33 Search Results for "persona"
“Persona” is a term that’s gotten very popular in marketing in the last few years. In ancient Latin, the word meant “mask.” It may have evolved from the Etruscan personare (“to sound through”), which referring to the theatrical wooden mask in which the mouth was made to strengthen the sound of the voice.” In literature and the theatre in the last century, the word came to express the concept of a “literary character representing voice of the author.”In Jungian psychology, it’s used to denote the social mask one shows the world. And it’s also a film by Ingmar Bergman. Words such as “personality”, “personify”, and “personal” all stem from the same roots.
In our marketing world, the concept of a “buyer persona” is the practice of distilling a group of people into a single essential representation with an identifiable pattern of assets, attributes, and activities. The idea is to determine who is most likely to find your products or services desirable, and then to focus on marketing to them, using their common characteristics to guide your efforts.
This has always been a good idea; media buyers have long made a science of figuring out where to place advertising so that it’s most likely to be exposed to proven potential buyers. Some years ago I sold newspaper advertising in a mid-sized blue-collar town. A little research showed that demographically speaking, the citizens were less likely have college educations, more likely to have done military service, more likely to have larger families, more likely to enjoy outdoor pursuits such as fishing and hunting … and more likely to buy used vehicles. When I shared this data with car dealerships in my territory, they began advertising to that demographic, and the result was higher sales. Everyone was satisfied.
As buyers moved online, it became possible to identify more traits and characteristics that gave valuable clues to who those people were and what they cared about, and marketers began refining demographic, firmographic, and psychographic profiling to include more of these factors. The pictures that began to develop had more depth and nuance, and went beyond a target demographic to more personalized … personas. The result can be marketing that feels to a prospect as though the marketer is paying attention to them and understands them at least a little. It can be the beginning of a mutually satisfying relationship.
Creating personas may sound complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. You can look to your own customers to help you, and take this proven series of seven steps:
1. Look at the data to determine your best customers
Begin the process by looking at data that represents your current customers. Try to find the customer segments that are the most valuable to you by looking at revenue, gross margin, sales cycle length, customer lifecycle, and so on. Look for your most profitable customers.
Analyze the list of best customers by searching for common traits: company size, location, the buyer’s role, industry, existing technology, and possibly problems faced are all examples of potential common characteristics. As an example, one of Act-On’s’ customers analyzed their own data and discovered that most of their best customers were companies of a certain size using a particular CRM technology. Knowing this let them tailor marketing approaches to this specific group.
3. Meet with individual sales reps to get anecdotal feedback on the data
Nobody has better information than your own people on the front lines. The most successful salespeople have an instinct for whom to focus on. Talk to them, and let those conversations refine the initial profile of the target buyer that you gathered from data. Plus: Sales has to buy in to the personas you create in order to trust the leads that result from the process, so get their input early and often.
4. Determine whether marketing can/should target a persona
You might have nailed the absolute killer persona, but what if there are only 200 of them? If you’re selling a very big-ticket item and your goal is ten sales a year, maybe a target of 200 is enough. But that’s not the case for most of us. Before finalizing personas, make sure you’ve agreed on a profile that fits a large enough group to be worth your time to market to – and that can be reached with the marketing capabilities you already have.
Talk to your sales reps and your existing best customers. Analyze your online tracking data, and the patterns of interaction and engagement with your assets. Outline the steps the good buyer takes from the status quo until they purchase your product. This insight into the buying process will allow you to create highly effective sales and marketing messaging, programs, and processes. For example, many companies create content for each stage in the buying process to first attract the buyer, then to help the buyer move to the next stage in their process, with additional content for the final decision-making stage.
6. Publish the target buyer personas internally
Once the target buyer personas, journey, and attendant messaging are agreed upon, you need to distribute this information to sales and marketing to ensure that everyone is targeting the same buyers. This also keeps communication channels open so that when new patterns emerge, you’re more likely to hear about them.
Some companies go as far as to give each persona a name and a backstory and create a picture or drawing of each one. Do whatever it takes to help people adapt to using personas. Your creative team in particular – the ones creating email messages, infographics, writing web copy and white papers, particularly need to understand who they are writing for.
Each quarter, sales and marketing should evaluate the current buyer personas by reviewing data and anecdotal feedback to determine effective they still are. The market is dynamic; your personas will change over time.
Check out Jay Hidalgo’s recent blog post, Bootstrap Buyer Persona Building in 4 Steps, for a handy matrix that will help you build personas.
“Buyer, Buyer, Buyer.” You can’t take to two steps in any direction in the marketing thought leadership landscape without hearing how important and central the buyer is, and how important it is to develop a “buyer centric” approach to demand generation. Why all the hullabaloo around the buyer? Well, because it’s true: Keeping the buyer front and center is the key to effective demand generation. The research supports it. Case studies speak to it. And most of all, the bottom line proves it.
Becoming ‘buyer-centric” demands building buyer personas
So you’re convinced, ready to tackle the first step … defining your buyer by building buyer personas. But quickly, the excitement turns to despair. “How do I start? Who should be involved? What questions do we ask to develop these personas?” This may not be as easy as you thought.
Then the answer comes: “We can hire a consultant to do this for us!” However, after making a few web inquiries and calls, you’re back to being discouraged. “We’re not a multi-billion dollar company! I don’t have the budget to hire out for this”.
Ahh yes, the all too familiar conundrum…champagne dreams on a beer budget. What to do, what to do?
Well, don’t fret. Although you may want to shoot for the moon with regard to developing your buyer personas, there are ways to do so without having to spend the money on outside expertise, or extensive research. Most likely, you have the resources necessary internally to get the job done. Below are a few steps you can take to get moving in the right direction.
Step #1: Bring marketing and sales together
Believe it or not, this is the single most important step. The reality is that marketing and sales each see the customer from a different perspective. Buyer persona-building has traditionally been strictly a marketing function. The problem with that is, you don’t get the insight that comes from the sales team as they interact with the customer daily. So, don’t make the mistake of making this a marketing project that sales needs to buy off on. Start your process of building personas by having sufficient representation from both marketing and sales, right from the beginning.
“All well and good,” you say, “but sales won’t participate”. That may seem the case. But let me throw out this observation: In close to 25 years of helping companies with marketing and sales, I’ve yet to see a scenario where a company doesn’t have at least one sales person who’s willing to help out. So don’t lump them all in together. Go find your sales champion, and ask him/her to participate.
Step #2: Build a Buyer Persona Matrix
Once you’ve identified the marketing and sales personnel who will participate, dedicate time (perhaps offsite) to conduct a facilitated workshop for building out a buyer persona matrix. To do this, first define the buying roles among your existing customer base (stay away from title such as “VP”, or “Manager”). Instead, define roles by what people actually do and what they’re responsible for. Label the top axis with these roles. Next, determine which categories of criteria you’ll use to make up the personas. Information such as background, daily activities, challenges (what keeps them up at night?), etc. is what you’re going for here. Label the vertical axis with the criteria. Lastly, spend the rest of the time filling in the matrix in “bullet point” fashion. For example, determine the 3-5 “daily activities” of the “technical buyer”. Or the 3-5 “buying concerns” of the “user”. Fill in the matrix with this detail. The example below is a matrix template that illustrates this.
Step #3: Leverage the rest of sales and marketing to further enhance the picture
Assuming your workshop team is made up of a sub-set of marketing and sales personnel, you can then leverage the rest of the team to further enhance the detail and information in the matrix. Present the matrix to other marketing groups, inside sales, customer service, sales teams, etc. to get their feedback, input, etc. Use that information to further build the matrix. This doesn’t have to be done via formal meetings or presentation only. Having informal one-on-one conversations, asking colleagues to review, and give feedback can be just as helpful in obtaining the buyer insight that will help you craft the right messaging and build the right offers.
Step #4: Conduct in-depth interviews with customers
Your customers not only want to hear from you, they want you to hear from them. So, leverage this dynamic to get them telling you what’s important to them. Using the information from the matrix, develop a question guide (between 5 and 10 questions is good) and administer in-depth market research interviews with 10-15 people per persona. Your goal is to to gain insight or detailed information from customers or users of products or services. These can be conducted via telephone, and each conversation should last 20-30 minutes.
Sample questions you might ask could include:
- Tell me when you and/or your team first became aware of your need for (product/service)?
- What were the first few steps you took once you identified the need? Why did you take those steps?
- How many people were involved in the buying decision?
- What role did they play?
- What role did you play?
- Describe for me a typical day. What do you do throughout the day? (Look to see how it relates to your product/service/industry)
- What would you say are your top 2-3 challenges within your role?
CAVEAT ALERT: As good as this may sound, sometimes customers are not directly available. What do you do then? Below are some alternative (albeit less than optimal) things you can do…
- Obtain as much behavioral data from your systems as possible (CRM, Act-On or other marketing automation platform, etc. )
- Conduct the in-depth interviews among prospects that closely match your customer
- Conduct in-depth interviews with groups that connect with the customer, but don’t buy directly from you. For example, if you are a wholesaler, speak to retailers asking them about the end user.
Extra credit: Secondary research
Lastly, spend some time conducting secondary research on your target audience. For most markets, there is an abundance of buyer behavior information and insight online. Yes, it takes time to search and weed through it all, but it’s there. And, it adds yet another dimension to understanding the buyer. Look at it this way:Someone took the time to research your buyer…why not use it?
So there you have it: Four steps to “boot strapping” the building of buyer personas. Will these steps give you a full, quantitative, 360-degree view of your buyer? Probably not. However, taking these steps will get you about 80% of the way there. No, it’s not easy, and it will take time.
But hey – if it were easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?
To learn about how personas fit into lead generation strategies, read Part 1 of an Act-On Conversation between Jay Hidalgo, the Demand Gen Coach, and Atri Chatterjee, Act-On’s Chief Marketing Officer.
Please visit the Act-On Center of Excellence for resources about all aspects of marketing.
Picture your customers. Not just their industries and business functions. Not just their geographic locations and levels of seniority — although all of those things are important. But picture them. What motivates them? What are their pain points? Who are they?
This extremely specific description of your model customer is a buyer persona. Buyer personas help you target prospects with surgical precision and nurture them with custom content they care about.
Read on to learn seven tips for integrating buyer personas into a lead nurturing campaign:
1. Personas first, content second
Response rates plummet when you send generic content to a broad, untargeted audience. So before building a lead nurturing program, figure out who you are trying to reach. After all, you’ve got to know who you’re talking to before creating your marketing messages.
To gain deeper insight into your buyers — and to build better buyer personas — you can hold focus groups, interview current customers, conduct surveys, or check out who’s engaging with you via social media.
Buyer personas may be fictional, but they uncover key insights into the real people you’re striving to connect with. Personas can help you craft messages that make your prospects feel like you’re speaking directly to them. This is especially important when employing an automated process, like lead nurturing. These targeted messages help nurturing feel less like a pitch from a robot, and more like a conversation between humans.
Give each of your buyer personas a name, job, likes and dislikes, pain points, purchase drivers, activities, success measurements, and more. If most of the CEOs you want to reach are female, name your Executive persona “Emily,” not “CEO-Persona-B.”
3. Uncover pain points
Think about the challenges your personas face. Your lead nurturing messages should explain how you will provide relief. For example, if one of your personas feels his or her current tool is unreliable, talk about predictable performance — perhaps by focusing on the reliability of your solution. You can research which pain points are plaguing your customers through interviews, surveys, or conversations with sales.
4. Follow digital footprints
Measure, test, track, and combine data from your customers’ online behavior to get a feel for the habits and motivations of each buyer persona. Where did they go for information? To which messages did they respond?
Ask the right questions to learn where and how they devour your content. For example, did they find your site via social media? How much time do they spend on your site? Which pages, microsites, or areas of your site do they visit most? In what order and quantity do they access your content? Find their hot spots and give them what they’re looking for.
5. Update regularly
Remember when you created those buyer personas five years ago? Chances are, they no longer fit today’s customers. The buyer’s journey — how customers search for a solution, interact with you, and respond to sales — is constantly evolving. Make sure your personas and lead nurturing tracks line up with their behavior.
Refresh personas at least every year or two. Once you’ve revisited your personas, update lead nurturing tracks to fit them.
6. Include your sales department
Sales has the most direct access to your customers. They understand pain points and motivations — so get their input on personas. You’ll craft marketing messages that are more cohesive from the top of the funnel to the bottom. If sales isn’t aligned with your messaging, the conversation will feel disjointed.
7. Segment based on personas
Finally, it’s time to plug your buyer personas into your lead nurturing tracks. At its simplest, you can segment your database so that each prospect is labeled with a persona. For example, every record that has a job title in the C-suite might map to your Executive persona, “Emily,” while records with engineering titles are mapped to your Technology persona, “Jim.”
From there, tailor content for each buyer persona segment that addresses the pain points, motivations, and specific influences you’ve already identified. Now you’ve got a campaign that really makes business personal.
Sam Boush is the founder and President of Lead Lizard, an Act-On partner and marketing automation agency in Portland, Oregon. Sam works with enterprise clients to develop demand generation strategies. He has an MBA from the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon.
We were recently pleased to present a webinar titled Buyer Personas: The Five Insights Every Marketer Needs to Nail, featuring Buyer Persona Institute President, Adele Revella and Act-On Software CMO, Atri Chatterjee as presenters. This webinar focused on buyer personas as a tool for marketers to better understand how customers interact with their brand.
The Value of Buyer Personas
Many people see buyer personas as a story about potential customers, but if you approach buyer personas as just a made-up story, you’ll miss the value that they present.
According to Revella, good buyer personas should clarify decisions for you. Each buyer persona has two parts: (1) the Core Buyer Persona and (2) the Product Persona Connection. The Core Buyer Persona addresses demographic information, such as job title and company size, as well as the buyer’s priority initiative. However, the Product Persona Connection provides more valuable insights about the buyer as they relate to your company and product. These are the five insights every marketer needs to know:
Obtaining Key Insights About Your Customers
So how do you obtain this key customer insight? Revella encourages interviewing your customers, saying “You really need to hear your customer’s story.”
Begin the interview by asking your customer to take you back to the day when they first started looking for the solution that your company provides. Ask them what happened. The answer to this question is most likely something you already know or expect, however listening to this answer will help you get an idea of what your second question should be.
Remember, this is a conversation. You should have an agenda for your customer interview, not a script. Deep insights come from probing questions based on the answers your customer provides. Remember to always think bigger than asking a customer “what” they decided. “Why” they made that decision is what presents the true value.
Revella recommends completing six to eight of these customer interviews before using any of the knowledge that you obtain. After that, she encourages continuing with one to two interviews per month, to make sure your information stays current.
Using Buyer Personas to Gain Insights for Marketing and Sales
If done correctly, developing these buyer personas can provide insight that influences numerous aspects of your business. Benefits include:
• Improved messaging
• Insights that clarify marketing investments
• Additional insights for Sales
Once you have that buyer persona nailed, you’ll realize that the leads and prospects who fit that persona are your hottest prospects. You can leverage Act-On’s capabilities to identify hot prospects that mirror the buyer persona, and follow up with targeted information. Let Act-On show you who’s visiting your website and get vital clues to their behavior—opening your emails, attending your webinars and more! Contact our sales team today to learn more.
Sam 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.
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
Do 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.
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.
Use 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.
During our first episode of MadMarketingTV, special guest, Adele Revella, President of the Buyer Persona Institute and author of The Buyer Persona Manifesto, discussed the importance of buyer personas and that information is necessary to create buyer personas.
This week, Adele joins us again to continue our discussion about buyer personas. Buyer personas can help B2B marketers better understand potential customers, however common mistakes can threaten buyer persona initiatives. These mistakes include:
- Using made-up information about your buyers
- Including irrelevant information
- Building personas for far too many buyers
Adele provides insights regarding these pitfalls, as well as the steps you can take to avoid them and create better, more successful marketing campaigns.
Looking for more marketing insights? Don’t forget to join us for our next episode on December 8, when Joe Pulizzi, author of “Get Contnet, Get Customers” joins us to discuss content marketing.
MadMarketing TV is sponsored by Act-On Software. Visit http://actonsoftware.com to learn more.
Recently I had the opportunity to moderate an Act-On Conversation on demand generation. The Conversationalists, Jay Hidalgo and Atri Chatterjee, defined demand generation and talked about how personas, sales and marketing alignment, and content marketing are a trifecta for successful demand generation.
What follows below is Part 1 of the transcript of the Conversation.
JANELLE: Hello everyone. I’d like to welcome you to an Act-On Conversation. Today’s Conversation brings together two experts on marketing and demand gen. Jay Hidalgo is the principal of Demand Gen Coach, a unique approach to helping marketers at small to midsize companies develop and implement demand generation programs that yield impressive and measurable results. Throughout his 20 plus years in marketing and sales, Jay has helped companies such as Rubbermaid, Michelin, Pitney Bowes, Toshiba, and others, develop and implement successful demand generation and lead management programs. And we also have Atri Chatterjee, Chief Marketing Officer for Act-On Software. Atri’s background includes executive positions at Symantec, McAfee, and Responsys.
What is demand generation?
JANELLE: Let’s begin by defining our topic. What is demand generation, and how does it differ from lead generation?
JAY: I get this question a lot, and I look at it this way: Demand generation covers all the marketing activities that create awareness and desire for your product, your service, your company. It includes a mix of inbound activities and outbound activities. And the goal of demand gen is to get buyers to come to you, engage with you, and eventually buy your product or service.
Lead generation is a part of the overall demand generation process. At some point during the buying cycle your buyer will make or accept some kind of contact with you. So lead generation is really the process of making that contact, collecting their contact information, and being able then to proactively move them along that buying cycle.
ATRI: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. In some ways I really think of demand gen as everything marketing. Our entire marketing team here at Act-On is in the business of generating demand and generating interest. And that all goes under the cover of demand generation.
Lead generation is a very specific set of tactics that satisfy the part of the goals of demand generation, and tend to be the things that are more quantifiable. And basically in the case of business to business, looking at moving prospects through the funnel of awareness and purchase and conversion and so on and so forth.
JAY: I look at it sometimes from a marketing promotional perspective. Am I creating favor to my organization or to my product or service among the buying community with an activity? If so, then that’s a demand generation activity.
The buying process has changed, and the selling process needs to mirror it
JANELLE: According to Forrester Research, the typical buyer is anywhere from two thirds to 90 percent of the way through the buying process before even agreeing to engage with the sales rep. And the vast majority of buyers start out their buying process with an internet search, which is a huge change from 10 years ago. What does this mean for sales and marketing?
ATRI: We’re seeing every day that the buyer’s journey has changed, in both B2B and B2C. I don’t think there’s anyone today who buys a big ticket item like an automobile or a refrigerator or a dishwasher, without really doing the research up front before they go and buy something.
People approach the buying process by doing work on their own to become smart about things. And that’s really changed the way we on the sales and marketing side of things approach those potential buyers. No longer should we be trying to push things on them, or trying to actively sell them on something. Really, it’s about thinking about the situation in a different way. We need to understand and that these potential buyers are a lot more intelligent, they’ve really done a fair amount of research on their own.
And so we need to think about ways in which we can participate in that research process. How do we give them value when they’re making these considerations? And how do we participate in that?
I think this change really brings these two disciplines a lot closer. On the sales side, I think salespeople need to think more like marketers, think about how you bring something of value to the potential buyer when they’re actually considering you. And from the marketer’s standpoint, they need to think more like a salesperson. They need to think about, okay when I’m doing these particular marketing activities or marketing campaigns or creating content, how do I work in the benefits of a prospect becoming a customer, and how does this help them, and how does this benefit them?
JAY: I’m this buyer that Forrester is talking about. My son needed a laptop computer a few months ago. And we spent the majority of our time shopping online. By the time we got to Best Buy, literally we walked in, grabbed the computer we wanted, had the guy ring us up, and we were out the door.
So the question is, what does this new dynamic mean for marketers? I agree with what you said. It means that we as marketers have to figure out a way to be highly visible during that 70 plus percent of the buying process where we’re not being physically asked to be at the table. Because if we’re not, as marketers, somebody else is. Our competitors are there or others are there taking that spot from us. So what it means, we really have to know where they are searching, we have to know what they are searching for, we have to know what they are looking for, we have to know what they’re thinking.
The more we can get into that mindset of the buyer, the more then we can respond accordingly, we can provide information that they’re looking for, and the better chance we will have of introducing ourselves further at the beginning, closer to the beginning of the buying process.
ATRI: That’s right. And probably when you went to Best Buy, the conversation that you had with the salesperson there was completely different than say five or seven years ago.
ATRI: That salesperson probably treated you completely differently from what they would have done say five or seven years ago where they would have probably led you through this whole process of trying to educate you. This time, they already assumed you were an educated buyer. And now they were more of a consultant, and letting you arrive at your own decision.
JAY: You are so right. The first question he asked is, what computer are you looking for? He assumed that I knew.
ATRI: Yeah, it’s interesting. My family had a similar experience recently. We had to purchase an automobile. And it was exactly like that. We had all the research. We went there. And then it was more of a consultation with the salesperson, and looking to see how best we could get the things that we needed. It ended up being a great discussion because they were not trying to actively sell us something, they were actually actively trying to help us make a decision on things that we had already done the research on.
JAY: In the selling process, when you get to that place, you know you’ve done your homework, you know you’ve gone through the buying cycle. If you get an uneducated salesperson who doesn’t understand this dynamic, they’ll try to take you all the way back to the beginning of the process. There’s nothing more frustrating. When that happens the company loses, because instead of attracting, they’ve alienated the buyer.
JANELLE: I think that it’s important to understand that while you were giving B2C examples, they absolutely apply in the B2B world. Because at the end of the day, whether you’re buying for your personal use, or whether you’re buying to use for your company, you’re approaching your buying process the same way.
JAY: The fallacy is that B2B is businesses selling to other businesses. And actually it’s businesses selling to other people at businesses. We have to keep that in mind.
JANELLE: Jay, can you talk about what a persona is, why they matter, and how you go about developing them?
JAY: Sure. Basically, a persona is a profile or description of that ideal target that you’re going after. In many cases there’s not just one profile that buys a particular product or service. In a B2C scenario you have different types of people that are coming in and looking at your products and services, different individuals, and you can group them into a variety of different categories. In a B2B scenario oftentimes it’s buying roles or work roles that these people have, as salespeople, marketing people, technical people, etc.
These matter tremendously because they are one of the keys to help you hone in and understand who your buyer is. There’s a tremendous amount of information out there that indicates that buyers are saying “Companies don’t know me, they don’t know how to respond to me, they don’t know what I want, who I am,” etc. And so going through the process of building a buyer persona is really the first step in trying to understand in a more detailed way, in a more intimate way, who your buyer is.
When it comes to developing them, what I recommend is, first of all, marketing and sales coming together. Marketing has one view of the customer, sales typically has another view. And to build a persona without each of those groups involved is only going to give you part of the picture.
Second, go through the process of finding out and figuring out what categories you want to create for your persona. The question is, who do we sell to? The question that one of my clients started out with was, “You’re on the trade show floor and you’re hoping your ideal customers come to you. What groups of customers do you want to see?” So it might be their buying role, it might be economic status, it might be based on behavior. Whatever it may be, you decide the different categories you’re going to put them into.
And then thirdly, think through the categories of information that you want to capture on each persona. Do you want information about their background? Do you need information about their buying preferences? Do you want detailed information about their daily activities, the challenges that they face, those kinds of things? You put all that into a matrix. Across the top you have persona labels, and down the left, down the Y-axis, you have individual categories. And then sales and marketing together fill in the data points that will make that up.
This takes time, it takes arguing back and forth, it takes debate, etc., but it’s amazing when that process is done and you have the beginnings of these personas. You start to realize we do have different individuals and we need to think about speaking to each of them individually.
ATRI: Jay, what’s really changing is not only understanding a buyer’s demographics and their firmographics, what’s their position and title in a company, but also looking at some of the behavioral aspects of things.
In today’s world we can actually track a lot of that behavioral activity and enrich that whole concept of what that persona is. In our company we further develop those personas by looking at the behavioral profiles, and what was done in the past, what does the typical person in these different positions do, and what sort of signals do they send us that indicate that they are a very likely candidate and a prospect for being a customer of Act-On, or being a customer of some of our own customers. We’ve been promoting your whole concept of developing the personas with many of our clients.
JAY: That’s great to hear. And you’re absolutely right; the behavioral component is a key element. You can really assume a lot about somebody based on the facts that you know about them, the demographics. But you’re really going to get to know somebody based on what they do. And the more we can watch and understand the behavior of our clientele, of our buyers, the better insight we’re going to have.
JANELLE: I want to add that this has been beneficial even in deciding and figuring out how we’re going to spend our marketing budget. Because once we know who our target audience is and where they are, we can better understand what channels to reach them through, and where we should be spending our money to get in front of them.
If your answers resemble this:
“Ummm, kinda. I hope.’
“Yeah, I think so. Maybe.”
… it’s a good bet that your marketing content is missing the bull’s-eye and you’re leaving money on the table.
Is it possible to deliver content that is not only persuasive and compelling to potential buyers – but also leads them to take the next step of engagement?
Adele Revella answers that question in “How Just 5 Buying Insights Ensure Engagement with Your Content,” an Act-On on-demand webinar.
Revella – well-known as president of the Buyer Persona Institute and author of “The Buyer Persona Manifesto” – simplifies this complex topic, distilling it into a core set of items that help marketers not only uncover the types of buyers who will – and won’t – be receptive … but WHY.
Here’s a glimpse into just a few of the valuable, actionable insights you’ll learn in less than 60 minutes.
The 5 things you need to know about your buyer
First things first: Most companies have too many buyer personas.
In fact, creating lots of segmented personas often backfires because it uses a lot of time and resources but does nothing to generate more revenue. Says Revella, “There’s a limit to how many different versions of your story you can have. Don’t build more buyer personas than you can afford to market to. There’s no value in that.”
To find out precisely how many buyer types you have – and how many personas you effectively need – there are five specific insights you must uncover, which Revella explains and provides a road map for in the webinar:
- Priority Initiatives. Uncovering what an organization actually needs at the moment they begin assessing your products and services.
- Success Factors. Your benefits statement on steroids.
- Perceived Barriers. The “bad news” insight … and the one you should never avoid.
- Buyer’s Journey. A topic that gets lots of buzz and lots of air cover, but is actually only 1/5 of the equation.
- Decision Criteria. What attributes your buyers value as they look at you in comparison with alternative solutions.
These insights give you the information necessary to create content that’s persuasive and relevant, that helps buyers trust your company and believe you can solve their problem.
Buyer Personas are NOT your goal
This one definitely upsets the apple cart, but according to Revella, creating buyer personas – though very important – is not the ultimate end game.
Instead, buyer personas are simply deliverables … merely artifacts of your actual goal, which is to become a buyer-expert marketer. That is, to gain the core insight, knowledge and understanding about why your buyers choose the products and services you’re marketing.
She takes this topic further by illustrating how most marketers mistake buyer profiles for buyer personas, explains the difference, and articulates why profiles (rather than personas) are insufficient for creating effective content that helps buyers choose you over the competition.
Your website probably stinks
Or at least it doesn’t stand out from your competitors.
That, says Revella, is one of the three most common complaints most frequently stated by buyers when asked about a company’s marketing content. (Watch the webinar to discover the other two.)
I can personally attest to this phenomenon. As a long-time technology writer, I’ve had countless interviews wherein companies – when asked about how they’re different – all say the exact same thing. Industry to industry, product to product, service to service, they all seem to read from the same playbook when it comes to their differentiators.
Thus, they don’t seem different at all.
The takeaway: If your website doesn’t tell buyers why they should care, they won’t.
Stop focusing on your ideal buyer
Instead, focus on the buyer who’s just not that into you.
Your ideal buyer will most likely always buy from you. So working that angle is like preaching to the choir because they like you, they really like you. You had them at “hello.”
Far more valuable is to understand the buyers who DON’T buy from you … the barriers and reasons that prevent them from doing business with you.
Does that mean you should create personas for these buyers? Not necessarily. But by understanding WHY they shun you, you can make an informed decision about whether or not it makes sense to target them.
Watch the webinar, which includes much more information than I’ve mentioned in this blog and delivers it all in a mere 30 minutes (about 58 minutes if you listen the Q&A, which is pretty good).