Wouldn’t it be better if you knew what your buyer wanted even before they did?
To be successful with inbound or content marketing, your brand – whether it is the sales team, marketing team, or social media team – your brand needs to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.
This requires an understanding of the specific process they will go through to make a purchasing decision.
Such understanding will help you attract leads that are already in a purchasing process, increasing the number of leads that convert to paying customers.
What is a Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of the real person who buys, or might buy, products like the ones you market. This persona is based on what you’ve learned from direct interviews with real buyers.
A buyer persona is not a collection of superficial traits, but one that specifically identifies elements that influence how your prospective customer progresses and makes their decision.
Adele Revella, founder of Buyer Persona Institute, recommends a strict order of operations. She identifies these as the 5 Rings of Insight:
1. Priority Initiatives
Identify 3-5 problem areas that consume your buyer’s time or budget. This problem is likely the driving factor of their search; the root cause of them needing information. The motive behind why someone is searching for information is more valuable than the search term itself.
2. Success Factors
For each of your buyer’s problems, there is a solution – or end goal. This is how your customer will measure the success of their search.
Barriers are elements that would cause a buyer to believe that your company is not a good fit to solve their problem. In sales, these are also called objections or push backs. Ideally, identify at least three objectives that your buyers will present.
4. Buying Process
There are three basic stages every buyer progresses through when making a purchasing decision:
1. The Awareness Stage: The consumer knows that they have a problem, but not how to solve it.
2. The Consideration Stage: The consumer understands their problem and is considering multiple solutions to find the right fit.
3. The Decision Stage: The consumer is ready to make a purchase.
5. Decision Criteria
Finally, you need understand what your buyer will consider when making a purchase. This is not limited to just product features or services, but include factors like price, integration with other products, and length of contract. Further, some variables that may be out of your control, but need to be considered like internal resources required or executive buy-in.
As a marketer, your job is to understand how the consumer’s need for information changes as they progress through this journey.
Buyer personas are the most critical foundation for every aspect of marketing…
David Meerman Scott
Author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR
Why is Buyer Persona Insight Valuable
As a modern brand, you are facing prospective customers who enter your sales funnel from a number of entry points. More challenging is the fact that this new prospect has likely conducted their own research before reaching out to you.
What makes the buyer persona insight so valuable is the ability to consistently deliver timely information. If you understand the process that a visitor goes through prior to purchase, you can organize your educational material in such a way that the user can always find the right information at the right time. This concept is a simple one, but is often overlooked.
Additionally, this insight is used to attract leads that are already in a purchasing process. Attracting leads is great, but if they are not already in some sort of process that you can describe, they may never become a customer. They were never likely to convert and ultimately skew your numbers out of your favor.
Finally, understanding your ideal buyer converts existing leads into customers. This has the most influence on your business and revenue. Without knowing the intimate details discovered in steps one and two, you are unlikely to efficiently generate and convert quality leads.
When Are Buyer Personas Needed?
Establishing buyer personas should be done before anything else. It is the equivalent of identifying the start line to a race before you begin.
A buyer persona exercise needs to be completed before a marketing strategy, any website design or redesign, and before you create any new content.
If your company already has a written buyer persona, this documentation should be readily available to your entire sales team. Any brand I work with is required to have an existing persona spelled out and ready for me to review, or is required to complete a new one. This is absolutely critical to guiding your company’s movement forward. Otherwise, all of our efforts will be untargeted and, likely, a waste of your money.
In my experience, websites that do not consider buyer persona mapping typically have a 0%-0.5% conversion rate. Whereas those with a clearly defined buyer process convert closer to 4-5% and upwards of 7% in some extreme cases.
Create a buyer persona profile before you take any other step in your marketing strategy. The time and financial investment upfront is well worth it and pays for itself quite quickly.
How to Tell When You Need a Buyer Persona
There are a few key indicators that you need a buyer persona developed. The biggest tell-tale factor is low conversation rate. When you are targeting your content to the wrong audience, you will see your conversation rate dwindle even as your website traffic increases.
Other indicators that your buyer personas need work:
- Lots of leads, but few customers
- Creating content for only one ideal customer persona
- Creating content for too many personas
When leads get “stuck” in this area of the sales funnel, commonly referred to as Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) or “Consideration Stage”, it mean people are not engaging with your brand. It is indicative of a gap in a buyer persona.
This is the point of the process where your brand and the needs of the customer must be aligned.
If you are experiencing your sales leads getting suck at this stage, it is highly likely that your content offers — and more importantly, your brand — is not resinating with your audience.
Sales & Marketing Alignment
The Sales and Marketing Departments, unfortunately, are often run in silos – that is, independent of one another.
A buyer persona creates a unified target for both teams and shares knowledge that advances the brand, as a whole.
For example, if your sales team already trains on objective handling, you should leverage that content on your blog. If such objections are so common, you often can answer them on your website at some point in the sales process to further marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or, in some cases, even information qualified leads (IQLs).
Need Help Creating a Buyer Persona
Like I said earlier, a buyer persona must be more than just a superficial set of character traits. To understand the process that a buyer goes through, some real life information must be gathered. Don’t be tempted to rely on your own guesses and assumptions.
To create a real buyer persona, you must interview real people. Ideally, 2-5 people who have recently not converted to a customer. Their insights will be far more valuable than anything we can conjure or assume.
If you are generating leads, but not customers, it is likely that your buyer personas and content offers are not aligned. I would love to help identify why people are not moving through your process and generate lead quality reports for you.
My goal would be to move you from 0.5% or 1% to 3% or 5%. Yes, it will take some time; yes, it will take some money. But it will only hurt once. The sooner you take steps to improve your buying process, the sooner you will realize the most of your efforts.