One of the most important aspects of a B2B Strategic Marketing Plan is a clear definition of a company’s target customers. It is vital to understand their industry and the issues affecting their business. Equally important is to know the decision makers that your company will be selling to and how they make their decision to buy. Finally, we want to comprehend the go-to-market philosophy of each of the target companies that your company will hope to gain as a client.
While not a perfect solution, one tool that helps focus a B2B company’s communication and content marketing strategy is to define and create buyer personas for each of the key participants in a buying decision. It's not 'perfect' because a persona is not ubiquitous across all companies in a sector. Buyers vary between companies based on how that particular company hires, its culture, and its distinctive approach to the market. That said, personas are highly effective tools at helping to shape the content that a company produces to attract and engage its target customers.
So here we answer 3 primary questions:
- What is a buyer persona?
- Where should we begin?
- What is the opportunity?
It is crucial that content be developed as part of a plan. The plan should consider the buying process and how each of the players in a company participates in that process. With that awareness, a content map can be created that lays out the schedule of content that will attract and appeal to each of the personas engaged in the buying process. That is why it is so useful to have well researched and defined personas.
What Is a Buyer Persona?
In basic terms, a persona is a profile. It may be modeled after a person you know or an existing customer, but it is intended to represent a range of people with similar interests and motivation. There are various templates available that guide a marketer through the process of creating a persona. The most important thing to remember is the need to define what a marketer needs to know to prepare content that will attract that persona to the seller’s website. That may start with the keywords they will chose to use in a search, but it will progress to their level of education, their previous experience and who they report to. Some go so far as to define family life and hobbies. For B2B applications, that level of detail is not always helpful or necessary.
Another key aspect of a persona to consider is what their goals and objectives are. These could be driven by their position in the organization, whether they are the primary buyer, or whether they support the primary buyer is some fashion or are part of a team.
Consider an engineer working on a project who has responsibility for all the mechanical equipment. He may be responsible for gathering information on the equipment needed and specifying it. He may even solicit bids on the equipment. The primary buyer, however, is likely the project manager, not the engineer. It's possible that even the project manager does not have the final say. The purchasing agent has a role and without his approval, even the project manager is not the sole decision maker.
Personas can be created for each of these individuals so the marketer can define each of their goals and objectives, their motivation and what is important to them to make a successful purchase. If you are marketing to them, you want to develop your personas in as much detail as is necessary to attract them to your website and engage them with the information that THEY feel is important.
Where should we begin?
First, look to salespeople as they have had intimate contact with all those involved in the selling process and likely have more insight than even they may realize. Where possible, meet with existing clients and interview them to understand the different roles in their organization, what each persona is responsible for and what is likely their motivation.
Look to your customer relationship management (CRM) tool to see if there are any patterns there. Find out what parts of your website they have visited, and what information they have downloaded. While a lot of this information may be sketchy in the beginning, it will inform you where you need to gather additional information and may shape the content placed on your site in the future.
Don’t discount special events, such as trade shows, where the marketing staff will have the opportunity to visit with a large cross-section of personas. These casual interviews, if handled properly, will yield significant insight to the construction of your personas.
What is the Opportunity?
To go beyond just placing interesting content on the company website and to actively engage in inbound marketing, one needs a well defined content map that is based not only on the buying process, but on the interests, motivation and objectives of each person involved in buying. Personas will go a long way to helping craft content that attracts the right people and engages them with your company. Remember - buyer personas are never finished. They evolve as you gather more information, as the market changes, and as companies reorganize. Crafting effective personas is not a static exercise, but an evolving one that is vital to any Inbound marketing effort. The opportunity, however, is shaving time, resources, and expense off of lead generation efforts and nurturing our target customers much closer to a purchasing decision.
Personas are an important first step in inbound marketing. For a more in depth explanation, download our eBook, 'What is Inbound Marketing?'
In this download, you'll gain valuable insight into the basics of Inbound Marketing such as:
- 5 stages of buyers in the inbound process
- 4 reasons why the 'old' marketing playbook is broken
- the elements of inbound marketing