Why Marketers Should Care About Baby Food: A Lesson in Building Audience Personas
How does a baby food company grow its bottom line? By encouraging its customers to have more babies.
Sounds simple. Funny. Even a little provocative. And that’s exactly what baby food manufacturer Plum Organics shot for in 2017, with a campaign called “Do Your Part(ner).”
Their goal was brand engagement, and they succeeded – the video garnered over 14 million impressions and 5.5 million video views. And with brand engagement comes brand recognition, which, of course, trickles down the funnel into hard-dollar sales.
Successful Marketing Is All About Audience
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, first introduced me to this Plum Organics campaign at a recent conference. I have been obsessed ever since, because it is an excellent example of a brand doing the work to really understand its audience.
To be clear, Plum is one of the top organic baby food companies in the US. Few organizations could hope to reach those heights, but it’s still a critical example of how to connect with your audience in a unique way, sparking engagement and conversation to boost brand awareness – and, yes, ultimately your bottom line.
The “Do Your Part(ner)” campaign was the most provocative, but it certainly hasn’t been the only audience-focused initiative Plum Organics has launched. An earlier project was launched under the title “Parenting Unfiltered,” which showcased common yet challenging parenting moments and ended with the message, “If it feels like parenting isn’t always perfect, you’re doing it right.” Other more recent Plum series include “Parenting is Hard” and “We’ve Been There,” which spend just a few seconds connecting with moms and dads on real-life parenting topics.
The lesson for marketers in general, no matter whether you’re a name-brand B2C company or a SMB B2B organization, is that your audience should be at the forefront of your strategy.
Documenting Audience Personas
Most likely, you don’t serve a homogenous audience that shares identical challenges and goals. Your buyers and influencers probably fall into at least a small handful of categories, depending upon their functional responsibilities, level of experience, industry vertical, or other similar breakdowns.
This is where you’ve got to do the work of documenting audience personas. This step is absolutely critical for aligning and optimizing your marketing initiatives for success.
So what should be included in your audience personas? Take a look at Plum Organics again. They know what all the little moments – from the mundane to the chaotic to the ecstatic – look like for parents in their target audience, and they connect with them over those moments. Those moments can translate into the following categories:
In your business, you probably don’t need to know what your buyers are eating for breakfast or discussing with their significant other before they fall asleep. But you do need to know a little bit about their day at work – who they’re interacting with in the office, what platforms and projects they’re working on, where they’re looking for answers, how they’re managing their time, and more.
In discovering day-in-the-life details, you’ll naturally run across another key component of the persona – pain points. Make sure you’re exploring challenges that are more general in your buyer’s role as well as the challenges that are more specific to the solution you’re offering them – both are equally important when it comes to connecting with your audience through your marketing efforts.
Language, Resources, Interests, etc.
In gathering these insights, you’ll also naturally collect details about word and phrasing preferences in relation to industry jargon, information about what resources they use to tackle their challenges, where they go to build their knowledge base, what some of their likes and interests are, what skills are essential to their job, and much more. All of this data will help you hone your marketing.
Building Audience Personas
At this point, you may be wondering where you’re getting all this information from. You may think you know a lot about your audience, especially if you’re interacting with them every day. But it can be difficult to get true perspective when most of your conversations revolve around what you’re trying to sell them. Thus, capturing the real voice of your audience it critical
Ideally, you’re going to the source. Set up some interviews with your best clients and customers. Let them know that the information you’re gathering will help you improve your services and resources. Determine some initial questions to give you direction, but let the conversation flow naturally. If possible, record the interaction so you can refer back to it later.
Interviews aren’t your only option, though. Most likely, these people are also on LinkedIn or other social networks. Find out what other companies or publications they’re following, what types of content they’re engaging with, what groups they participate in, and more. Explore their profiles to see how they describe themselves and their role and to find out what they list under education, volunteer experience, certifications, skills, accomplishments, and more. Aggregate this information across a range of profiles to identify trends that will help you build the persona.
Finally, other online resources, like Quora or Reddit for example, can be helpful for gathering details about your target personas. These particular examples will give you an idea of the types of questions your audience are asking in context of their professional role or of industry trends. Other forums specific to sectors or functions may also be helpful (think GitHub, for instance).
Once you’ve got all the information at your fingertips, document it! As the market shifts, you’ll find that you’ll need to revisit and reevaluate these personas on a regular basis – at least annually as a rule of thumb.
Using Your Audience Personas
Putting this persona knowledge to use is the fun part. This is where you’ll start to align your messaging and content with your audience, knowing what ideas, topics, wording, and type of content will appeal to them most – as well as where and when they’re most likely to engage with it.
Your personas will help you develop web copy, content marketing, social media activity, any videos and podcasts, advertising, and email campaigns. Over time, make sure you’re tracking activity on all these avenues. If something is falling flat, it’s highly likely that you’ve failed to align it comprehensively with your audience.
This is exactly how Plum Organics created such a highly regarded campaign. They knew their audience – the challenges, the mundane life details, the things that made them laugh, and the encouragement they needed to hear. They used that information to create witty but hard-hitting video scripts, as well as other powerful marketing campaigns.
Bonus tip: If you know your audience well and you’re an expert in your field, that’s the 5-star recipe for becoming a thought leader.
Bonus tip #2: If you know your audience and you have a unique differentiator, you’re on the fast track to getting ahead of the competition.