https://www.zerys.com/solutions/zerys-for-agencies/content-agency-blog/hit-the-marketing-bullseye-with-targeted-buyer-personasWe’ve written extensively about creating buyer personas in the past, and most companies using inbound marketing embrace these as a primary method of targeting their content. But what if you discovered you’re going about it all wrong?
Consider these 5 issues before you develop another persona, whether it’s for your own agency or for a marketing client.
#1: Identify What REALLY Matters to Buyers
It’s not enough to identify an ideal buyer in terms of obvious, readily available data such as age, gender, marital status, leisure activities and income level. While these are important building blocks for developing a visual outline of buyers, you’re not trying to influence those aspects. What you need to determine is what really matters to the preferred customer, what their goals and priorities are in life, what types of triggers are likely to affect their decisions, and how they research the solutions they need.
How this helps: This leads to goal-based marketing, rather than “role-based” efforts. It enables marketers to address the buyers’ needs and highlight specific differentiators without losing the attention of other prospects.
#2: Get Actual Facts
The Buyer Persona Institute cautions not to make the mistake of “reverse engineering” a solution to identify a potential pain point, which could result in an imaginary issue. To create an effective buyer persona, gather data gained through interaction with customers that tells you what their problems are, and the circumstances that motivate them to allocate time, money or other resources to solving them. To do this, you’ll need to interview a cross-section of existing customers, but it’s worth the effort.
How this helps: Research enables understanding of buyers’ behavior, rather than the buyers themselves—which is what you want to influence.
#3: Limit the Number of Personas
Market segmentation in moderation is great, but don’t segment yourself or your client to death. If you have more than three or four buyer personas, chances are you have too many target groups to manage effectively. Before you create yet another buyer persona, ask yourself:
- Have we analyzed the audience correctly?
- Are we aiming at a tight enough niche, or is our scope too broad?
No product or solution can be aimed at everyone, so it’s critical to have a manageable number of targets.
How this helps: The fewer buyer personas exist, the more focused and actionable the marketing plan can be, particularly with the limited resources small businesses deal with.
#4: Involve Both Marketing and Sales
Creating buyer personas is typically the work of marketers, whether they are in-house or agency employees. It’s undisputed, however, that former sales are the best source of information about customer preferences. By involving the sales team in discussions about buyer personas, it’s possible to gather insights that will build better profiles.
How this helps: Sales people typically spend more time interacting with buyers than anyone else, so they are more likely to know what the perceived barriers are to buying. By discovering the buyers’ commonly-held concerns and misconceptions, you can address these in the marketing plan before the questions are raised.
#5: Mapping Personas to the Buying Cycle
At any given time, a potential buyer can be mapped to a particular point in the buying cycle. Creating rich buyer personas with different layers for each stage of the cycle enables you to target prospects at every level of their journey. This closes the gap between the product or service being sold, and the solution the target is considering buying. For larger agencies, HubSpot offers a Lifecycle Stage tool that helps marketers avoid sending communications aimed at Top of Funnel prospects to those about to make a buying decision. This might not be affordable for smaller agencies, but the principle is the same.
How this helps: It enables companies to create marketing initiatives and content that directly target the different stages of the cycle, while keeping the focus on the buyer persona.
If all this sounds daunting, consider creating learner personas to start with. These are customer personas that "learn" as your information about them grows. By labeling them you'll alert everyone to the fact that they are based on incomplete intelligence, and use them to maintain the focus on gathering information and revising the personas until they are as complete as you need them to be. To learn more, check out our white paper, "What Are Buyer Personas And How to Use Them."