Talkin' bout my generation: writing for the age of your buyer persona

All articles | Marketing
Published Mar 28, 2013 | Written by Jeremy Knight

my_generation_350x350There's an old teaching adage that says if you're interested in something, you'll learn it more easily.

Many of you will remember a teacher who had this knack – communicating with you about subject X but via some more entertaining or instinctive content. And so it is with the content that your business produces. Identifying and creating your buyer personas is one thing. Ensuring that what you write is in a form that engages with some part of their interest, in order to lead them to a desired realisation or action, often in relation to some other topic - that's quite another.

Tony Zambito, the originator of the buyer persona methodology, has stated that buyers today spend up to 60-70% of the buying process without the help of a sales representative. Instead, they are turning to content – your blogs, your byliners, your commentary, your social media activity.

So where's the user manual for this content marketing stuff, then?

Bluntly, there ain't one. And without wishing to sound schoolmasterly, buyer personas actually go way beyond the definitions of professional responsibilities, skill sets and background that are usually associated with them.

The Content Marketing Institute, referencing the work of Jason Ryan Dorsey, demonstrates this very convincingly. It contends that your buyers' personas are also deeply influenced by the widely differing values of the generations that they belong to:

- Generation Y (born 1977 – 1995)

- Generation X (born 1965 – 1976)

- Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)

- Traditionalists (born before 1946)

This “generational persona” is exerting a far greater influence on your marketing than ever before, simply because for the first time in history, four generations work alongside each other – and interpret your business' messages in very different ways, every day.

Mind the (age) gap: multi-generational content marketing

Each generation has significantly different “hot buttons.” If your business can “push” these, they are potentially an in-road to productive communication with that persona. Get it wrong, however, and it'll all sound foreign to them.

Herewith a few observations to enable you to avoid Babel…

  • The medium sends a message – Your choice of communication channel can speak volumes about your understanding of your buying personas (or lack of it!) Traditionalists are unlikely to favour text messaging. For Generation Y, on the other hand, it's their preferred method of communication. (Whilst SMS is hardly a suitable channel for content of any length, its very brevity can make it an ideal call to action to more extensive resources.)
  • Nobody reads all your copy -  In fact, according to an eBook produced recently by the Buyer Persona Institute, your marketing materials have a window of 30 seconds or less to reel the reader in. Even more extreme: Generation Y-ers  only read the subject line of their emails. Get your killer statement in early!
  • Face time - Sad fact: the younger your audience, the fewer face-to-face conversations they have. Use content to market appropriate face-to-face events to these guys and you're likely to get favourable responses.
  • Opposites attract - Generation Y gets on best with Traditionalists. Put another way, buttons you're pushing for the Traditionalists could strike a chord with the young 'uns too. Repurpose appropriate content where you can.
  • Value the visual – Generation Y are completely visual learners.” Generation X were brought up with audio-visual too. Use videos, infographics and pictures – not just words - if you want these guys to “get it.”
  • Read it here, not somewhere else! - If a conversation is being had everywhere, you want your blog to be the place where people read about it first. Take your example from the media: tell the same story as everyone else, but tell it earlier, with a different angle.

Persona tactica vs. persona strategica

Now, that burst of classroom Latin heralds one last ministration before home-time: should you be expecting your buyer personas to generate tactical or strategic returns?

For Tony Zambito, there's no debate: “Buyer personas are designed to inform marketing and sales strategy. I have seen many buyer personas created that are relevant tactically, for example in lead generation, but not strategically. Although we have seen a rise in the use of buyer personas, an unintended consequence is they have disappeared from the boardroom where they once lived.”

But beware of pigeonholing those boardrooms denizens too enthusiastically into generational “types.” Nick d'Aloisio, 17, a pure generation Y-er, recently sold his company to Yahoo for £18m. If any of us think this guy's buying persona isn't already playing at boardroom level, we're all making a serious schoolboy error!

Image by [j°Sh]

Content strategy guide

Published by Jeremy Knight March 28, 2013
Jeremy Knight