Judging by the comments and social love, last month’s column on buyer personas struck a chord with many. For me, this was an indication that many marketers are looking for better ways to connect with prospective customers. Marketing teams of all sizes, and within a variety of industries, want to better understand who their buyers are, why they decide to consider a new product or solution, how they make purchase decisions, what steps they go through in their buying process and how they narrow their consideration list down to a selected product and company. Deep down, marketers know that intimate knowledge about buyers will help them create campaigns and assets that will be more effective.
To successfully market to all of the stages in the customer journey mentioned above, creating – and correctly using – buyer personas is critical. After one of my Twitter followers read last month’s column, he posed a great question:
@ellenvalentine You hinted in the first part, maybe a follow-on article on how to actually execute a strategy with the personas you define.
— Mark Milligan (@mmilligan) March 27, 2015
Thanks for the great idea, Mark! So, I thought it would be best to continue the discussion on buyer personas this month by addressing how you can use them to craft your marketing campaigns and messaging strategy.
Proper Personas: A Review
If you recall from last month’s column, buyer personas are much more than just an iconic identity and some expanded demographic information. They include insights as to why buyers embark on a buying journey in the first place. I like to think of this as the trigger: What was the person, place, or thing that caused them to begin to take action to evaluate a new solution? Also embedded in your detailed persona are snippets of actual conversations with the prospective customer about the buying journey, including evaluation and decision criteria.
If you are not capturing that directly from buyers who have recently purchased your product or a competitive solution, you simply don’t have a complete buyer persona. Also, if you work for a large company that has multiple products, you must do separate interviews for each product. If you don’t do this, your personas will be far too general to be put to effective use and you will find yourself at the campaign and content creation stages regressing back to “making stuff up.”
Linking the Persona to Marketing Messaging
Personally, the big “aha!” moment I experienced as I learned to put personas to use in the campaign process is that unless you are selling a completely new product in a new category that has never been marketed before, you really don’t need to sell someone on the benefits of your solution. You don’t need to review all of the industry stats about the benefits – today’s sophisticated buyers already know the top line benefits.
Focus on the How, Not the What
Instead, it is imperative to highlight how your product or solution solves your buyer’s challenge. That’s right, throw away all of your feature benefit grids and focus on the HOW. How does your solution, whether it is a new guitar, washing machine, or piece of software, solve the benefits that the buyer is looking to achieve? Prove to the buyer that you have the best approach to solving their most pressing issues.
Content and Campaign Development From Persona Insights
If you’ve done the right job synthesizing your buyer persona interviews and have aggregated and summarized the salient points that the buyers shared about their buying process, you’ll be able to funnel this information directly into your messaging and then to all of your content plans. Adele Revella’s Buyer Personas, which I mentioned in last month’s column as well, provides detailed information for how to accomplish this. As a bonus, this information can also provide valuable input to sales enablement playbooks.
You never know, you might glean some blockbuster benefits that prospects are looking to achieve that could provide the headline theme you need for an entire campaign. Build out your content framework, mapping stages of the buying journey to what each persona is looking to hear, observe, and learn at each step.
Make this a clean sheet exercise; that is, don’t try to retrofit all of your existing content into this new framework. Continue to use the persona to really define the perfect content they would use to address their needs. Only after you’ve done that exercise can you review existing assets to determine what modifications need to be made or how backlist pieces can be used. I predict that you might have some beloved pieces that should be retired and some gaping holes in your buyer journey that need to be addressed with new efforts.
Armed with comprehensive buyer personas will give you the detailed insights you need to make campaign and content creation so much easier — and it will resonate beautifully with your prospective customers.
The bottom line is, using these approaches will turn you from a common-place marketer (who often resorts to making stuff up) to a world-class marketer who achieves groundbreaking results!
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