In a study by Content Marketing Institute, 77% of the most successful B2B content marketers use personas and 77% craft content based on specific points and stages of the buyer’s journey. Now, it could be a coincidence that both findings sit at 77%, but the message is clear—the majority of successful B2B marketers build their inbound marketing strategy by merging both buyer personas and the buyer’s journey.
What are Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. What do I mean by ideal customers? They’re the customers who bring you the most revenue, with the least opposition over the longest period of time.
Buyer personas are based on real data about customer demographics and online behaviour, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations and challenges. (There’s more on this below.)
So, why develop Buyer Personas?
Have you ever wondered what customers really need from you? Have you ever wanted to gather insight from your marketing, sales and product development teams in one place to better serve your customers? Buyer personas can help you there.
Buyer Personas help you to better understand your customers
First and foremost, buyer personas give you the insight you need to identify customer’s needs and wants during different lifecycle stages. 90% of companies using personas have been able to create a clearer understanding of their buyers. When you have a clearer understanding of your customers, your teams produce clearer messaging and create genuinely useful products. This helps you to stand out in an overcrowded marketplace, make better use of your marketing budget and convert your most profitable customer segment.
Buyer Personas eliminate internal biases
When there are no buyer personas in place, your marketing, sales and service departments make decisions on experience-driven guesstimates. Over time, your entire business is built on a mirage of multiple different tastes and biases that appeal to your team, not to your customers. With in-depth, up-to-date buyer personas, you can prevent that from happening.
Buyer Personas provide structure and focus
Buyer personas provide structure and insight for your company and help you to determine where to focus your time and resource. As a result, you will be able to attract the most valuable visitors, leads, and customers to your business.
Think of it this way, without focussing on your target buyer personas, you’re trying to appease a much wider group of people. If only one out of ten of your target audience needs your solution and nine of them aren’t prospects, you’re wasting 90% of your time and resources. What’s more, you’re also wasting the time of those other nine people who don’t need your product—63% of respondents in a poll by Marketo said that they are highly annoyed by the way brands continue to rely on the old-fashioned strategy of repeatedly blasting generic ad messages. By focussing your efforts on the wants and needs of your buyer personas, you save money, uphold positive brand sentiment and stay on the right side of marketing ethics too.
Buyer Personas create more cohesive teams
Organisations with tightly aligned sales and marketing teams experience 36% higher customer retention rates. Sales and marketing alignment can also help your company become 67% better at closing deals, and can help generate 209% more revenue from marketing.
In other words, when you have identified your buyer personas, it helps to keep everyone in your organisation on the same page. Your teams in marketing, sales and customer service better understand who they are communicating with and how to approach the interactions they have with your customers every day.
Buyer Personas make your marketing efforts more effective
63% of consumers say they’d think more positively of a brand if it gave them content that was more valuable, interesting or relevant.
When a marketer has a clear vision of their reader or viewer, they create better, more relevant content. Although buyer personas are an upfront investment, it’s an investment that pays off as it’s far more cost effective than taking a stab in the dark every time you want to create content, paid ads or any marketing outputs.
Buyer Personas allow your sales teams to be more proactive
For a sales team, a lot of the work is figuring out the challenges of prospect customers. We’re not saying that all customers are the same (that’s far from the truth), but a detailed buyer persona will give your team a framework to work with. This framework is what will allow them to be more confident and proactive when approaching potential customers.
When your sales team can identify a prospect’s challenges more quickly through the use of personas, they will be able to match them with a solution that meets their needs and in turn, will make a quicker sale.
Buyer Personas help you to build better products and services
68% of marketers in HubSpot’s ‘Not Another State of Marketing Report’ said that their company uses customer feedback to make decisions, and rightly so. There’s a common misconception that buyer personas are only for sales and marketing teams, but when you think about how development teams can benefit from buyer persona insight, it makes total sense. When your product developers understand their users, they create products and services with the challenges of those users in mind. The result? Customers that stick around.
Buyer Personas make your customer service more efficient
In a study by American Express, 62% of respondents said that a representative’s knowledge or resourcefulness was key.
By arming your customer service team with buyer personas, they will have a clear understanding of the customer’s needs and can respond to service requests more efficiently. However, it’s not just about knowing what the customer needs, it’s also about knowing what your customer was told by your marketing, sales and product development teams. If you invest in creating buyer personas as a company-wide resource for all of your teams, it will create a more cohesive customer experience, with similar language, messaging and features throughout. When this travels through all departments of your company, it will allow your customer service teams to find answers quicker.
How to develop Buyer Personas
Depending on the size of company you have, you might have one buyer persona, you might have ten. Realistically, you want to keep, or at least start, with a small number of personas—this will help your teams to focus. So, how do you build a buyer persona?
Step 1: Decide which information needs to be gathered
First, you need to answer the question ‘who are we?’ looking at your purpose and the challenges your product or service aims to solve. That should give you a starting point.
Then, you want to ask your teams what information they’d like to know about your customers in order to do their job better. For example, your marketing team would want to know which keywords and phrases potential buyers search for. Your sales team would want to know if this person is the only person who decides which purchases to make for the business. Your product development team will want to know what your customers like and dislike about your product.
As mentioned above, buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers—right now, who are those people? Consider the commonalities of your current most profitable customers—do they have similar job titles, do they work in the same industries?
From there, you want to consider their common questions, including how they define their problems, what solutions do they think they need vs what solutions they actually need and why they should choose you over a competitor.
Step 2: Gather the information
Planning which information to gather is one thing, gathering it is another. Here’s where to get started.
Conduct company-wide historical research
Buyer personas are often led by marketing teams, but the answers don’t only sit with them. In fact, according to Content Marketing Institute, 74% of marketers say sales team feedback is the top resource they use to research their audience. Where possible, try to gather insights from as many different areas and perspectives of the business as possible. Your marketing team can inform you of the most popular content, your customer service team can highlight the most commonly asked questions and your finance department can provide data on lifetime customer value (this will help you to build personas around your most profitable customers).
Speak with your current customers
No matter how much research you do, there will still be gaps that need to be filled in. Data helps, it truly does, but through speaking to your current customers, you’ll gain a completely different perspective and will be able to identify how your insights match up with their real life experience of your product and business.
How do you gather information from your customers? According to HubSpot, surveys are the #1 tactic that marketers use to conduct market research, followed by interviews and focus groups.
Make temporary educated guesses
Yes, really. Only when you have exhausted the above, interview your team and use their experience to hypothesise what cannot be determined at the moment. Straight away, create a plan to gather further insight in the future that can either confirm or improve their supposition.
Step 3: Create your Persona
Once you have all of this information, then what? Essentially, you want to create a buyer persona like it’s a character—alongside their challenges, wants and needs, give them a name ‘Eg: Sustainable Sam’ or even an avatar. Personifying your buyer persona will help your team to picture them in their minds.
What’s the Buyer Journey?
Today’s buyers like to sit in the driver’s seat and do their own research. As they go about their research, there are a series of stages they travel through as they develop from simple researchers to solution selectors. The buyer’s journey is the representation of these stages and provides a context for content marketing campaigns.
The journey is split into three stages:
- Awareness Stage: The buyer realises they have a problem.
- Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
- Decision Stage: The buyer selects a solution, or several solutions from several different suppliers (hopefully, you’re included in that list).
Why map the Buyer’s Journey?
Have you ever questioned the order of the content you publish? What comes first? Mapping the buyer’s journey helps you to plan your content based on the information your prospective customers need during their decision-making process.
The Buyer’s Journey helps you to nurture leads
During each stage, buyers have different questions they need answered that will help them come to a solution. By understanding their journey, you’ll be able to provide valuable answers to those questions. As we know already from the stat above, 63% say that they’d think more positively of a brand if it gave them content that was more valuable, interesting and relevant. Not only will your journey-driven content nurture customers towards a solution that your service can provide, it will also make customers feel good about your brand.
The Buyer’s Journey helps your team to build an effective inbound marketing strategy
With an inbound marketing strategy, you know exactly what content your audience is looking for and what would provide them with the most value. The buyer journey allows you to provide that value by segmenting the content by what your customers need at each stage. Every single piece of content, whether it’s a video, or an evergreen blog post based on your most frequently asked questions, is geared towards generating leads and return on investment.
How to map the Buyer’s Journey
Step 1: Identity your channels
Once your buyers begin to realise that they have a particular pain point, the research begins. For 72% of buyers, they’ll turn to Google. And according to Pardot’s State of Demand Generation report, 70% of buyers return to Google at least 2-3 times during the course of their research.
Each stage in the buyer’s journey will have a different range of channels that best serve the content you are producing. For example, in the awareness stage, your blog will be a core channel for SEO-driven long-form content that’s centred around helping them to identify their problem. When you get through to the decision-making stage, customer service teams become a core channel.
Step 2: Map content for each stage in the Buyer’s Journey
This is where buyer personas and the buyer’s journey collide 🔥
To create outstanding content, it needs to align with the questions, objectives and perspectives of each buyer persona at each individual stage within the buyer’s journey. For example:
- In the awareness stage, your personas are doing general research to identify their problem. So, vendor-neutral, educational content is important at this stage. According to a study by HubSpot, 9% of buyers want to connect with a salesperson during the awareness stage of their buying process, when they're first learning about the product. On the other hand, this means that 91% don’t.
- During the consideration stage, you need to build an argument that explains why your solution is best for the persona-specific problems and symptoms you identified in the awareness stage. Your content should help them to narrow down their choices through in-depth guides about your product or service. From the same HubSpot study, 60% want to connect with sales during this consideration stage, after they've researched the options and come up with a shortlist.
- In the decision-making stage, the buyer is looking to make that final informed choice on which solution to buy. HubSpot found that 20% of potential customers want to hear from your sales team at this stage. Here, your content will be centred around ‘proof of concept’ so testimonials, reviews and even interactive trials.
Why you need Buyer Personas and the Buyer’s Journey
If content was only led by buyer personas, you’d have the right solution and the right message, but it wouldn’t be published in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, if content was only led by the buyer’s journey, without doing research on your buyer personas, your content would be built on assumption and you’d have an entire inbound marketing strategy that could be completely irrelevant to the genuine wants and needs of your audience.
When you merge both elements, that’s when inbound marketing magic happens. You can present the right solution, with the right message in the right place at the right time.
For some businesses, they have just one part or neither. For others, they have their buyer personas and the buyer’s journey, but need help to put it into action. That’s where our Inbound Strategy Blueprint comes in.
Our Inbound Strategy Blueprint is a clear action plan for ambitious organisations who want to provide value for their customers and nurture leads in more effective, efficient ways.