A common theme amongst the most successful content marketing strategies and campaigns is that they all have the target audience at the center of their thinking.
This is because prior to creating the content the experienced marketer evaluates and researches their target audience with precise detail to make sure they fully understand what messaging will resonate best with the types of prospects they want to engage with.
Everything you do with your content marketing has to completely revolve around your target audience.
Therefore the importance in developing your brand's buyer personas can not be stressed enough, however it is also vital that you regularly review these to ensure your content always remains on point.
Is this article we will run through buyer personas in detail, both Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C), and how you can go about creating the right buyer personas that you can use in your content marketing strategy.
WHAT ARE BUYER PERSONAS
Buyer personas are fictional representations of an organization or brand's ideal buyer created by undertaking real life research.
The persona you create is not a specific individual or customer but acts as a representation of a particular target group of consumers or buyers.
They should accurately reflect the specific characteristics of the buyer with an understanding into their way of thinking, emotional state, why they want to buy and where they fit into the decision making process.
The primary purpose is to gain insight into buyers' concerns, goals, decisions, and preferences and understand what really makes them take action.
Creating buyer personas helps brand's understand why people are buying their products and services and how they can improve in the future.
Buyer personas are prominent in the content marketing world and for a good reason: they yield results.
WHY BUYER PERSONAS ARE SO IMPORTANT
By having accurate and detailed representations in the form of buyer personas a marketer will be able to produce content that is tailor made that appeals directly to them.
It is likely that many brand's will have more than one typical type of ideal buyer so by spending time and thinking about each of these the marketing team are able to segment and target different types of content with each of these in mind.
Building marketing campaigns constructed in line with each designated buyer persona ensures that the content is always in line with what will garner the most appeal.
For example, in a B2B environment a high ranking executive will likely be interested in and rely on different sources of information to that of the technical IT manager, even though they may both be involved in the buying process for a particular product.
By making sure you have carefully understood and developed your buyer personas for each type of individual involved in your sales process you can make sure your content is focused on their specific needs.
Successful content marketing cannot happen without detailed and accurate buyer personas.
In addition, by always focusing on your ideal buyer personas you will gain more insights into other useful information to assist with future developments and changes around your existing products and services.
All your digital marketing efforts should revolve around catching the attention of and producing content that will peak the interest of potential buyers.
B2B & B2C BUYER PERSONAS
Buyer personas will look very different based on whether your brand is focused on selling to consumers or to businesses.
You may want to target both however it is important to make sure you consider the different aspects involved.
For B2C the focus is on the individual and making sure you know your target group as well as possible and understanding what drives them to take actions and ultimately buy from you.
For B2B you have to also think about the business you are targeting as well as all the people involved in making the purchasing decisions.
The switch from people spending their own money in a private setting to spending the company's money in a somewhat public setting changes the dynamics entirely.
With this in mind you should go about creating your buyer personas whilst considering the whole buyers journey and the possibility of other individuals being involved in the buying process.
CREATING YOUR BUYER PERSONAS
To create your own buyer personas it is important you get the right information so that your future marketing activities have the best chance of success.
The aim of creating your buyer personas is so that you know the right type of content, the specific topics, the right tone and style on the best platforms and how to deliver in a way to get their attention.
There is no 'one size fits all' approach to getting the right personas for all organizations however there are certain principles that can be followed.
With this in mind here are some things you need to consider in relation to your typical customer and ideal buyer.
Business To Business Personas - B2B
Even though you may be selling to businesses, ultimately it is people who will be making the decisions.
Often these decisions could be made collectively, sometimes many may have some involvement.
The sensible approach would be to focus on those who have the most power and influence.
With that in mind you can break up the creation of B2B buyer persona into different categories:
Problem & Solution
What you specifically need to include in each area will vary but here is an overview of what you should consider.
Consider their personality type and traits when completing this section. Are they process and results driven and very ambitious individuals?
Also think about how risk adverse, open minded or set in their ways they might be which can affect their state of mind and willingness to entertain new ideas and concepts.
Include Name & photo
This helps to humanize your target persona and a reminder to think of them as a real person. Sometimes naming them in relation to their job role can also help to focus the mind - e.g Agency Alex or Finance Fiona.
Job Role & How They Measure Success
It is useful to understand where they fit in the company that they work for but more importantly what drives them in their day to day tasks to succeed in their job.
Adding a short summary of them about how they would describe themselves is a good exercise in making sure you really understand who you are targeting and gives a brief snapshot of what sums them up.
Understand the characteristics of the typical organization that you are targeting.
Consider the industry they are in and the types of products and services they provide. In addition also appreciating their company size, revenue and in basic terms how they make their money.
Where is the business located and what areas do they typically serve. Are they regional, national or international type companies.
Size & Age
How many employees are likely to be working for the company and what kind of maturity is the company. Startup, growth or well established companies can and will work in different ways so be clear if this will be a constant factor.
Vertical & Industry
Clarify the industry or sector the organization is in. Consider the different language and specific terms that will resonate most based on the industry and culture of the organizations you are targeting.
Try to understand all aspects of their working life covering their motivations and feelings involved in making decisions.
Be clear on the potential barriers that might be relevant and how these relate to their goals and challenges of their day to day work.
Goals & Values
Buying decisions will ultimately be driven by a number of goals and values unique to each persona, knowing these will help drive your content messaging and the language that you use.
Challenges & Pain Points
Empathize with your buyer persona by appreciating the challenges they face whilst being able to zone in on specific pain points showing how you can help to overcome them.
Objections & How You Can Help
Be fully prepared with content clearly showing how your product and services are best equipped to help overcome any objections they might have and how you can best help them.
What influence does your persona have in the buying process and who else is likely to be also be involved in the decision making process.
Where do they go to seek information and assistance either online or through other community and industry related groups.
Their Role In The Buying Process
Establish where they sit in the buying process, who they report to and who else needs to be involved. Their level of influence should be clarified along with any key success and decision making criteria.
Where does your persona hang out online, and where do they get their content from? Where do they trust and search for information to help them to make their business decisions.
Get specific with the real details that matter and try to understand all the variations of the problems that both the organization and your persona faces and is looking to solve.
By being clear on what the solution and ideal scenario looks like for your buyer persona and the organization they work for you can start to envision a pathway and likely scenario that will appeal the most and how you can lead the way in this process.
What problem(s) is your persona looking to solve by purchasing your product. Consider the many different variations that might be relevant.
Clarify what a successful solution will look like, be clear on the exact end game that would appeal and represent the perfect solution to their problem.
What does the typical sales cycle look like, think about each stage involved and how long each will take. How do they prefer to be engaged with and how do they prefer to buy. Make sure to align with each person that is expected to be involved at each stage.
A good final test and exercise would be to construct a short sales pitch that is no longer than a couple of paragraphs that would really resonate the strongest with your persona.
Something that you could read in no more than 30 to 60 seconds that would immediately capture the attention of your persona and make them interested in finding out more about you.
If you have accurately built your target persona then this should be something relatively easy for you to complete.
Business To Consumer Personas B2C
To create your B2C buyer personas a greater focus is on deeper insights into their character, environment and everyday experiences.
You have to get yourself into the mind of the buyer and understand what it is that will resonate with them and appeal to their wants and needs.
You can break up a B2C buyer persona into these different categories:
Put together a profile of the buyer that gives a real insight into their personality, traits and attitude that drives their behavior.
Include all factors that are relevant and in the context of your products and services.
Age, Sex, Name & Photo
Give your persona a name and photo that represents a particular target group of consumers and relates to a specific age group. Also when relevant specify the sex of the persona, many times this will determine the type of messaging that will relate best.
Understanding income and spending habits can determine how they spend their money and the financial issues that are important to them. For some this particular area could be of prominent importance.
A short quote to just sum up the target persona and give a direct statement to try and provide an overall impression of their state of mind and current status in relation to your products and services.
If the demographics are about the what, here is about the why.
Focus in on the emotional drivers and the factors that act as motivational and the elements that will really move the persona to take action.
Hopes & Dreams
This can include both personally and professionally, really getting to the heart of the consumer to help create targeted content based on their wants and needs. By asking the right questions you may find content and product gaps that you can fill to increase sales.
Worries & Fears
Sometimes fear can be just as strong a motivator as hope and again by understanding the worries and fears of your personas you are able to better empathize with them and allow your content to reflect that.
Find out what social media platforms your persona hangs out on, who they engage with and what influencers they follow.
Find out where else they go online to get their information and other brands they follow.
This will enable you to not just find your target persona but also understand the type of content and language that resonates with them already.
Find out what social media platforms your personas are predominantly on, then take a look to see the type of content they are engaging with. This gives great insight into specific messaging and feedback on relevant brands and products that you can look to emulate or improve upon.
Where do they go to get their information aside from social media, what websites, podcasts and other content do they consume. Knowing where your personas are is imperative if you wish to get in front of them in the right way.
If we know the type of other brands that our personas are engaging with and are attracted towards we can see how they interact with them to give us some idea of how we should do similar.
You should have a good idea now of the type of person they are but to get close to them you have to envision what their life around them is like.
What they experience day to day and what types of media they engage with and how.
A Day In The Life
A snapshot of an average day can help to understand what they experience in their daily life and how this will impact the way they both receive and consume any marketing content you provide.
Technology & Devices
How do they consume digital content and what platforms and devices are they most comfortable using. Understanding this makes sure you can make content available to your target in the places they prefer.
GATHERING THE INFORMATION
Now that you have a good understanding of the insight and data that you wish to develop you now need to go and conduct real life research.
Here are some ways that you could do this:
Forms on your website
Review existing customer base
Survey customers and prospects
Reach out on social media
Speak to your sales and customer service teams
Outline how you have collected the data that informs each buyer persona you have identified.
Methods might include face-to-face interviews, tele-research, online surveys or analytics.
Outline your approach across each of the groups and channels such as:
The sales team
Customer services/client support
Social media and search behavior
The approach you take here will entirely depend on your current organization's existing position both in the market place and existing prospects and customers.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
Before you sit back and admire all your hard work about all those laser focused target personas for 2020 that you have worked hard to create, a quick word of warning.
Just because you have some buyer personas doesn't mean you have the right ones.
Here are three of the most common mistakes that people make when creating their buyer personas.
Too many assumptions
Focusing on who not why
Making too many personas
Let's take a quick look into each of these three mistakes.
TOO MANY ASSUMPTIONS
Try to avoid only getting information from your sales and service teams about your customers and prospects.
Whilst they are a great source of information it is important that you get as much direct contact with buyers as you can.
Sometimes buyers and customers might be reluctant to share all information with your colleagues who might not be asking the most pertinent questions to get the data that the marketing team needs.
A well planned interview with as many customers as you are capable of speaking with will provide you with information that is unobtainable elsewhere and vital to help you to produce content superior to your competition.
FOCUSING ON WHO NOT WHY
Aside from B2C organizations with specific niche targeted products often the specific buyer gender, marital status and hobbies are not that crucial in helping define the right content.
Many buyer personas include information that is ultimately nothing to do with what is driving their buying decision.
Always keep in mind the reason why you are creating these personas is to gain deeper insights into what content you need to create that will ultimately make people take a decision.
The goal is to influence people to take action, understand priorities, barriers and decision criteria.
Build your personas with the 'why' in mind and not the 'who'.
Who your buyer persona is does not help you devise a marketing strategy, understanding why they need your product and why they take actions will provide the insights required to help build out a content marketing strategy.
MAKING TOO MANY PERSONAS
It can be easy to start creating a different persona for each different type of individual that might be interested in your products but in a lot of cases this is not just a waste of time it is also not necessary.
Keeping the number of buyer personas to a minimum whilst covering the most important pain points, solutions and scenarios relevant to your products and services is ideal.
Again however, there can be exceptions, in that case ensure that you have enough resource to provide the content and support required to target them all.
Otherwise scale back and focus on the personas that will bring you the quickest route to success.
REVIEW YOUR BUYER PERSONAS
Once you have finished creating your buyer personas and started to create and plan your content strategy you should already be planning your next review.
You should be constantly validating your buyer personas making sure they line up accurately with your actual customers.
A buyer persona validation work flow should be implemented taking in feedback from your sales, marketing and customer service teams alongside continuous direct customer feedback using whatever process is most suitable for your organization.
This means you can assess the data and characteristics used to build the personas in the first instance against the communications and experience that your sales, marketing and service teams are having with your customers.
Customer service teams especially have direct contact with your customers and ultimately in place to gather real life feedback and understanding about how well you are really helping your customers and other potential areas of improvement.
Successful organizations will regularly review and assess their buyer personas and take in feedback direct from existing customers and across their various sales, marketing and service teams in order to gain a better understanding of their customers.
The more you understand your customer and how your organization can help, the higher your chance of long term success.
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