Quick, pop quiz! You’re sitting down to create your communications plan for 2017. Who are you thinking about? It should be your target audience. If you don’t have your ideal buyer top-of-mind as you’re planning, stop right there. You’ve missed a major step!

Developing buyer personas is critical to ensuring your communications plan will be effective as soon as you put it into action. Who is your buyer? What do they need? How can you solve their problems? These are questions your communications plan must answer. How can you identify your buyer personas? Start with these 3 steps:

Step 1: Investigate the type of people who are already attracted to your content

Examine your website. Who is visiting? Who is staying and engaging? Are they the type of people you want to be speaking to? The information you gather from your website can inform what is driving people to you in the first place and where are coming from, such as organic search. Once you discover who they are, you can decipher what they may need.

Step 2: Listen to your ideal customer on social media

The beauty of social media is that it offers easier access to people’s opinions and behavior. By intently following what your ideal customers are talking about and who they are interacting with on social media, you can gather a plethora of knowledge, such as how they perceive your brand, what qualities they look for in products and services (yours and those of competitors), and much more. Social listening avoids the bias of traditional surveys and structured questions, and allows you to go where the discussion actually is to hear what people really think, when they’re thinking it.

Developing buyer personas is critical to ensuring your communications plan will be effective as soon as you put it into action.Click To Tweet

Step 3: Take advantage of your greatest resource: current clients

You’re looking to reach and engage people who need your services, so why not ask those who already use them? Current customers share your prospects’ challenges and opportunities. You might already know or organically glean this type of intelligence in your day-to-day work with customers, but asking them directly could unearth new insights. All knowledge is good knowledge, and it should not only help you build more effective buyer personas, but could reveal new ways to (re)engage with existing contacts.

Once you’ve developed your buyer personas, you can build your communications plan with purpose and direction, knowing who your target audiences are and how to reach them. Not only will this make your plan an easy sell to your senior leaders, but it will make the entirety of your year that much simpler and successful. With your ideal buyer in mind, crafting content, monitoring social media, conducting media outreach and implementing other communications tactics is streamlined and results-oriented. And isn’t that the kind of value you need to deliver?

For more communications planning insights and tips, read our guide, “How to Create a Communications Plan Your Boss Can’t Refuse.”

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Carly was most recently an associate with Stern Strategy Group.