In my last blog, I offered three things you need to know as you nurture a lead through a long sales cycle. Each point is so important that I’m focusing my next several blogs on these points: the buyer persona, your unique sales cycle, and sales and marketing alignment.
First, the most important – and where your marketing really starts – your buyer persona. Despite its importance, identifying buyer personas are often the piece of the puzzle that is lost, making all of your marketing activities incomplete, untargeted, and unbalanced.
What’s a Buyer Persona Anyway?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It’s based on market research and earned insight from your ideal or current customer base. It’s the best lead or prospect you could ask for – the perfect customer.
Because your lead generation path comes from multiple sources, including a key decision maker, an economic buyer, a user or technical buyer, or coach who has recognized a problem you can solve, your company will have more than one buyer persona. It’s crucial to create a buyer persona for each of the roles that are likely to use your services.
What Goes into a Buyer Persona?
When creating a buyer persona, assume nothing. Work to get the stone-cold facts, because you know what happens when you ASSuME something, right?
Before you say anything, yes – no two people are alike. That’s why it’s important to do your research and exhaust as many outlets as possible to create a well-rounded buyer persona.
Creating a buyer persona isn’t the end of the line, by the way. The economy changes, business culture changes, and buyer personas change. The rule of thumb is to review/edit buyer personas at the end of your company’s fiscal year.
What Does a Buyer Persona Look Like?
Here’s a condensed sample buyer persona to give you an understanding of the basics. (However, this is only a small glimpse into a fully scoped-out buyer persona.)
Marketing Manager Molly: A college-educated woman between 45-60 years old, Molly is the CMO of a company with 50+ employees. She’s married and has kids that are soon leaving the nest. She’s active in her community – she volunteers for causes that are close to her heart – and values time with her family, so she’s careful to ensure that her professional commitments are well spent and have a direct impact on her company. Though her schedule is busy, she’s conscious about staying up to date on industry trends, typically spending 30 minutes in the morning and evening browsing LinkedIn and Forbes, but spending the bulk of her time listening to podcasts.
The Consequences of NOT Marketing to a Buyer Persona
So, let’s tie all of this back to how and why a buyer persona is so important, shall we?
The most common mistake is creating content without an end user in mind – marketing just to market. Companies create fantastic blog posts, premium content, digital ads, etc., without defining the best audience for the content, resulting in great content that is seen by the wrong people at the wrong time.
Think of it this way: you’re planning a road trip from Charlotte, North Carolina to Austin, Texas. You’re ready – your car is in tip-top shape and filled with gas, you’re adequately packed, and you have an itinerary. What you don’t have is a GPS, which means that even though you know you need to head west, it’s going to be a frustrating, zigzagging, tedious ride to get there.
That’s what marketing is like when you don’t have a buyer persona.
You don’t want your sales cycle to be frustrating, zigzagging, and tedious, so invest the time, effort, and money now to help your team point your marketing in a direction that’s in line with where your buyer persona “lives.”
You should NOT produce content without an end user in mind – it is a waste of time and effort.
As we know, Manager Molly is busy and her time for schedule variance is limited, but she enjoys listening to podcasts. So, submitting articles to an industry-related newspaper or magazine is NOT the way to market to Manager Molly – it goes against who she is and is outside the scope of her buyer persona.
The Biggest Benefit of a Buyer Persona
Creating buyer personas will help your company become better at sales and customer communication. Why? Because you’ll know your ideal buyer “to a T” and can create meaningful content tailored to their needs and questions. You’ll also be able to empathize more authentically. The buyer’s journey is an emotional process for prospects, but preparedness on your part speaks volumes, especially as it relates to earning trust.
So, Where Do You Begin?
Creating a buyer persona can be tedious, but our experience shows that the differences between having a buyer persona and not having a buyer persona are huge. From a marketing perspective, having buyer personas means my team and I can create meaty and engaging content as well as an enhanced marketing strategy that produces qualified leads for our clients.