its target audience and drives action. It’s going to, generally speaking, include:
- Words they enjoy reading—words that resonate
- Prose that feels right—that strikes an appropriate emotional chord
- Stories they relate to—that evoke satisfying outcomes
- Images that resonate—that show something (or someone) they can identify with
- Information they’re interested in—and have searched for, asked for, want “more of”
- Solutions that make sense—that are within their reach and are likely to solve real problems
- A call to action they want to take—because the content is taking them through the sales funnel in a thoughtful, artful, way.
And here’s why this is so important: This day and age, companies are upping their content marketing game and eradicating generic content (e.g. a sell sheet that simply bullet points features and benefits for the sake of having a digital asset that lists features and benefits). They’re investing in the production of finely-tuned, customer-centric content that enhances the customer’s experience keeps them coming back for more (e.g. a sell sheet that puts the features and benefits into the context of the customer’s point of view for the sake of motivating them to request a demo or make a purchase!).
Creating Your Content Connection
When content fails to deliver its magic to the reader, there’s either a simple mismatch between the brand and potential customer (not unlike a “bad date”) or the content developers have failed to do the brand and customer characterization work that leads to, well, a winning, 1:1 content “experience” for the reader. The former is fine, the latter is an issue that can, and should, be addressed.
A technology company that markets enterprise ERP software, for example, probably isn’t going to aim for content that’s cute or quirky because it would wrinkle the noses of their prospective customers; they want it to be intelligent and credible, right? A small business selling organic cosmetics through retailers doesn’t want their marketing materials to make them sound overly intellectual or business-like—cute and quirky, with a dash of business-savvy, of course, might be what their sellers are looking for.
There are myriad examples—and these two are pretty obvious—but it’s not always so easy to spot a piece of ineffective content. That’s because it might be written and designed beautifully but still fail to speak in the brand’s voice to the target customer.
This is why it’s helpful to work with professional content strategists and copywriters who know what questions to ask before they start delivering ideas and content. They know there’s so much more to the story than a plan-of-action and a 900-word (6,000 character) blog post. They know that there are two characters who need to be consulted first, before they can help you tell an effective story and achieve results with your content marketing.