With the new hype of content creation now making the rounds of webinars, books, and whitepapers another term has regained the spotlight: the buyer persona.
I was reminded once again of the importance of creating buyer personas during Bulldog Solutions event on Marketing Benchmark in which Rob Solomon walked us through their five step process for organizing your marketing programs:
- Business Case
- Process Planning
- Program Execution
While going through each step should be another post entirely, there were a few really good key insights that defined their approach:
- Establish a goal and structure all your efforts towards it
- Map your content
- Measure and share your results
I’m oversimplifying it but without these three key actions your efforts will prove fruitless. When talking about content mapping, the buyer persona discussion emerged and it became clear that what can come across a simple marketing exercise is actually the pillar of your content creation strategy. Afterall, as Stefannie Tilton best said, “You can’t make a connection with your audience unless you know who you’re trying to reach“.
Personas Drive Content Quality
David Meerman Scott argues that one of the benefits of creating buyer personas is that it will force you to create meaningful, easy to digest content that will actually make a difference in the buying process. In his words:
“Truly understanding the market problems that your products and services solve for your buyer personas, you transform your marketing from mere product-specific, ego-centric gobbledygook that only you understand and care about into valuable information people are eager to consume and that they use to make the choice to do business with your organization”
I couldn’t agree more.
Who’s Involved in Creating Personas
During the Bulldog Solutions event, we discuss this issue of how to create one and who should be involved. The agreement was that Sales should be the driver of the creation of the persona, with Marketing only helping the process. This won’t work in all companies, and aguably there might be some pushback to creating personas as a waste of time or it being “just a marketing thing”. Another common problem you might encounter when trying to create Buyer Persona profiles, is that it may be confused with User Persona – something totally different. We, marketers, are concerned with the buyer (we want to influence the purchase) while other departments like Development and Product Management will want to focus on the person actually using the product (a User Persona).
So, from a Buyer Persona standpoint, is only natural that Sales, who is most in touch with the person actually making the buying decision will be front and center in the creation of the profile and it will be a great exercise to align sales and marketing.
Buyer Personas for the B2B Marketer
While buyer personas have a long history (starting to be widely publicized in the early 90’s), what I’ve seen from all the templates that I could find is they are mostly focused on the B2C market adding strong emphasis to demographics, which in the B2B world are not as relevant as say, the person’s title or role in the purchasing process.
Another interesting development that is shaking the B2B space is the increase influence of social media in buying decisions. Buyer Persona Insights makes a good argument when it says that buyers in B2B marketplaces are becoming more social in their interactions.
“B2B buyers today are becoming more social and not just in technology usage but in terms of what the influence of the technology has done to make buyers behave more socially.” – Buyer Persona Insights
Buyer Persona Templates and guides can be easily found on the web, for example:
- Buyer Persona Institute Template: http://www.buyerpersona.com/download-the-templates
- Pragmatic Marketing on The Creation of Buyer Personas: http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/1/4/0310sj
- Bulldog Solutions Guide to Creating Buyer Personas: http://www.slideshare.net/AxiomConsultingAustralia/bulldog-buyer-persona
- 10 Rules for Buyer Persona Development: http://buyerpersonaplaybook.com/?page_id=120
But don’t just stick with the standard templates, customize them based on your industry, and needs. When you are done, you can then proceed to map out your content to the multiple buyer personas you created. A good way to understand what type of content should be created for each buyer profile has benn outlined by Jeff Ogen on a post “Using Buyer Personas for B2B Marketing“. If you can use the persona you created to answer those questions, your content creation strategy will now have a good framework.
Want another good reason to start working on your buyer personas? According to a Frost&Sullivan Research Report, only 46% of marketers have developed buyer personas, so there are good chances your competition isn’t among them and you can start taking advantage of buyer persona development to improve your content creation. But more importantly, take alook at how Brand Regard improved 3x click-through for their website. They did it, you can too.
Thank you kindly for the mentions and quotes. I will echo the importance of buyer personas for B2B Marketing most certainly. I will caution though that the use of templates with buyer personas is very constraining and limiting. Buyer personas are an outcome of in-depth qualitative research and thus will vary in form and context significantly. An important point often overlooked in discussions about buyer personas. With the rise of the social buyer persona and content marketing, this becomes even more crucial. Thanks for a good article Dan!
@Tony, I agree. Templates are a good start but can restrict you too much… especially with the changing dynamics we are seeing today related to “social business” and the like. Thanks for the comment.
I enjoyed your blog post on buyer personas tremendously. It’s so important to know who you want to sell your products and services to before starting a marketing campaign.
I think I’d like to add that customer service people may want to weigh in on adding information to personas. They often have added insight that could be helpful.
Thanks for the templates. They are a great start to developing information.
Lesley, I agree with you. In many industries the customer service rep will have real good knowledge of the type of customer the company is serving and it can be a golden opportunity to fine tune the buyer persona. I think the key is to make sure to involve everyone that has some customer involvement (professional services are another example) to help craft a good persona document. Thanks for the input!
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