7 Tips for Using Buyer Personas in Lead Nurturing

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Leada LizardSam Boush is the president of Lead Lizard, a B2B marketing agency that helps enterprise clients get the most out of their demand generation tools. (Full disclosure: Lead Lizard and Act-On are partners.)  One of the agency’s strengths is lead nurturing. Sam shared his knowledge in a recent AMA webinar, “7 Tips for Using Buyer Personas in Lead Nurturing,” which we recap for you here. (Full disclosure Part 2: I think the blue lizard is almost unbearably cute.)

The bottom line: Lead Lizard’s perspective is that lead nurturing should be based on the buyer’s journey, which Sam defines as “a framework for understanding the buyer’s research and purchase consideration process.” The focus is on the buyer, not on your company’s sales funnel.

It’s important to map the content you use to the buyer’s stage. Good early-stage materials include videos, articles, and infographics. Webinars, white papers, and eBooks – materials that go deeper – are good bets for mid-stage prospects. When it gets down to the wire and the buyer is preparing to make a decision, trend reports, cases studies, ROI calculators, and checklists are appropriate.

Lead Lizard encourages clients to build tracks for different situations such as Lost Opportunities, In the Pipeline, Rejected By Sales, Current Customer, and Accelerate the Sales Cycle. Sales and marketing can work together to define the criteria for inclusion, and how the tracks should be managed.

Adding personas to the mix

People respond to messaging that’s close to their own situation, something recognizable. You accomplish this by segmenting leads into groups by buyer personas.

Buyer personas are customer models you build through gathering explicit information about your buyers. The goal is to discover the pain points and psychological factors that distinguish groups from each other, which guide you in targeting your prospects and speaking to them as personally as possible. Once you have personas, you can write and create content for them, and make offers that may have meaning specific to them.

PersonaTip 1: Understand your Buyer

Talk to sales, and look to how you could segment your buyers. Industry, title, and so on are common. If you segment by business function, for example, you’ll want to build personas for each major function, e.g. human resources or accounting.

Once you have this in place, you can create your content. But do build the personas first.

Tip 2: Target People, Not Groups

Okay, you’ve just segmented your people into groups. Now what?

You put the “person” in persona by giving that persona dimensions: a name, a back story, actual problems that keep them up at night. Be mindful of your existing good customers as you create these aspects, and make them congruent. In our example, the decision makers at our imaginary best customer companies are marketers at the VP level, and 75% are women. We created Vicki as an amalgam of them to keep in mind as we create communications to reach these people.

Novelists and playwrights use the back story technique to give them a greater, more intuitive understanding of that character and his or her problems, and how that character would talk. This will work for you, too, and the copy that you write for them will sound more like it was written by a human for a human, and less like a marketing robot.

Tip 3: Discover Pain Points

headacheDo you know what gives your persona pain? Your messaging should point out how your solution can provide relief to that pain. Which means that if you miss the mark and focus on the wrong pain points, your messaging will miss the mark as well.

Research your buyers to discover and refine the pain points. Interview your current customers, hold structured conversations with sales, do focus groups, conduct surveys…just talk to people.

When you get this information, it will help you in multiple ways. You can use it to develop keywords for SEO and in social media to raise awareness; for mid-journey, for messaging to demonstrate compassion; and for end-of-journey in materials such as battle cards. This exercise will support your content creation throughout the entire waterfall. Demonstrate your compassion: “We understand, and we can help.”

Tip 4: Follow Digital Footprints

Measuring, testing, and tracking will help you understand your customers. Watch what they do online, and combine that data with other data. It will help you get a feel for their habits and motivations, which will help you build better buyer personas.

Revisit the data for leads that became clients, and look for patterns that can inform your personas or messaging. At which stage did they enter your orbit? How long did it take them to move through each stage? Which of your pages did they visit? Where did they spend the most time?

Knowing these things should help guide you to creating content for each stage, and talking to each persona with the right tone and focus. This step will also reveal gaps in your content coverage. It will become obvious, for instance, if you’re thin on middle-stage content.

Tip 5: Segment Based on Persona

Now, segment your database by persona. If you have ones that don’t fit in a bucket, assign them to a very successful persona. You’ll need to create content to serve each persona in each track, at each stage. Now you’ll have a set of campaigns that are much more personal.

trioTip 6: Bring in Sales

Some companies think sales and marketing can’t be on the field at the same time, rather like hockey. But it’s important to think of the two teams as aligned and interlocking.

Make sure marketing messaging matches sales messaging. Sales are the ones on the front lines, talking to customers every day, and they understand the pain points. Make sure they have input on personas and also the language used in messaging, which could be different from vertical to vertical.

It’s also critical to be cohesive. The prospect will hear one set of messages from marketing; when the handoff happens, that person should hear the same messages from sales, or the effect will be disjointed.

Lizard looking at nurturing possibilitiesUse sales nurture techniques. We think of nurturing as “lead nurturing,” which helps marketers make their quota of marketing qualified leads. But nurturing shouldn’t stop there; we still need wind in those sails to help the buyer across the finish line.

You’re not done yet. Remember to nurture your existing customers. You built your personas partly on them, so it’s probable they each will fit into one. Nurturing them helps with advocacy, upsell, and retention.

 Tip 7: Keep it Fresh

Once it’s all lined up, it’s not one-and-done. People and circumstances are always changing, and your program needs to be dynamic too. The three main things to do:

  • Create new content
  • Update personas
  • Revisit matching of personas, content, and behavior

View the on-demand webinar at your convenience for a bonus tip and a killer 20-minute Q&A session in which real people ask real questions.

Watch the webinar

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  • Tim

    Sherry, goog post, I’m going to definitely check out the webinar. I think the pain points and what we call “information gaps” is definitely a critical thing to identify when creating personas. The more you can understand about each persona’s decision making process, the more relevant your content and the more effective your lead nurturing efforts.

  • Thomas Craft

    Keeping it fresh and targeting the right person are key in our sales cycle. I like the ideas presented here for backstory and persona. I would like to see a more detailed piece on the targeting process especially for a B2B.

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