First let’s remind ourselves of what a buyer persona is. David Meerman Scott in New Rules of Marketing PR describes it as a representation of the “type of buyer you have identified as having a specific interest in your organisation or product”.
Essentially buyer personas provide a series of archetype customers with demographic and behavioural information. They help you to understand your customers better. The best personas include family backgrounds, what motivates the individual personas, where they live, what their aspirations are and a photo. That really helps to identify what each of the key “personalities” are that a business deals with.
We have been telling our customers for some time that buyer behaviour is changing. Many B2B businesses are not finding it easy to understand how. Now that customers are choosing how and when (and even if) to engage with sales teams, we need to gain more insight into their needs and goals. That way we can provide them with the help that they need as they make their way along their buyer’s journey.
Fully developed buyer personas really can help businesses to understand who their buyers and influencers are. They provide insights into who their target audience is, what goals they are trying to achieve, what challenges they face, how they consume online content, where they might go for that content, and what kinds of content they would respond best to.
Once you have that kind of insight into your target audience, generating new content for them becomes much less about guess work and more of a scheduling issue. When you have got down to details for all your personas (we have nine) and you look at all of their challenges, there is such a wealth of content that you will want to generate for each one. For each step of their buyer’s journey they will be searching for solutions to their problems – and you will need to create content around each issue, using their language.
How do Buyer Personas Help?
Generate more leads
We’re in marketing, right? One of our most important KPIs for the businesses that we work in is that we generate a decent level of leads for our sales teams. But since buyers are behaving differently these days, we need to be smarter about that. We need to attract strangers to our websites by writing well optimised content around the issues that they search for. But how do we know what those issues might be? Buyer personas. Then we need to convert those strangers into visitors by getting them to cross the anonymity threshold by giving us some contact information – these are our leads. We do this by making some irresistible content offer. But what content do they want? Buyer personas will tell us.
Break down that silo mentality
Often in B2B businesses there can be a misalignment of sales and marketing. The sales team think a certain way about customers, marketing think another, and customer services view them differently again. When buyer personas have been completed they provide a common language for all departments to use. Detailed personas break down departmental walls and get everyone “on the same page” for understanding the customers. Then everyone can refocus on delighting them with this new level of insight.
Get your segmentation right
Are you blasting out a monthly newsletter to all your database and hoping that they all find it engaging? That is one approach, but the smarter we get with our marketing, the better the results are. Segmenting your database can be a great place to start. But how do you start to segment? Buyer personas can really help here. Typically, an MD wants quick summarised information – the facts. But maybe a Marketing Manager would like more of the background as they are keen to learn more about the whole topic. Our messages to these two groups should look and feel different – they should be in different segments.
Achieve better results
Several studies have shown that B2B companies who have adopted a customer-centric, Inbound approach to sales and marketing have consistently outperformed their competition. The starting point for any Inbound strategy is always Buyer Personas. Before we can plan what our content strategy is, what blogs we are going to write, what content needs to be on the website and which emails we will send to whom and when, we need to be clear about who we are sending to and why. It all starts with Buyer Personas.
Applying Buyer Personas to your Content Strategy
Some customers that we speak to can’t imagine producing more than one blog per month. We persuade them that the amount of content that they need to be producing should be governed by the messages that we need to get out to those various audiences.
We ask them to consider their buyer personas. Typically, they may have six to eight. Each of the personas may respond to a different tone of voice, and may have different issues that they require solutions for. They may take in information in different ways: Some may love infographics, others may enjoy long blogs and others may want a short punchy summary of the issues.
Then we point out that we need different types of content for the various stages of each buyer’s journey. Before you know it, we are building a matrix of issues/messages for multiple personas across all the different stages of each buyer’s journey. It soon becomes abundantly clear that six blogs per month would work better than one!