Previously, we’ve talked a lot about heroes, mentors, and Jedi warriors in an attempt to devise a content marketing strategy that works for startups. Now it’s time to get personal.
If you’ve identified a topic, you may have a snapshot in your head of what your “heroic prospect” is like. It literally pays to have a better understanding, though.
To really nail down the type of content you’ll need to create to build your business, it helps to take that mental snapshot you’re working with and flesh it out a bit. You know, into something more like a real person.
Why? For starters, you must strive to know your audience better than they know themselves.
Plus, you may have heard that you should write as if you’re speaking to one person, not some amorphous “audience” of nameless, faceless strangers. That’s good advice, but you need to have a clear picture of that “one person” placed firmly in your mind.
That’s where audience archetypes come in.
What Do You Mean by Archetypes?
In the traditional sense, an archetype is “a universally understood symbol, term, or pattern of behavior, which serves as a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated.” That’s a mouthful, huh?
As an example, the role of both hero and mentor are archetypal characters that have repeatedly appeared across diverse and disparate cultures for centuries, which led to Joseph Campbell’s formulation of the monomyth. This is the broad conception of the primary players in the hero’s journey that we’ve explored so far.
When developing audience archetypes, we’re using the term in the psychological sense, meaning a model of a particular type of person or personality. In other words, you’re creating a profile of one or more typical audience members so you have someone in mind when you’re creating content “for them.”
You’re putting together something very similar to a buyer persona, except you’re ignoring (for now) the aspects of buyer personas related to things you might want to sell them. That comes later.
When creating an authentic marketing story with content, an audience archetype is similar to what Adele Revella calls the Core Buyer Persona. You focus exclusively on the world they live in, their problems and desires, and the things that may stand in the way of them getting what they want.
In other words, it’s all about them, not you.
Three Steps to Effective Audience Archetypes
Fortunately, creating an audience archetype allows us to stick with our hero’s journey approach to content marketing. Let’s quickly review the initial steps of the journey:
- The prospect starts off in the ordinary world of their lives.
- The call to adventure is an unsolved problem or unfulfilled desire.
- There’s resistance to solving that problem of satisfying the desire, until…
- A mentor (your content) appears that helps them proceed with the journey.
Understanding a person’s ordinary world, her potential calls to adventure, and things that might provide resistance make up the three steps to creating effective audience archetypes. This allows you to properly position your content in a way that makes you a mentor for whatever transformation they seek.
1. The Ordinary World
Understanding the world your prospective hero lives in, and more importantly, the way he views that world, is critical. You can get everything else right, but fail to understand the general worldview of your audience, and you’re done.
When you know your audience well, what you’re really tuning in to is the way they generally view the world. And when you understand the worldview your prospects share – the things they believe – you can frame the delivery of your content in a way that resonates so strongly with them that you enjoy an “unfair” advantage over your competition.
What do you need to know? You need to know whom they admire, and what they aspire to, despise, fear, and cherish. Instead of sitting around dreaming up stuff you guess people might react favorably to, you tell an educated story with your content based on one or more archetypal individuals who represent the whole.
To get an idea of what I mean, take a look at Worldviews And The Story Of Bottled Water. Pay particular attention to the fact that the bottled water companies didn’t manufacture this worldview, or even originate the disinformation about water consumption — they discovered that the worldview existed and created a $60 billion industry.
How to do it:
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, plus online forums, blog comment sections, and social news sites provide an amazing glimpse into the “ordinary world” of just about any group you can think of. Lurk, observe, and listen.
Then become an immersed member of your own market by participating and contributing. When you start creating content, you’ll be naturally positioned to become a leader of your own particular tribe.
2. Potential Calls to Adventure
Identifying the problems that plague your prospects, and the desires that drive them, is at the heart of any smart marketing. It’s just not the first step, since those problems and desires exist only as an outgrowth of existing worldviews.
What are they searching for? What keeps them up at night? What are the questions that drive them?
Another great example of a blockbuster movie based on the hero’s journey is The Matrix. Recall what Trinity says to Neo in the nightclub scene at the beginning of the film:
I know why you’re here, Neo. I know what you’ve been doing… why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You’re looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
If you understand what your audience is searching for as well as Trinity understood Neo, it’s hard to go wrong. But you’ve got to put in the time and effort to get there, and again, being a passionate participant of the group you hope to mentor is invaluable.
How to do it:
To this day, some otherwise intelligent people think search engine keyword research is some evil thing, applicable only to creating crappy content. Smarter marketers, on the other hand, know that being able to discover what your prospects are searching for, and the language they use when searching, is an invaluable gift.
Let the others think what they will while you understand your own group of prospective heroes better than they understand themselves. You can’t be of service to an audience — and help them transform — unless you know what they’re searching for.
3. Resistance to the Call
In copywriting and in-person sales, you’ve got to express the benefits of buying (emotion), back it up with credible features (logic), and then overcome objections (resistance based on both emotion and logic). You do that by understanding your prospects and your product exceptionally well.
With content marketing, you also have to overcome similar forms of resistance. Except in the case, some forms of resistance exist well before the buying process begins, and it’s imperative that you find it.
Creating content that addresses and alleviates resistance is at the heart of effective content marketing. You’ve got to help people believe they can achieve what they want before they’re going to spend money trying to achieve what they want.
But you’re not done, yet. If you’re creating on-point content, you’ll actually create new forms of resistance. People will respond with new questions and concerns, often about problems and desires they didn’t know they had before.
No worries. This is what agile content marketing is all about, and this feedback helps you build a more complete set of cornerstone content. Over time, you’ll build a conversion-oriented website that addresses every common objection and aspect of resistance — based on actual audience feedback, not conjecture.
How to do it:
Effective online marketing is a combination of content, social media, and search. Effective research that identifies resistance points covers the same three points.
Read everything you can on your topic to discover resistance points. Listen and participate in social networks and online communities. Do keyword research specifically geared to resistance points and see how existing search engine results (content) are addressing the issues.
Bonus Step 4: Actually Speak With People!
I’ve often stated that the Internet in general, and social media specifically, is the greatest market research environment ever. You can learn an incredible amount without ever leaving your computer screen.
But if you truly want to develop a vivid mental snapshot of who you’re creating content for, you should actually talk to people. In person.
Shocking, I know.
How to do it:
If you’re creating local content, get out and talk to people specifically about the things we’ve covered here. If you are serving a particular industry, get to conferences and trade events. If you’re serving a particular activity like whitewater rafting, gaming, or knitting, get out there and find people who share these interests.
Over to You:
Does the concept of an audience archetype make sense? What do you do to find that “person” you’re communicating with?
Let us know in the comments.