Really, Who Are They?

Persona Building in Modern Marketing

One of the basic things any marketer should do when they come into an organization is understand who your customers are and who your prospects should be. If you don’t, you spin your wheels working off of assumptions. The sad truth is that while many marketers understand the concept of creating personas, few have done the work beyond creating a mental picture of their buyers. That’s dangerous. Making assumptions about terminology your buyers use, their technology savviness, demographics or—more importantly—their buying motivations can disconnect you from them. 

You can’t market effectively to buyers if you don’t

  1. Define who they are from a demographic , cultural and professional perspective
  2. Know what issues they are facing at each stage in the buying process (i.e. awareness, consideration, decision)
  3. What their role is in the company’s buying process
  4. How they measure success 

What’s just as important here is the concept of making that persona information part of your shared corporate knowledge. Being disconnected from your own company when it comes to who your buyers are is a recipe for marketing failure if there ever was one.

So where do you start? The following are tips for creating personas:

Internal Research

A logical place to start for most marketers is interviewing salespeople. That’s great. Also include support managers and executives. You’ll find some disconnects right off the bat. Document the most important personas, keeping it to a manageable list to whom you can market given your resources.

Sitting in on Conversations

Refine those initial personas by sitting in on sales and support calls. Also go out on sales calls if possible, targeting individuals that meet different persona criteria. You can’t capture issues effectively if all you do is hear them second hand.

Keyword Monitoring

Touchy feely work should always be followed up with hard data. Look at natural keywords that are bringing people to your website and those of your competitors. Look at those same keywords in the context of social media conversations. Do the parties involved match your personas? Record the language around issues and at what point in the buying process a keyword is used. Also look in your customer relationship management (CRM) database for people that match your personas and check out which issues are being brought up at specific points in the buying cycle.

Behavioral Data

It takes many, many touches to make a B2B sale. Though Web analytics and marketing automation you can identify what content is resonating when with buyers that match your personas. Sometimes gaps and lost sales by persona speak volumes about not addressing persona needs. Ideally, you’ll get some good information here about issues that buyers face at different stages.

While we’ve talked about the how above, we haven’t talked about the who, what, when and why. Ideally, throughout all your research, you should be identifying who buys products when, their role, timing for when they buy and what the process looks like, along with key prospect demographics. You need to understand who they are, how they operate, how best to reach them, and—most importantly—what words and ideas to use when in the course of communicating with them. This is where persona building starts feeding effective messaging. After you create your personas, you can validate them through sources like collateral feedback, surveys and research calls. 

These tips are a starting point for creating personas in an age of better marketing tools and data. Where else can you draw information from to create your personas?

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