There is one secret to successful advertising that far too many companies overlook: help content. Good help content can engage customers with branded, search-optimized information that’s useful and relevant. Executed well, help content can be a real-time advertising platform for your company, one with the potential to create loyal customers and won’t require any advertising budget.

It’s also no walk in the park. Too often, companies make the mistake of creating a “one-content-fits-all” bucket from which all customers hopelessly search for articles that address their questions. This kind of product-centric content management strategy can frustrate customers and leave little room for a personalized approach. A persona-based approach, on the other hand, tailors the experience by offering relevant solutions specific to a consumers’ interests and needs.

Persona-based content has proven to be a powerful marketing strategy. It has been shown to increase website traffic (by 210%), website-generated sales (by 124%) and organic search traffic (by 55%).

How to Implement a Persona-based Content Strategy

The key to targeted, engaging product documentation is relevance. What follows is a step-by-step guide on how to build a content structure that drives results for both presale and post-sale self-service support experiences.

Step 1: Know Your Business

Instead of forcing your product documentation into an unnatural structure, organize it to follow the natural segmentation of your business. Think about your business from the perspective of a consumer. Start brainstorming the foundations of your solution paths and persona structure with the following questions in mind:

  • Who are your consumers?
  • Are you a business-to-customer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) company?
  • If B2B, do your customers fall into a certain industry niche?
  • Do you provide services, products, or both?
  • Can your products or services be segmented (versions, models, etc.)?
  • Do different demographics rely on different products or services?
  • What results do (or should) consumers expect after buying your product or service?

Step 2: Know Your Customer Base

Learn about your consumers any way you can. Analyze collected customer data from your internal departments and your customer relationship management (CRM) system to inform your persona-based structure. B2C companies should focus on the following customer data to inform their persona-based structure:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Location
  • Income
  • Family status
  • Ethnic background

B2B companies:

  • Industry
  • Location
  • Size (number of employees)
  • Leadership/roles
  • Departments/roles
  • Use case
  • Technology/Integrations

Although you might not use all of the collected data to define your persona buckets, you will need it to create your representative personas. Representative personas are strong reminders not to forget the human element when creating customer journey maps.

Step 3: Identify Your Demographic Customer Personas

Identify your personas based on shared data gathered in the previous step. Then:

  1. Group your major personas into segments. Review the customer data and take note of shared identifiers. Ask yourself whether shared identifiers affect how your consumers interact with your product or service.
  2. Focus on your largest persona groups. Ignore outliers, unless you have intelligence that outliers are driving a major part of your revenue.
  3. Further segment your personas. For each major persona, determine whether further segmentation is needed.
  4. Record your major demographic personas.

Step 4: Identify Your Task-driven Customer Personas

Now, it’s time to create a customer journey map to identify your specific task-driven personas and their paths. Ask where, when, how, and why your prospective and current customers are interacting with your company. From there:

  1. Assemble a team with members from every department in your company to map the customer journey. For each of your demographic personas, walk a hypothetical consumer through your departments from presale to post-sale in the order they would typically interact with your company. Identify what your customers expect to accomplish at each point. Think of every conceivable scenario and record the path for successful and failed interactions.
  2. Identify tasks that are primarily performed by specific personas. Aerospace engineers want to code ground control software, not learn how to format test reports; students want to view their class syllabus, not learn how to build a curriculum. Remember, task-based personas are determined by the specific tasks those personas try to accomplish.
  3. Record your task-based personas.

Step 5: Assemble Your Final Persona List

Review your demographic and task-based personas, select the personas on which you want to focus, and then finalize the top hierarchy for your content structure.

Step 6: Build Your Content Hierarchy

If you do not have one, create a cross-departmental content strategy team to produce, vet, and implement the necessary content to provide complete solutions to your personas. To do so:

  1. Leverage a web-accessible customer success platform to house and display your product documentation.
  2. Create buckets for your identified major personas in your customer success platform.
  3. Build paths to guide each persona toward complete solutions. Use the tasks identified during your customer journey mapping to create these detailed solution path.
  4. On your company website, provide a “Solutions” tab with your identified personas as selectable options that link to your persona buckets in your success platform.

Step 7: Audit The Effectiveness Of Your Persona-based Content Structure

As with any strategy, set up test and audit schedules to ensure that your persona-based content strategies remain effective while you take action to continuously improve the customer self-service experience. Here’s a few ways to do so:

  • Once you have put your content strategy in place, measure traffic, ticket deflection, and web-generated sales upon implementation of your new structure. Set baselines. A few months down the road, measure again to evaluate effectiveness.
  • Let customers field test the self-service experience. Ask them how easy it was to solve a problem on their own and adjust content and paths as necessary.
  • Schedule future audits to periodically inventory the health of site and content and to measure the effectiveness of your implemented strategies.
  • Leverage user event data to better understand your customers’ behaviors. You can use MindTouch reports or business intelligence tools like Google Analytics to inform decision making when iterating and optimizing your content strategy.
  • Periodically review your customer base and note shifts in demographic data. Adjust personas as necessary.

With this kind of detailed, intentional product documentation strategy in place, not only will you customers be better suited to find help content when and where they need it; but you’ll increase awareness and engagement for your branded content.

Additional categories: Customer Experience, Knowledge Management