There’s a lot of talk out there about personalizing content and having “one-to-one” conversations with buyers. And while one-to-one personalization can yield some great benefits, it’s difficult to scale, with marketers citing the ability “to personalize every single customer interaction with relevant data and offers” as their biggest challenge according to Forrester.
But there’s a different path forward:
“...instead of trying to personalize every channel, businesses can move their focus from how much content they are producing to what kind of content they are producing.”
- Robert Rose
To do this, we need personas.
“...many successful brands are developing strategies to “persona-ize” high-quality and valuable content that’s specific to an audience (rather than a person)”
- Robert Rose, CCMX
Ardath Albee from the Content Marketing Institute defines personas as “...a composite sketch of a segment of your target market designed to help brands align with buyers' needs and priorities to build engagement that results in a profitable relationship.”
“Your target audience does not have time to listen to you about how much you can help them with their problems; you need to show them. Buyer personas facilitate your ability to do this by forcing you to think about all the different stages of the buying cycle, and how to develop relevant content to speak to those stages.”
- Vann Morris
Here’s why developing a buyer persona can create stronger relationships with buyers:
It creates a more relevant message. You need content that is targeted to your audience that will strengthen relationships with existing customers by focusing on the value you have to offer. These conversations with your audience need to provide solutions that seem tailor-made to their needs. By identifying your buyer persona, you can communicate more effectively by talking to them using their own language to describe their specific needs.
It helps you overcome buying objections. When you dive into into the mind of your consumer, you can address your users’ biggest pain points on making a purchase. Sure, you can elevate their objections “riding blind” with generic testimonials and case studies to show your company’s good track record – but when those testimonials come from people who fit your buyer persona, they are seen as more credible. People tend to trust their peers more than complete strangers.
It empower sales teams. Being able to visualize each customer purchase path makes it easier for salespeople to understand how to effectively and positively guide consumers through the buyer cycle. This results in a better involvement with customers and keeps your salesforce charged with improving the customer experience.
The key ingredient in understanding your target audience is gathering information on your ideal customer. A good starting point is to use LinkedIn for persona research that can provide information like company size, industry, seniority at a company and even their level of expertise.
Next, research the kind of problems your ideal customers are experiencing within a company. What challenges are they facing and what results would they like to achieve? Find out what your buyer values in order to make a deeper connection.
For personas to become useful tools, they must be based on interviews gathered from salespeople, customer service interactions and the customers themselves. Not only can these interviews help you answer your customers probing questions, but you can gain insight on what your buyers are really trying to achieve.
Not sure what to ask? Albee suggests using these questions to help dig deeper into solving the problems of your target audience.
What’s important to them and what’s driving the change?
What’s impeding or speeding their need to change?
How do they go about change?
What do they need to know to embrace change?
Who do they turn to for advice or information?
What’s the value they visualize once they make a decision?
Who do they have to sell change to in order to get it?
What could cause the need for this change to lose priority?
When doing your interview, do it over the phone or in person so you can get gut reactions to your questions. It’s also important to keep the meeting time to under 30 minutes or the conversation can become stale and repetitive quickly.
After the interview, we have all the info we need to create personas that identify how we can help buyers manage and expedite change. From here we use our personas to drive our content strategy and customer-facing business processes.
Here's how it works: First, it'll ask you all the questions about your ideal customer that'll help you build out your persona. (And don't worry, it'll guide you through the process of how to answer them, too.) Then, it'll generate a buyer persona for you based on your answers, in the form of an editable Word document that you can edit and expand on later. Pretty neat!
There may be multiple types of customers and companies that your business targets, and this persona tool will help create a picture of the most important customer types. Up Close & Persona™ is a buyer persona tool developed with B2B marketing strategist Ardath Albee - an industry leader, speaker and consultant on the effective use of buyer personas in B2B marketing.
Without a doubt, marketing personas will help you identify with your audience and better solve their problems. And when you solve their problems, everyone wins. We must always strive to create "value", by helping our audience gain a clearer understanding of their problem and the best ways to solve them.
If you can, get all your team members involved in developing your personas so everyone has the chance to bring a fresh perspective to the table. Then once you have your personas, act on them by delivering the right value to the right audience.
For more info on creating personas, check out these resources.