There are so many ways to connect with potential clients today across digital and social that sometimes it’s hard to find focus. You’ve probably heard the term “buyer persona,” but are you incorporating the concept into your marketing strategy? If not, you could be missing out on opportunities to connect with current and prospective customers at various points of the marketing funnel.
NewsCred’s Director of Business Operations Amy Wu shares her thoughts on the importance of buyer personas, and how they can help shape your content marketing strategy and fulfill your overall business goals.
What exactly are buyer personas for people who might be new to the concept?
AW: There’s a saying that if you sell to everyone, you actually sell to no one. A Buyer Persona, or sometimes called “customer profile” (or customer segment), is a methodology for companies to narrow down who their target customers are, what they care most about, and how they will use the product.
Brainstorming the distinctive buying patters of your key customers is important for understanding who you are trying to target, and how you should message to them. I’d say it’s a good practice to keep the number of primary buyer personas under five. Within a major buyer persona, you could have sub-segments.
How are buyer personas different for B2B vs. B2C?
AW: For B2B companies, buyer personas are the decision makers at each part of your sales funnel. For a complex large company, you could be talking to multiple personas. Who is making the buying decision, and who does the usage decision making? Finding out who those people are is key. For instance, if you’re selling to the head of social media, the person will care about KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for social media channels versus if you’re selling to heads of content marketing who would care about audience engagement, or driving leads. Different people will care about different outcomes.
For B2C, when creating buyer personas, you are looking at factors like demographics, age, interests, how they heard about you, income level, etc. You look at people who are your actual customers, and how much they spend or purchase with you.
Why should content marketers care about buyer personas?
AW: Buyer personas are important for both marketing to tailor their outreach, and sales teams, to understand how to pitch and handle objections. In terms of content, marketing messaging and content should definitely be tailored towards your personas. Your messaging and content may look very different for each type of person you are targeting. You might be selling to both VPs of marketing and finance. They are very different types of people who will want to see very different content. If you’re a B2C company, are you trying to provide content for young millennial males or pregnant expecting mothers? There will be a very different content strategy for each segment.
Content marketing has multiple channels — social media, email marketing, creating website landing pages, etc. Newscred uses a blend of those to reach out to its audience, as do most marketers. Part of figuring out buyer personas is thinking about where do your ultimate buyers live. For example, software industry executives might want targeted content that’s relevant to their profession and usually respond well to email marketing. If you’re targeting Millennials, they respond to multimedia landing pages that resemble a publisher portal.
Think about what ways each of your buyers prefers to consume content.
So how can you actually go about creating buyer personas? Describe the process a bit. What tools can help?
AW: There are many ways you can build up buyer personas, but the most important component is having accurate data. Earlier this year at NewsCred, we put together our first buyer personas, and collected data by looking at all of our existing customers and later stage prospects. We used Salesforce, Marketo, and interviewed our many sales reps and account managers. We collected data on how big the customers were, what vertical they’re in, how much they’re paying us, and most importantly, information around who the key decision-makers and users of the product were, what their titles are, and what their primary use case for our product is or would be.
Based on that data, we segmented these buyers into aggregate purchasing behaviors, or our “buyer personas.” For example, we found that a great type of customer for us were major consumer brands, where the key purchasing decision-maker was the head of content, or head of digital marketing. For that type of buyer, we solved both their need to scale content and manage workflow between content teams within the brand and within the agencies they worked closely with. Once we came up with the buyer personas, we educated the whole company about them.
For younger companies that don’t have that many systems in place, it’s through a combination of internal and external surveys where they can compile data. There is a lot of information in the heads of your sales reps and client services reps. Interview every single person to ask how you win your key customers and what they are using your brand for. Externally, you could send out a quick survey to current customers. What are the key features they think are most valuable? When you see a difference in what your customers say vs. what your account managers tell you, that is something to address.
How do you know when it’s time to rethink your buyer personas?
AW: I believe buyer personas should be revisited after every major product re-launch or every six months, and that a lot of the information should be collected systematically in a software like Marketo or Salesforce, so that you have to rely less on interviewing your employees to extract information.
For companies launching new features, buyer personas may evolve very quickly, and it’s important to look at customers in your pipeline.
Amy Wu is Director of Business Operations for NewsCred, managing cross-company metrics, goals, and process. Prior to NewsCred, Amy was an investor at IA Ventures and Insight Venture Partners, where she also advised growth-stage tech companies on operations, market strategy, fundraising, and acquisitions. Amy has built buyer personas and customer segments for SaaS, e-commerce, and marketplace-type companies.
By Dawn Papandrea, NewsCred Contributor