The Intelligent Blog about Buyer Personas
As an online entrepreneur, I should know to whom I have to market my services, how and when. I came across a recent and interesting article regarding this topic, called The Content-Ready Buyer Persona by Katie Martell. She has also written a more in-depth whitepaper about buyer personas, called The Intelligent Guide to Buyer Personas. I have used this information as well as other articles as the foundation for this week’s blog.
In this blog, I explain what various external personas exist, why buyer personas are important for your business, and how buyer personas improve marketing. You will find 9 key components of a content-ready buyer persona. In addition, you will find 4 reasons why content marketing should care about audience development. You will also find 8 reasons why B2B buyer personas fail. Finally, you will find two more resources.
Buyer personas, customer personas, and user personas
There is a variety of different flavors of external personas: buyer personas, customer personas, and user personas. Each of them has a different context one needs to address. The personas for each company are unique —even in the same industry—due to different business models, demographic, firmographic focuses, and distinct value.
Buyer personas focus on prospects looking to solve a problem or meet an objective that your products, solutions or services help to achieve. They encompass all of the differing roles or stakeholders involved in the purchase decision. Roles usually include decision-maker, influencer, champion, and gatekeeper. One can also distinguish between economic buyer and functional buyer.
Customer personas have solved their initial problem by choosing your solution. This means their context must build from this new status quo to what is next. The objective for both customer and user personas is to create higher loyalty and retention. Another objective is to increase account value through renewals, cross-sell and upsell. The roles can include the person who “owns” the solution within the company, the executive(s) responsible for the department(s) of which the problem affects the value, and procurement or vendor relations.
User personas address the perspectives of those who work with your products, solutions or services on a daily basis. The goal is to help these “end users” achieve more complete use of the product and gain more value than they initially anticipated. Also, you want them to become champions for continued use, new additions, extensions or feature upgrades.
The importance of (buyer) personas
Personas, therefore, cover the entire customer lifecycle. They are an active tool that can provide insights for strategies and decision for the continuum of digital marketing programs designed to help the company achieve business objectives and drive sustainable business growth. The choices you make about how to increase your relevance for each persona will reflect your company’s positioning and hinge on the distinct value identified.
Ardath Albee of b2bmarketinginsider.com revealed that content output in the past 5 years has increased by 78%, but content engagement has decreased by 60%. Moreover, 75% of buyers believe vendors give them too much material to sort through and they consider 62% of that useless. So how can marketers or entrepreneurs combat this wave of irrelevant content, and spend cycles on creating content that matters to their prospects and moves them to action? One approach is to ensure your foundational targeting strategy (your audience understanding) is up-to-date and highly relevant. Appropriate buyer personas make content marketing decisions crystal clear.
9 key components of a content-ready buyer persona
Ardath of B2bmarketinginsider.com shares nine key components that can be used to ensure the personas you create actually guide content marketing to be more relevant, effective, and engaging.
What do these personas need to accomplish? What are they responsible for? We must get beyond high-level, overly broad objectives such as “Growing revenues.” Characteristics of this attribute are specific and situational, such as “eliminate inefficiency to speed time to market.”
What is in the way of achieving their objectives? These details are not always obvious to buyers, as they likely have workarounds in place to address these problems. “Inefficiency” does not do much to illustrate a specific problem. Therefore, a good example would be “lack of automated workflows adds months to product launches.”
What could keep this persona from taking the next step at each stage of the buying process? What stalls their progress, hinders their decision-making, or creates uncertainty? “Price” is not a helpful obstacle in this context. Instead, think of obstacles as questions like “What do I need to know to convince Tom (who might be the purchase decision maker)?” or “What if our people won’t adopt the new workflows?”
Related to obstacles, what will the persona ask as they choose to take each step in their research and evaluation? Key to getting this right: consider internal workarounds in place that are your prospects’ current status quo. What do they need to know to gain the confidence to change? This is not an opportunity to list the features of your product, but rather address questions from your persona, including “Given my situation, why should I care?” “How do I eliminate X to achieve Y?” and “What can I do now that I could not do before?”
What appeals to this persona? What personality traits are common across the segment? Also, what are their professional demeanor and career background? The truth is, “married with two kids and a dog” does not cut it when your intent is to use these insights to guide content marketing and other business strategies. If you are selling to consumers, go forth. However, in B2B, details such as “20 years in career” and “confident leader” and “detail orientated/logical thinker” help to inform what kind of content and messaging will best resonate with this persona.
Keywords & Phrases
Aside from SEO, this section of your persona research serves to illustrate exactly how you can maintain relevance in the context of your persona’s objectives. These should directly describe their problems and goals, such as “reduce time to market” or “product launch best practices.” If you focus only on product related keywords, you miss an opportunity to meet your prospects where they are.
Here is where you should map out the steps of what it will look like to engage this persona, from attracting their attention to moving them toward a purchase. Include the channels and types of conversations that could be used, and do not forget to consider their interaction with other personas. Ardath recommends against one-off short-term campaigns and instead recommends thinking of engagements across a continuum that spans the entirety of the buying process.
These scenarios are written from the perspective of the persona. It puts you in their shoes as a “Day in the life” of the persona told in first person as if they are directly speaking to you. Not good: “Sally is a hard worker who is determined to make product launches more efficient.” Better: “I am struggling to get products to market faster because our processes are too convoluted, but my boss is worried that changing them will create more chaos.” Pro tip: This often serves as an easy-to-digest summary of the persona.
Social media and online destinations
Find out where your buyers are, and what they will engage with in each place. When asking customers for this insight, people tend not to have an accurate answer for “where do you go for information?” Try asking “What do you have bookmarked?” instead. Remember LinkedIn groups and topics, and industry associations as your personas may be engaged with them. This insight tells you where to put content so that it has a better chance of intersecting with its intended recipient.
How buyer personas improve marketing
Already in 2013, Emily Winsauer lists eight things that buyer personas can do to improve your marketing in a measurable way. According to her, buyer personas help you:
- identify the customer’s needs and wants.
- understand how your customers make purchasing decisions.
- develop new or improved products and services based on the needs and wants of your current customers.
- determine where your customers spend time on the web and in the world.
- get everyone in the company on the same page about your marketing goals.
- segment your marketing efforts externally.
- segment your marketing efforts internally.
- “pre-qualify” leads by attracting the right leads.
4 reasons why content marketing should care about audience development
As described above, Ardath has noticed a significant drop in content engagement. Tony Zambito has done so too: “there is consistency on both the customer/buyer as well as the seller side regarding this issue. In my qualitative research work in the past year, this view was evident. Digging into the “why” is the challenge.” He has noticed the following four “whys:”
Skipping to the solution
One of the reasons this is occurring is the act of jumping to the solution too quickly. You can call it education material, insight, information, etc. However, reading between the lines, content is loaded with non-value messaging. Content is filled with the usual “we are great, we know your problem, and we have the greatest solution” messaging.
Product marketing origins
Some companies have been product-centric for decades. Reshaping such DNA is not an easy transition some are finding out. When most content is being produced from the product marketing or management epic center, it is hard to resist.
Contrary to the above, some organizations have been sales-centric for years (putting enormous pressure on marketing to generate sales-ready leads). Patience for nurturing may be on the low-end of the scale. The result is content bleeds “selling” in every way.
One size fits all
Some organizations have not moved beyond the “single” view of the buyer. Content is oriented towards this single view in all aspects. Thus, content is not developed for other members of the buying team nor external influencers. I include in this category firms too focused on a single buyer persona.
Zambito claims that there are three categories of buyer behavior. They include not in the market to buy, not ready to buy, and do nothing. He says “if all content is oriented towards ‘ready to buy’, it is no wonder 60 to 70 percent of content goes unread or unused.” This is especially the case when your content is product-centric or sales-centric in the wrong place, time, or situation. He recommends audience-centric content. Knowing your audience is the requirement for this, which goes back to the three personas mentioned above.
8 reasons why B2B buyer personas fail
Martell claims that there is a very sobering gap between the perceived value of buyer personas and the actual, realized value. Eighty-five percent of companies are not using buyer personas correctly. In reality, organizations are struggling to realize value from buyer personas as they relate to a complex sales and marketing process.
Personas fail when they
- are little more than a demographic profile.
- are kept in the dark.
- do not translate to tactics.are not updated.
- are created in a bubble.
- there is no buy-in.
- do not account for the buying committee.
- contain useless information.
About buyer personas: more resources
Hubspot has a great and elaborate article about how you can create buyer personas for your business. It is called How to create detailed buyer personas for your business. The article explains how to find interviewees for research, what questions to ask, and how to use that research for creating the personas. It is too much to mention here, so I recommend you to read the article for yourself.
Crystal Clear Communications has also written a great article regarding buyer personas. It is called How to deliver consistent content marketing to all buyer personas. It discusses how content marketers should address different personas.
What can I do for you regarding buyer personas?
I cannot help you create buyer personas, but I can help you once you have created them. The stage in which you create content specific to each persona is the stage in which I can help you.
You have researched exactly who your customers are and you have divided them into personas. You now know how you can best reach them across a multitude of channels. Consequently, you have written high-quality content for them. Language is one of the techniques marketing uses to make an impression on customers. Therefore, it is likely you will need your content in more than one language.
I am the owner of Dutch translation agency BudgetVertalingOnline, which offers affordable translations English <> Dutch. Therefore, I can help you if you need professional translations. Would you like to get in touch? Send me an email (email@example.com), send me a Tweet (@GdenHolder) or fill out the quotation form.
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