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Using Buyer Personas to Create Rock Star Content

October 22, 2013 | Justin Gray | No Comments |

As we discussed in our post on the role of buyer personas in high-impact content, creating personas can unlock the door to understanding the customer journey.

You can create a roadmap that helps you steer leads through the funnel by analyzing buyer pain points, goals and challenges. Think of marketing as a conversation; if you don’t know to whom you’re talking, you won’t know what to say.

For instance, if you were sending out a campaign without buyer personas, virtually everyone would receive an identical message. But if you incorporated defined personas into the campaign’s content, you’d be able to send out tailored and meaningful messages that speak directly to specific prospect needs. Nuanced and insightful buyer personas can empower you to design truly influential content – from product launches to nurture campaigns to website content to sales scripts.

So now that we know how essential buyer personas are, is it difficult to implement them? Not at all. It’s just a matter of following three steps.

Step 1: Get Out of the Building

To put together effective buyer personas, you’ll need to do some research. The most ideal resources are your customers. If you can conduct interviews directly with them, ask your account managers and sales reps to identify the most engaged or enthusiastic customers and request an introduction. Once you open a dialogue with these customers, you’re going to want to dig deep. Forget about basic product use questions and ask about their day-to-day life, their challenges, needs and company roles. Demographic knowledge like job title, company size and industry are fine, but it’s the individual thought process that matters here. Remember to keep the focus strictly on them; this is not a sales opportunity or product pitch. Instead, it’s an opportunity to find out who’s really buying your product and what’s driving their decisions. Find out who they are, how they think and how they came to you. Even more critically, discover the needs and problems that you’re not solving – yet. Gradually you’ll assemble a full and detailed portrait of this customer’s buying journey.

Another approach, though less ideal, is to survey your marketing, sales, service and support teams. Because they interact with customers at critical points within the funnel, they witness the customer buying process firsthand. These team members can often provide specific insights into different stages of the buyer journey, including acquisition, purchase and retention. The risk, of course, is that they might filter the customer’s goals and values through their own perspective. Some of their assumptions may be off the mark – keep in mind the motivations of your own people. Sales reps may identify the needs around customer ROI, while support teams may give feedback that is more product and service oriented. Don’t discount this filtering, but instead use this insight into effective hooks and triggers that customers themselves don’t see.

Step Two: Walking in Your Customers’ Shoes

The next step is one you’ll do on your own: writing a brief biography for each of your personas. Write about who they are at first, then describe a typical day for each buyer. Once you have a detailed portrait of the buyers, go through your revenue cycle model and look at the different buying stages. Now select a buyer persona and put yourself in that persona’s shoes at each stage. What problem are you trying to solve? How does the problem affect the business and what is lost because of it? What questions do you have and where will you go to find the right answers? Be as reflective as you can as you consider what is motivating this persona. Then repeat this process for the others.

Is it easy to step accurately and insightfully into a buyer persona’s shoes? No, not always. But it is the best way to see the world through their eyes and understand what kind of messaging will ultimately motivate them to make the final buying decision.

Step Three: Build Your Database

Your final step is organizing all of your work in a marketing database. Here you will build your persona segments based on behavioral and demographic data. All kinds of information are relevant here, including job title, previous types of content interaction, company size, location and more. This step will determine the success of your campaigns, so be sure to build your personas accurately. Another tip is to make sure to keep your CRM and marketing automation fields aligned, so your systems stay synchronized after updates.
Finally, one more word of advice. Buyer personas are not a “set it and forget it” type of activity; they are always evolving, and you will need to revisit your personas every so often to ensure they accurately reflect your true target customers.

While formulating buyer personas may not seem like an immediately impactful action, they provide an in-depth boost to your business that will supercharge all of your content creation. By injecting clarity and accuracy into your marketing targets, good buyer personas eliminate guesswork and assumptions and tell you exactly whom you’re speaking to, as well as the messaging that will get their attention. The long-term returns of building buyer personas far outweighs the minor up-front costs of creating them. Your campaign development process will become more simplified and more targeted at the same time – and your campaigns will make a greater impact.

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