Buyer personas are a vital part of a targeted content marketing strategy; they're how we create content that speaks to our target audience. Britt Skrabanek explains how to create personas for your B2B brand.
According to Aberdeen Research, marketers who use buyer personas and map content to the buyer’s journey enjoy 73 percent higher conversions compared to companies not pursuing this approach. Put simply, personas are marketing code for “knowing your audience.” When we truly know our audience, we can create more personalized, engaging content — whether that’s an email, ebook, social media post, sales copy or blog post — that produces results.
Let’s take the mystery out of building buyer personas, so you can develop meaningful B2B content and engage with your audience on a deeper level.Personas are marketing code for “knowing your audience.” @BrittSkrabanek Click To Tweet
Creating personas is a team effort
You don’t have to do this on your own, nor should you. A wealth of knowledge can be found in every team member beyond your marketing department, so include integral voices from your customer success and development teams.
Sales should also be a part of this collaboration, as they will likely have an alternative version of buyer personas than what’s in marketing’s head. This misstep could wreak havoc on team alignment, because there will be a major disconnect with the foundational approach to targeting prospects.
Before you dive into persona research, create a strategy with your team. Decide who will be involved on the internal front. This is also a great time to rough out who your team thinks your personas are. Think of it as a character sketch, and feel free to have some fun coming up with names.
Once you get into the data, you’ll have a quick-and-dirty buyer persona framework, thanks to the unbeatable knowledge base right inside your organization.
Then gather the data
As B2B content marketers, there are times when we want to hug data and other times when we want to break up with it. Finding the insights we need to construct solid buyer personas can seem overwhelming, but here are some places to focus your data hunt.
- Google Analytics – Look at the usual, like search terms and well-performing content. Also dig around the Audience category for Interests and Demographics, like age and gender.
- Marketing automation – Segmented lists are persona-based, so you can see how prospects are engaging with different types of content. Lead scoring behaviors will also offer insights.
- CRM – Dive into your customer database, where you have plenty of fields to work with, like title, industry, etc. (here are the steps to set up persona fields in Salesforce.)
- Social listening – Put your ear to the ground on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Use hashtags, search or social listening tools to monitor conversations relevant to problems you can solve.
- Surveys/interviews – Go straight to the source. Ask your customers and prospects what their goals and challenges are, and include basic profile information as well.
The best part about this buyer persona data you unearthed? You get to repurpose this research into highly relevant B2B content for your audience. Hello, engagement!
How much information to include in a profile
Simple is always better. Easier said than done, since personas are people and human beings are complex.
There is no cookie-cutter way to build persona profiles, and a lot will depend on the complexity of the product or service that you offer. Break it down to information that will help your organization understand that person’s hopes and fears — so you provide value for them.
For example, a marketing agency often has multiple services that span roles and industries. So, it makes sense for them to need diversity in their profile information — say, vs. a SaaS company that is a human resources management platform.
You want these profiles to be easily digestible for your busy team, so stick to no more than 12-15 pieces of information, with a mixture of basic and detailed information.When it comes to building buyer personas, simple is always better, according to @BrittSkrabanek Click To Tweet
Here is an example of basic information to include:
- Decision-maker: yes or no
Here is an example of detailed information to include:
- How we help
- Messaging strategy
The magic number for personas
Because we’re talking about packaging up human personalities, you’ll want some diversity here. But, like the profile information you narrowed down, the types of personas should be as simple as possible.
This magic number also depends on the size of your organization, in addition to its complexity. If we look back at the marketing agency example, they might have one persona for each primary service they offer. If they have five service buckets, they will have five personas.
But if you are a product company with a solution for specific teams that would actually use the tool, you might only have two personas that cover the spectrum.
What a persona set looks like
1. Decision-maker at small marketing agency
2. Non-decision-maker at enterprise tech company
Test & tweak your persona creations
Just like with any of your marketing campaigns and brand information, remain agile. Nothing is ever set in stone with buyer personas.
Companies that don’t spend enough time in the research phase may discover their personas aren’t quite right. You can always tweak these profiles after the fact. Also, brands change over time as new services and features come into play or if the company heads in a new direction.
Maybe your company used to create content aimed at mid-level managers, but revenue wasn’t happening at the pace needed to grow. Then, you make the switch to go after decision-makers. That means back to the drawing board, with a whole new set of personas and a new content strategy to engage them.
Here are a few foolproof steps to ensure you have the right personas:
- A/B test email campaigns with various messaging in segmented lists
- Come full circle to the data channels you used for the persona creation process
- Refresh your personas annually, especially if there is a rebrand or strategy overhaul
Take the time to develop strong buyer personas, and don’t feel intimidated with this important exercise. Buyer personas are the foundation for your B2B content marketing.
Have you created buyer personas for your B2B brand? Has it helped you create more targeted content that people engage with? Let us know in the comments.