In June, we set out to cover a number of topics to help our readers with their journey towards cloud marketing excellence. In our six-part blog series, we discussed emotional web design and how you can create a connection with customers through design, content SEO and how to best optimize your content to satisfy the likes of search engines, performance SEO and how to optimize your website performance, and lastly, 7 lead nurturing best practices in 2015 and how to nurture leads into sales. But before there was emotional web design, content, and leads to nurture, the buyer personas had to be identified. Determining who our buyer personas are allows us to better target our potential customers, a key to a successful cloud content marketing strategy. Now, we will go back to the very beginning and talk buyer persona content marketing.
If you are unfamiliar with buyer persona content marketing, buyer personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. It’s a pivotal step in your content marketing strategy as it helps a brand to establish the identity and needs of its customers.
Why do We Create Buyer Personas?
Defining your personas is a necessary step before you develop your content marketing strategy. If you have developed your content marketing strategy or started marketing your product or service without knowing your buyer personas – STOP – and go back. You’ll need this information before starting any sort of marketing. Creating a buyer persona allows you to put a face to your target customer and provides a human connection to who you are selling to. By knowing exactly who they are, you will be better able to target them. Makes sense, right? If you know what makes your customers tick, you’ll probably have a better chance of providing them with content that they need to turn a lead into a sale.
Unfortunately, a lot of businesses make the mistake of not getting to know who their customers are, and this makes developing the right type of content really challenging. Also, any marketing promotion that they launch could be lost on their audience if their potential customers aren’t interested in what the company has to offer. Knowing your personas allows you to tailor your messaging to the different personas so you can avoid sending the same email to everyone on your customer list.
In a State of Buyer Personas 2015 survey, 71% said they were either somewhat familiar or familiar with buyer persona development with only 15% saying very familiar.
Creating buyer personas will help you better understand your customers, and prospective customers, and make it easier for you to tailor content to their specific needs and behaviors. Personas help you define the following:
- What kind of content will work best for your audience
- The tone and style your content should have
- How you will deliver your content
- What you should write about that will interest your audience
- Where you should put your content so your audience will find the information
In the same survey, when respondents were asked questions in regards to the use of buyer personas, 85% of the respondents stated they were using buyer personas for content marketing and messaging while only 28% stated they were using buyer personas for assessing market challenges and problems. Sadly, nearly 80% of the respondents indicated they were confused about what buyer personas were.
Well we are going to clear up any misconceptions about how you can create your own buyer personas and how to use them for your content marketing. The first step is to gather information on your past, current, and potential customers, as well as your non-customers.
How to Start Using Buyer Persona Content Marketing
1. Research Your Customer
What better way to gather information about your customers than by interviewing them. Interview past customers, existing customers, potential customers, as well as non-customers who you are targeting. Ask them questions to identify the following characteristics:
- Profession – What do they do for a living?
- Education – What is their education level?
- Income Level – What is their income range?
- Geographic Locale – Where do they live?
- Age – How old are they?
- Gender – What is their gender?
- Relationship Status – What is their relationship status?
- Interests – What are their interests? Where do they hang out?
- Buyer Preferences – Where do they shop?
- Buying Motivation – What is their reason for buying your product?
- Buying Concerns – What is their concern when buying your product?
- Pains and Gains – What problems are they looking to solve?
It’s also a good idea to interview members of your sales team and customer service team – both teams deal directly with customers on a day-to-day basis and will be able to provide you with valuable information about the customer. If you don’t have the time to have face-to-face interviews and focus groups, you can consider sending out a survey to gather information.
2. Analyse Data to Gain Insights
Review your market research, Google Analytics, or stats on your customer base and compile the information you have from your interviews and surveys. You will find similarities in the answers, which will help you categorize your personas. Once you have compiled all of your information, it’s time to narrow things down and select your key buyer personas. You may have one buyer persona, or you may have ten – it really is dependent on your business.
So you may be wondering, what does a complete buyer persona look like? Here’s an example:
Mark, the Director of IT
Education: Computer Science Undergraduate Degree, Engineering Undergraduate Degree
Roles: IT Director, CIO
Goals: Support the company’s IT strategy
Challenges: Reduced IT budget. Multiple IT platforms. Old IT systems. Company is afraid to change and, therefore, Mark is afraid to move solutions due to fear of failure.
Mark is the Director of IT for a large financial software company and makes all of the decisions related to IT. There isn’t a CIO, so Mark reports directly to the CEO. Mark has a Computer Science Undergraduate Degree, an Engineering Undergraduate Degree and has been in the workforce for approximately 13 years and makes $120,000 a year.
Mark lives in the city with his wife and one small child. He lives in a condo and drives a Prius. Despite the new addition to the family, Mark and his wife still enjoy eating out at local eateries and they try to meet up with friends at drinking establishments when they can get a babysitter. Mark enjoys the finer things in life and isn’t afraid to spend more money to get what he wants. He also enjoys recreational sport activities on the weekends and evenings.
As an older millennial, Mark isn’t interested in getting his hands dirty with the nitty gritty of technology but is interested in finding solutions where he can offload the work. Relatively new to this position, Mark relies on the opinions of his superiors and colleagues when making a decision. Mark reads technical publications and relies on third-party information to keep him up to date on trends and to help him with his decision making.
Although Mark wants to make some changes in his new role, he lacks decisive decision making, which is driven by a fear of making the wrong decision and losing his job. The current infrastructure is outdated and the employees are encouraging him to make a change. With a reduced IT budget and the executive’s resistance to change, Mark is afraid to move to a Cloud solution due to fear of failure. Mark is in a tough position as he sees the need to make changes with his IT infrastructure, but unfortunately he is having a hard time getting buy-in from his superiors.
That’s Mark for you.
Once you have completed the buyer person exercise and you have clearly defined your personas, it’s time to map your buyer journey. Once you combine your buyer persona with the buyer journey, you can map out and create highly targeted content.
3. Determining the Buyer Journey
If you read our blog, How a Customer Journey Funnel Qualifies Leads, we discussed the process that an average buyer will go through before deciding to purchase. This is referred to as a buyer journey and consists of three stages that the potential buyer will take. Knowing where your potential buyers are during each stage of the journey can help you create content specific to them. To recap, the three stages of the buyer journey are:
- The awareness stage – top of funnel
- The consideration stage –middle of funnel
- The decision stage – bottom of funnel
As mentioned in the blog, content should be targeted towards your buyer at each stage of the buyer journey, meaning that you provide your customer with the right content at the right time in the right channel. Depending on which stage your customer is in will determine what content is best suited for them. You should aim to have your potential buyer understand what you do and know how your product and service will help solve their problem.
How Does the Buyer Journey Come Together?
The goal is to engage with your customer during the buyer journey so that he will consider you when it’s time to purchase. Let’s use our IT director, Mark, as an example.
The Awareness Stage
The awareness stage is when a buyer acknowledges a sign of a problem. For example, Mark may believe that he is feeling discomfort in his position – the company he is working for uses multiple, outdated IT platforms and the company fears change. Mark is getting pressure from the employees to change the current IT infrastructure, but with the reduced IT budget, and without executive buy-in, he feels that he is in between a rock and a hard place. He is unaware that he may have a need for the particular service you provide (managed hosting) and may be completely unaware that your company, product, or service exists. At this stage, Mark is in research mode and is looking for vendor neutral information to help identify the problem. At this point, 72% of people will use Google. Mark will be looking for content that can help him understand his problem, such as:
- White papers
- Research reports
- Analyst reports
The Consideration Stage
During the consideration stage of the process, Mark has identified that a problem exists (need to improve infrastructure with limited budget and buy-in) and he is in the process of looking for alternatives for solving his problem. This part is critical for you, because this is when you want to provide Mark with educational content that will help him in his decision making process.
For example, he may identify that he can benefit from a managed service provider who will provide a cost-effective way to update some of his infrastructure as well as integrate with existing legacy systems. He will research different types of options. If he has received an email newsletter from you in the past, and remembers the valuable information that you provided, this will trigger him to think of you because of the trust you have already established with him. The key is to be seen as a trusted and credible source. This is referred to as a nurtured lead and can help produce an average of 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads. At this stage, Mark has outlined and named the problem and opportunity, so providing him with comparison eguides and videos on how he can solve his issue will work best. During the consideration stage, customers require content such as:
- Comparison eguides
- White papers
The decision stage is when Mark will narrow down his search and determine whether or not a managed service provider will fulfill his needs and solve his problem. Mark thinks he knows what he needs and is researching to make a decision. Mark may have decided that he requires a managed service provider and he is now researching his options. He will look at the details of each vendor, including services, reputation and cost. Mark would benefit from reading information on your company, such as case studies, product shell sheets and demos to make him see that you are the best solution for his problem. Content that works best for the decision stage includes:
- Vendor and product comparison
- Case studies
- Product literature
67% of buyers say customized content helps them make better purchase decisions.
You can conduct a content audit to access your current content and map out each piece to each stage. Then you will have an indication of what content you will need to produce.
- Know your buyer
- Know his needs
- Find out what information he is looking for while he is in the awareness and decision stages
- Provide the customer with valuable information during these two stages so that he will consider you when he is in the decision stage
The bottom line is that you want to nurture potential leads throughout the buyer journey by providing them with valuable educational content that will help leverage you as a knowledgeable subject matter expert; establishing trust with the potential customers so you are who they choose when they require your services.
Let TPM Create Your Buyer Persona Content Marketing Strategy
Clearly defining your buyer persona is the first step to a successful cloud marketing strategy. If you don’t have the in-house resources necessary to develop and implement a strategy, hire someone to do it for you. If you are unsure of how to get started, give us a shout, we would love to help. Contact us today to learn more about how Total Product Marketing can help define your customers and establish a buyer persona content marketing strategy. Let’s get started.