Paul is a 27 year-old engineer from Minnesota. He’s the kind of millennial who likes to brew homemade beer in his garage while listening to Coldplay, Bon Iver, or The Lumineers. Paul and his wife of one year, Sarah, have been thinking about starting a family. For now, though, he’s happy visiting relatives and sampling his homemade brew in his free time.
Paul sounds like a pretty cool guy, only he isn’t real. Paul and Sarah are two fictional personas brightpeak financial has created in order to understand different segments of its target audience—married Christians between the ages of 20 and 45 who are preparing for major milestones in life.
brightpeak is a not-for-profit financial organization that takes “a refreshingly holistic approach to personal finances,” according to its website. It’s upfront about being faith-based, baking Christianity into its mission statement: “We’re helping Christians look at money in a whole new light.”
“We’re definitely marketing to Christians,” Ashley Haugen, content strategist and editor for brightpeak, explained. “But we are careful to do it delicately so that we’re not alienating people who are non-Christian. We believe in financial strength and literacy for all, regardless of faith.”
Content for a niche audience
A look at brightpeak’s content strategy reveals that while faith is an important part of the brand, it does not overpower its millennial appeal. On Instagram, for instance, Bible passages are sprinkled among inspirational quotes, food pictures, and financial tips.
For brightpeak, faith is one of many elements that influence the decision-making process. Other factors like occupation, family goals, and financial literacy all shape purchasing decisions, which is why they are crucial parts of the brand’s audience segmentation strategy. The better brightpeak can define its personas, the easier it will be to target people who fit those personalities.
If you’re in brightpeak’s target audience, chances are you relate to Paul or know someone who does:
He follows Deschutes Brewery on Instagram. He also follows Humans of NY on Instagram because the channel shows ‘real’ pictures of people. Every so often, Paul gets to thinking about faith and spirituality while listening to a beerpastor.com podcast and crafting a rich, dark stout.
Clearly defined personas help the company’s marketing leadership identify financial patterns and match them with brightpeak products. How does this process work? The same research that shows Paul enjoys a milky stout also suggests he avoids risk when dealing with money.
“Each of our personas have different concerns and approaches when it comes to different financial topics,” Haugen said. “So we take a product line like emergency savings and try to figure out, from [one] perspective, what are the types of questions they’re asking? What are the emotions they feel? How does their background impact their savings habits? How are they communicating with their spouse? From there, we do a lot of social media listening.”
One thing Haugen likes to do is visit Pinterest and type in keywords like “emergency savings” to see what pins would appeal to different personas. After examining which pins get the most engagement, she uses that as a starting point for a piece of content or campaign. The result could be a guide like “How (and How Much) to Save in Your Emergency Fund,” geared toward the fiscally responsible Paul.
While the members of brightpeak’s marketing team have become pros at social listening, their ideation process is far more sophisticated than just skimming Pinterest. Their strategy involves mapping audience personas to different stages of the marketing funnel, creating a path for how content works together to drive each audience segment to a particular product page.
For example, a top-funnel post on “What is Disability Insurance?” is meant to lead Paul to a separate story on “The Difference Between Short and Long-Term Disability Insurance,” which eventually draws him to the disability insurance product page.
In the Contently platform, brightpeak’s content plan focuses on three pillars: saving for emergencies, getting insurance, and planning for milestones. Once the team creates and distributes content, Haugen takes a deep dive into Contently’s Story Analytics to assess performance. Haugen can filter stories by persona (like “Paul”) and see the top posts for that audience segment for whatever date range she selects. This not only gives her a better understanding of which topics perform well by persona, but also helps her redefine the attributes of that segment. (If cost-savings content in Paul’s segment has low engagement, maybe saving isn’t as big of a priority as brightpeak once suspected.)
Average engagement and finish rates, in turn, have helped Haugen optimize content on a per-story basis. Upon digging into engagement analytics, Haugen realized that when infographics were placed at the beginning of the post, engagement time was low. As soon as she moved the infographic to the bottom, guiding readers with introduction text, engagement time and finish rate increased.
With an organized approach to content development and reporting, the marketing team has been able to spend more time refining its SEO strategy to ensure content reaches the intended audience. brightpeak’s latest objective has been to optimize stories with specific keywords like “life insurance basics” or “student loan debt” to draw attention to primary themes and products.
“One of the challenges is just how long it takes for SEO to really show any gains,” Haugen explained. “But after a few months, we’re showing that our work in pairing keyword strategy with high-quality content is paying off.”
From basement beer to ROI
In the last three months, brightpeak has seen organic search traffic to its blog jump by 77 percent, referral traffic increase by 70 percent, and direct traffic surge by 97 percent.
In addition to the documented content strategy, Haugen attributes the success of her segmentation to the talented freelance contributors who have helped her scale. “Contently has really increased our capacity and speed to get articles out there,” she said. “That’s part of the reason that we see an increase in traffic because we’re able to consistently get out more content that’s high quality.”
“We listen … That’s how we finesse our personas. That’s how we help people. That’s how we impact business.”
Part of this efficiency comes down to logistics. After partnering with Contently, Haugen no longer needed to process payment for each individual story. Her team was free to focus on optimizing their strategy and perfecting the editorial calendar. Once the operation was running smoothly, Haugen was even able to use Contently’s industry benchmark data to show that brightpeak’s content was outperforming competitors’ stories.
“Average attention time per person shows that we’re twenty-three percent higher compared to other publications in the Contently network,” Haugen said. “That helps us build that argument to invest in more content.”
As brightpeak moves forward, Haugen will continue to incorporate analytics into her strategy and reporting, garnering a deeper understanding of each audience segment’s needs. “As we put more targeted content out there, we learn about what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
She’s found, for instance, that marketing disability insurance to Kim’s persona, who is an expectant mother, is not the best product fit. Educating Paul on disability insurance on the other hand, has made a lot more sense because he relies on his paycheck to feel secure.
The financial organization plans to get more granular with distribution, detecting where each persona consumes different stories. Part of this strategy will be to work more closely with sales and data teams, tracking content performance against key life stages, and seeing who actually buys brightpeak products. (Is it really Paul? Or is it Paul’s parents?)
At the same time, Haugen and her brightpeak team will remain committed to getting to know the people who shape these personas. “We listen,” she said. “That’s how we finesse our personas. That’s how we help people. That’s how we impact business.”