Knowing your audience is still foundational in marketing best practices but the mechanism for understanding and profiling has changed. In the pre-digital era, salespeople were “feet on the street,” talking with prospects, building awareness, curating buying experiences and in many cases convincing prospects that now is the time to buy.
Today, websites are responsible for the lion’s share of the rapport building and information delivery and the audience is no longer waiting for sales to show up – they actively pursue solutions on their time, in their way and online. In fact, research suggests 57 percent of B2B purchasing decisions are complete1 before buyers make themselves known to potential suppliers.
Creating Buyer Personas
In order to understand and develop effective marketing strategy for modern buyers, we first need to conduct a bit of research and create buyer personas. Doing so allows us to develop content that attracts and aligns with their needs.
Personas are a combination of current and ideal customers
Personas are fictional characters comprised of known attributes of typical buyers. Start by gathering information and data across current and ideal customer attributes and then merge the information into a single persona that represents the common personality traits, job roles and pain points of that buyer. By doing this, website content has the best chance at being crafted to answer questions and provide the education they need in order to establish you as a potential supplier.
Personification attributes to collect:
- Job role
- Typical daily job duties
- Skills needed to perform duties
- Tools required for job functions
- Position i.e. who do they report to and who reports to them
- Career Goals
- What are they responsible for – i.e. quotas, metrics, deliverables
- How do they define success in their role?
- Job related challenges
- Biggest challenges across their role
- How do they overcome challenges i.e. tools, processes
- Which challenges are consistent and functional i.e. increasing productivity
- Job related behaviors
- Where do they go for learning i.e. tradeshows, classes, conferences
- Publications they read
- Websites they regularly visit
- Associations they belong to
- Where do they go for networking i.e. online groups, forums, events
- Company specifics
- Company size i.e. number of employees, revenue, locations
- Company goals and how their contribution fits into the big picture
- Personal Information
- Age range
- Typical gender
- Family status i.e. single, married, children, pets
- Post-secondary education i.e. none, trade school, college
- Charitable interests
A buyer persona is a story
Once the buyers’ data has been gathered, the next step is creating the story behind these human components. Doing so facilitates your understanding of their personality and ensures content development maps to their needs, goals and challenges.
Sam is typically male age 45 – 50 has a bachelors degree and holds the title of VP of Sales. He likes to be in charge, has a good sense of humor, is athletic often going for a run over lunch or otherwise regularly participates in a sport. Sam is married with one or two middle school-age children and lives in a house with a fenced yard. He’s a direct report of the CEO and has at least a half dozen salespeople reporting to him. Sam’s biggest challenge is facilitating training needed to keep his team focused and up to date on modern selling best practices in order to remain highly focused on the revenue quotas he is responsible for. In looking for solutions and tools, Sam wants to deploy simple, easy to learn and mobile solutions that facilitate efficiency within his organization. Sam does the vast majority of his learning online including participating in groups on LinkedIn, reading articles from reputable sources like news outlets, analysts and trade publications.
Personas: influencers vs. decision makers
Sam’s role in the buying decision comes in at the beginning when he becomes aware of a challenge that can be solved. Later he reengages when a decision needs to be made but in-between someone on his team researches and presents potential solutions. Those in-between people are influencers and also have personas that explain their challenges and highlight the lens through which they assess solutions including finding the one that best fits Sam’s needs.
Decisions by committee
If Sales Sam was your only buyer, marketing and demand generation would be simple; create content and design a website around how your solutions make his sales team more productive. But when Sales Sam is one of a committee the personification process has to be duplicated across all roles. For example you may have Marketing Mary, IT Larry, CEO Cindy, HR Henry and Admin Alice all looking at your solutions at different points in the buying process and all basing decisions on their job challenges as they relate to their coworkers’ challenges and the overall goals of the company.
Personification – where to begin
Marketing is a journey, not a destination. Keeping that in mind will make the personification process less daunting. Start with developing the influencer personas for those doing the research and add personas from top decision makers as time allows. Once the influencer personas are established, use them to align website and social media content to their challenges. Over time, the process will generate an online presence that speaks to needs of your future customers and establishes you as a trusted resource for information relevant to your industry as well as helping buyers find you.
For more information on content development, look at these blogs from Andy Hill, Xerox Head of Digital Mastery and join our Xerox Channel Partner LinkedIn group:
1. CEB “The B2B Evolution in Digital Marketing.” cebglobal.com.
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