Thanks to HubSpot, buyer personas have become synonymous with inbound and content marketing. Few companies, however, actually spend the time to research, develop, and document their personas. 

What you may not be aware of, though, is that buyer personas already make up the backbone of your outreach strategy. Think about it. If you are an ophthalmologist marketing Lasik packages to an older demographic, would you choose to run ads for those services on Snapchat or TikTok? Probably not. Common sense dictates your audience won’t be found there. 

But what about the rest of the consumer story? The details within the details that paint the picture of how your customers operate are what unearth insights that have huge impacts on your business.

What is a Buyer Persona?

The field of Inbound Marketing, popularized by HubSpot, defines a buyer persona as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. 

Breaking that definition down a little further, buyer personas generally are named in such a way that they are easy to remember and recall. Names like “Mary the Marketer” or “Pete the Plumber” are naming mechanisms that allow teams to reference “Mary” instead of “the marketer persona” when referencing the target audience. 

The key point in this definition, though, is that buyer personas, according to Inbound principles, MUST be created according to market research and REAL data. 

Eager to learn more about the buyer persona's role in successful marketing strategies? Check out this blog.

 

B2B vs B2C Buyer Personas

Regardless of your business or customer base, personas are necessary to stay on top of your customers’ needs. However, there are nuances between B2B and B2C personas, in general, to understand. 

For example, in a B2C environment, you may be compelled to research how purchasing habits change in your industry when a company offers a coupon, sale, or discount. B2C companies are also concerned with seasonal shifts in consumer demand much more than B2B customers, in most cases. 

Understandably, in both B2B and B2C environments, the price point is the primary consideration for any investment. That said, because B2B investments typically come with a higher price tag, the buyer’s journey will tend to be longer.

B2B Personas that connect

B2B Personas That Connect

Most B2B companies hold internal marketing meetings to discuss who their buyer personas are without actually talking to their customers. Then, the sales team will have a meeting to discuss their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) without talking to the marketing team or the customer. 

This disjointed method is not conducive to producing a comprehensive and insightful buyer persona that the entire company can rally around. What you need to develop meaningful relationships with B2B prospects is an approach centered around full communication between customers and departments.

Creating a Mutually Beneficial Relationship Between Sales & Marketing

The age-old battle between sales and marketing. Sales often claim the leads they receive from marketing are bad. Marketing responds by saying they’re just not working them correctly. 

Let’s start with the ICP. When a sales team builds out its target for their outreach, they try to identify their Ideal Customer Profile. When they do this, they refer to accounts or companies. Typical ICP identification is based on the target industry, company size, location, and revenue. From there, they pick up the phone and call. 

Traditionally, the marketing team then takes that information and digs deeper to create buyer personas.

We talk about this in-depth in our recorded webinar, How to develop your buyer personas.

 

Let's pretend you are a B2B enterprise accounting software provider. Through buyer persona research, you find that accounting teams have the challenge of using outdated software that doesn't integrate with the company’s new platforms.

On top of that, they need their IT team to approve all new software decisions. In this situation, you have two buyer personas:

Andy, the Accountant
He has an outdated system that needs to be updated to increase efficiency and accuracy.
Ivy, the IT Director
She is in charge of approving software requests based on Andy’s recommendations.

Both of these personas have different challenges, motivations, and information to consider while making a decision.

To recap, the relationship should work as follows:

  • Marketing creates content to provide value in the eyes of your buyer personas.
  • The sales team uses marketing’s valuable content in their sales process to better communicate and serve prospective customers at every stage of their buyer’s journey.
For more in-depth information about B2B personas, check out our post here.

Information to Collect Through Persona Research

The best way to find information about your buyer persona is by interviewing current customers. But before you pick up the phone, make sure you have a plan. 

We like to create a standard set of relevant questions to your business and your customers to help identify trends and consistencies across all of the interviews we conduct. Some of those questions include:

  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • What is at stake if you don’t solve these challenges?
  • How do you go about researching to solve problems?
  • Who do you report to? How big is your team?
  • What social media channels do you use for work? For personal use?
  • What responsibilities do you have at work? Outside of work?

The goal with these is to discover what makes them tick and how you can provide them with the most value throughout their buyer’s journey. 

We recommend creating a buyer persona questionnaire template to help stay on track and take notes during the interview.

5 top-line questions you can’t build your personas without for more about the persona research process.

Buyer Persona Building: A Team Effort

The first step when starting a buyer persona build is deciding which customers and prospects are important to your business’s sustainability and growth. With that in mind, it’s crucial for the marketer or businessperson leading the initiative to involve their sales executives in the process. 

As your marketing team understands the data that informs which visitors turn into the highest percentage of leads, your sales team could have clearer data to support which types of customers have the highest value when they convert. These two data points could produce different results or point to the same general target customer. 

Either way, persona decisions should be a collaborative process between marketing, sales, and leadership, so everyone is on the same page about the campaign’s direction.

Let’s take a look at how your company can leverage multiple roles within your company to create cohesive personas that stick.

Account Executive(s), Director of Sales, CEO

  • Collaborate with the marketing team to determine who the target audience should be
  • Provide initial insights about the target audience  
  • Offer extra questions they would like to have answered during the persona process

Marketing Director, CMO

  • Collaborate with sales to determine the best audience segment to target 
  • Delegate directives to different people on the marketing team
  • Offer final sign off on persona report 
  • Attend persona strategy sessions and offer insight
  • Listen to, and review recorded interviews

Content/Marketing Strategist

  • Conduct interviews with persona customers 
  • Build personas with the feedback from internal brainstorms with Marketing Director and Content Specialist
  • Lead initial ideation of campaigns after completion of persona report(s)
  • Review recorded interviews

Content Specialist/Marketing Assistant

  • Schedule persona interviews
  • Participate in internal brainstorms to review aggregated persona feedback and offer opinions on strategy
  • Participate as primary note-taker during persona interviews 
  • Keep content strategist on track with the template and suggest relevant follow up questions
  • Review recorded interviews

Most salespeople and marketers wear many hats. Buyer persona building is an important project, but there will always be fires to put out or customers to pursue, taking time away from longer-term initiatives. 

The best teams effectively divide the work amongst themselves, so no one person shoulders too much of the workload. With sales and marketing leadership guiding the project’s direction and signing off on deliverables, and the marketing team running point on research and reporting, you put the company in the best possible strategic position to develop impactful personas. 

Want to learn more about the teamwork involved in persona building? Dive in here.

 

Buyer Persona Best Practices

Undergoing your first buyer persona research cycle can seem a daunting task. You have to contend with scheduling interviews, sourcing quality research, dedicating internal resources to planning and executing a persona report, and then following up on tracking personas throughout an inbound marketing campaign.

There will be some experimentation involved to determine how to approach personas’ development, but with the right guidance, you can skip over common persona pitfalls.

If you’re just starting your persona journey, you’ve come to the right place. This best practices list will guide you away from the common pitfalls experienced by many content marketers and towards a powerful and efficient persona development process.

 
#1
Don't Put It Off Any Longer

Okay. This one’s a bit of a “cheapie,” but we want it to hit home. The persona research process can involve a lot of communication between clients and customers over the phone, talking them through questions with follow-up and ideas. Because it seems like a lot of time-consuming work, it can be easy to put it off. 

According to the following stats detailed in an infographic by SingleGrain, buyer personas are invaluable to a successful marketing campaign in several ways:

  • If only one out of every 10 people in your target audience needs what you're offering, you're wasting 90 percent of your resources and time on ineffective marketing.
  • Using buyer personas can make websites two to five times more effective and easier to use for targeted visitors.
  • Personalized emails can improve your click-through rate by as much as 14 percent and your conversion rates by up to 10 percent.
  • Behaviorally-targeted ads are two times as effective as non-targeted ads.

#2
Play Dumb

Regardless of how much you think you know about your buyer personas, you can always gain even more insight by keeping an open mind and asking some seemingly obvious questions. 

Simply put, be smart and play dumb. Any of your assumptions or personal bias could influence your personas, so avoid bringing your ego into the research around your target audience.

Listen closely to all responses, be open to each response that might help build an accurate persona, and ask every pertinent question no matter how obvious it may seem.

#3
Don't Go It Alone

The best buyer personas come from the collaborative effort, not one person doing all the work. Not only can it be overwhelming for a single team member to take on, but it can also lead to a biased, incomplete interpretation of the persona.

To get your whole team on board, spread your workload to make it manageable.  Working together on each persona can also offer different insights and perspectives that further bring each persona to life. Each person in your team can take on various tasks while providing input into others' work.

#4
Allow Personas to Evolve

As we've discussed, the persona research and creation process is ongoing and dynamic, and you're likely to update your personas as the nature of your customers and campaigns changes.

You can start by creating a minimum viable persona, or MVP. Once you have this MVP in place, you have enough ammunition to begin campaign planning, development, and analysis. If you have specific deadlines in place for research and work on your personas, be patient but avoid holding off for too long. For example, you may have conducted four out of a goal of six interviews. While you may think the information you've gathered from those four is sufficient to build a complete MVP, consider conducting those last two interviews later and updating your draft. You never know who may offer different insight that's invaluable or game-changing after creating your first draft.

#5
Talk to a Diverse and Well-Rounded Sample

Don't limit yourself to contacts within your or your client's companies. Go beyond your network, taking advantage of LinkedIn channels to locate other interviewees, or you can ask your existing interviewees for additional contacts that may be able to contribute additional input.

Taking all of these voices and opinions into account can help you thoroughly cover each persona during the research phase.

#6
Use A Buyer Persona Report Template

Just like your questionnaire template is critical for conducting uniform interviews, a reliable buyer persona report template standardizes how everyone in your organization understands target customers’ needs and desires. 

One of the key benefits of having a buyer persona report template is the ability to maintain consistency across your personas while making it easier to adjust the personas should their preferences change over time.

Additionally, report templates ensure all the T’s are crossed, and I’s dotted. You gather a ton of data insights through persona research. By constructing a persona template before you even begin your research, you’re much less likely to forget important details from your research in the final report. 

Templates also make the report-building process much less daunting. Instead of filling a blank sheet of paper with all of your customers’ hopes and fears, the setup work is done for you. Trust that the strategy behind each section of the persona report has already been considered and let your research flood into each predefined section.

What strategy goes into constructing a buyer persona report template? Let’s take a look.

You’ve Got Personas, Now What?

Putting together buyer personas is no easy task, but it's not enough to merely create them — at some point, it becomes time to put them to the test. The following are the steps to take once you've built out your personas to attract more leads and drive more sales.

Share Your Personas with Your Company

The best way to go about sharing your personas is to schedule a meeting with each department separately, which can help you determine how each persona plays into their respective roles. This will help them understand where they come in when interacting with prospects who match those personas.

Ultimately, you want everyone on the same page regarding your buyer personas and the ideal customers that they represent. Different staff may need to consider the particular behaviors of a specific persona. For example, developers on your team should understand what Freddie the Financial Analyst is looking for in the ideal user experience browsing your website.

Identify the Contacts You Want to Reach

Once each relevant department understands how their work can impact your target customer, begin segmenting contacts in your database (email, CRM, etc.) and categorize them according to your personas.

Properly identifying your contacts and matching them with your personas can help you customize messaging to those specific individuals. In turn, your campaigns will seem as though they're speaking directly to your audience. For instance, if you're trying to target parents, teens, and college students with product suggestions that are relevant to them via an email campaign, you can create uniquely targeted messaging for each group based on your buyer personas for each and send them out to the corresponding contacts.

Understand your customer and grow better with our Webinar: how to develop your buyer personas.

Prioritize Which Persona to Target First

After you've built your buyer personas and are eager to start unveiling powerful content to them, it can be challenging to determine which persona is worth targeting initially. It can be particularly difficult if you've developed multiple personas based on a variety of ideal customers. The key is determining which persona is the most valuable starting point. Here's how you can prioritize your personas and yield optimal results from your marketing efforts.

Prioritization Strategies

The four (4) main persona prioritization strategies we work off with our clients are:

1. Highest-Value Persona:
If you can figure out which persona will provide the most ROI, this could be the best one to spend your time and energy targeting.

2. Re-engagement:
Pursue people who are already customers but have become disengaged from your business.

3. Persona in a New Market:
Focus on an untapped market. This is a higher-risk, potentially higher-reward strategy.

4. The Persona for Which You've Already Built the Most Content:
Conduct a content audit to determine the personas for which you already have a solid base of collateral. Prioritizing these personas will not be starting from scratch. Use what you have to your advantage by repurposing and refreshing old content and filling gaps where necessary.

There’s no magic answer to what persona you should target first. The answer resides in the content of your research and with the passion of your team. The good news is, there is no wrong direction. Any persona target will initially succeed when done right.  Whatever route you choose, though, make sure every relevant team is on board, from Marketing to Sales, Customer Support to Leadership. Without the buy-in from all key stakeholders, even the most methodically chosen persona target runs a great chance of missing you.

For a more in-depth look into Persona Prioritization click here.

Start the Content Planning Process

Start by outlining your campaign with content offers and sample blog topics that you would create and push toward each persona based on their attributes and preferences.

A content offer is a gated piece of an inbound program that works to attract interest, convert visitors into leads, and nurture leads into sales opportunities.

One of the best ways to create the right content for each persona is to consult your research and revisit those pain points. Address the pain points first from an educational, thought-leadership perspective, and skip the sales pitch. Once the visitor can trust your subject-matter expertise, you can then highlight the ways your business can resolve their problems through your product or service offerings. 

Also, make sure that you have different types of content developed for each stage of the buyer's journey, from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel. For example, you may want to hook new leads with a compelling blog post that answers questions they may have with the purpose of gaining contact information, after which you can offer a free white paper or ebook download to provide even more information, including details about your offerings until you lead them “through the campaign” as they seek a solution to a specific problem.

See Beacons Point’s unique twist on the traditional “funnel” approach below. We believe inbound marketing empowers the visitor to educate themselves on the solutions available to them. Thus, our content strategy works bottom-up. Beacons Point Campfire Process

By constructing a campaign in this way, you'll be able to create more empathetic content that truly connects with your audience.

Buyer Personas’ Value to Marketing Strategy

If you were to fill out a persona report for your customers right now, you may, for example, be able to write a novel about their challenges and goals, but then be stumped about what makes them value a brand or their research habits. 

That’s why getting this data matters. Building a persona involves gathering information to sculpt an accurate, timely, representation of your target customer that is comprehensive. 

Each of the following top-line factors is critical to developing an understanding of your customer. Without just one, you risk launching a marketing strategy that won’t connect.

Buyer Personas Value to Marketing Strategy
Gather Trends in the Data

Gather Trends in the Data

Buyer persona research is a bit of a balancing act. An art and a science. To get the best insights from your customers or potential customers, you want to be engaging in conversation in order to make them feel comfortable and trust you fully. You want to be loose and approachable. 

At the same time, though, it’s important to ask specific questions the same way every time so you can compare responses apples to apples. 

For example, a B2B company assessing the research habits of their customer base could ask a question like, “How do you typically go about researching a problem you encounter at work?” Or, they could ask, “When conducting research, do you prefer video, case studies, academic journals, or consulting with colleagues?” 

In the example above, the way the questions are framed could potentially lead an interviewee to completely different answers. Unless you know you would like an answer to a specific research method, for example, it’s best to ask more open-ended questions that prompt thoughtful answers.

Generate Content Ideas Naturally

Generate Content Ideas Naturally

At Beacons Point, we include a BIG box on the bottom of our persona template for “Content Ideas” to jot down any that sparked during or directly following a persona interview. As marketers and business owners, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds.

Promotions, campaigns, content ideas seem less likely to arise, the harder you fixate on them. Therein lies the magic of persona research. By talking to your target audience directly, they give you the gift of explaining exactly how they would like you to speak, market, and sell to them.

It’s a treasure trove of insight you cannot get any other way.

Stay On-Strategy

Stay On-Strategy

Building Personas forces you to think about the “why” behind each piece of content created.

Every promotion you run, content offer you produce, or blog post you write should connect back to a documented target persona. If an idea doesn’t connect, consider reframing or pushing it until new persona targets are identified. 

Staying on-strategy in this way will ensure that your campaigns are developed as efficiently as possible.

Where Persona Building Fits into Campaign Strategy Planning

At Beacons Point, we recommend the following structure to campaign strategy planning: 
1
Agree on persona targets
2
Research and document buyer personas
3
Perform Competitor Analysis
4
Conduct paid and organic keyword research
5
Set SMART Goals
6
Build a strategy

Personas do not happen overnight. It is recommended to interview at minimum five to six target customers, plus outside research in order to glean any significant insights you can trust. Prepare for the time investment to sync-up calendars, conduct the interviews, digest the information, develop reports, and everything in between.

That said, doing this work upfront provides mountains of consumer insights from which you can go forth and build a comprehensive marketing strategy that connects to your valued customer in meaningful ways. 

At Beacons Point, we spend each day building out strategies for our clients and for our own business. Speak to one of our Content Strategists today for a free consultation about how you can deliver a comprehensive campaign for your next persona target.

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