A first-class marketing strategy speaks to a specific cohort of target customers with highly targeted messaging. Welcome to the wonderful world of "personas".
In this blog, we’ll walk you through what a buyer persona is, why you should get started with creating them if you haven’t already, and how you can use them to drive efficient, stable growth.
What is a persona, anyway?
A buyer persona is—in a nutshell—an outline of who your ideal customer is. The persona you define will tell you what people buy, when they buy it and how they buy it (e.g. the channels they use to find your business).
Not only that, well-crafted personas also reveal “psychographic” qualities as well, such as how your prospects think, what their interests are, and what goals they have (both professionally and personally).
Think of a persona as a real-life person that embodies your ideal customer. Giving personas real-life characteristics makes it much easier to get inside the minds of potential buyers.
It’s rare that a company sells to just one type of individual, so it's usual to arrive at multiple personas. But why the need for multiple personas that divide your prospects into different groups? We’ll cover that next...
Why are personas important, and why should I use them?
Personas fundamentally tell you who buys your services and what their motivation is.
If you understand what makes the individual you’re speaking to tick—their pain points, their objectives, etc.—you can use that to your advantage.
Bad marketing practices apply a scattergun “one size fits all” approach. Good marketing practices engage the audience with highly relevant activity.
Highly relevant marketing activity is the key to successful lead generation—and it’s made possible by identifying personas and then speaking to them on topics that matter in the language they use.
The marketing that catches your eye ... is it generic—and there’s plenty of generic stuff out there!—or is it a message that resonates with something that matters to you?
It's no surprise that people develop an affinity for companies that help them. If you provide your prospects with quality content that helps them, you establish credibility and trust, and put yourself towards the front of the grid when the time comes for them to explore their options.
As a professional services company, creating helpful, quality content is an excellent way of engaging your prospects and demonstrating authority on a particular subject. Becoming a “thought leader” in this way is a brilliant lead generation tactic. Content provides prospects with an opportunity to get a feel for what a company is like, what it would be like working with them, how valuable a relationship with them could be to their future, etc.
Buyer personas will guide your thinking on what types of content you need to create for different segments of your audience, including where they’re up to in their buyer’s journey.
You’ll want to—eventually—create context that covers each stage of the “marketing funnel”. From when this persona is just becoming aware of their problem and is in research mode, through to when the persona’s evaluated their options and is ready to make a purchase.
If you provide your prospect with useful content at each stage of their buying journey, why would they go with a competitor that hasn’t added any value (apart from on price)?
For more information on creating a winning content marketing strategy, check out this blog here.
Ok, so how do I create a buyer persona?
1. Get your data
Personas are constructed through a combination of market research, data analysis, behavioral observations and insights from current clients.
A great place to start is with basic demographic information. Consider your contact database or CRM system e.g. do you have job titles, sectors or company sizes?
Draw on your own experiences. Your people will have an innate understanding of clients and what motivates them. You can use that to fill in blanks and build up a holistic view of your universe.
Conducting qualitative interviews with your clients works brilliantly too. Interviews benefit the development of your personas, as well as strengthen your client relationships and give you a deeper understanding of their individual businesses (hello cross-sell opportunities).
Some companies fear this “hindrance” will sour client relations. The truth is, clients love having their voices heard. Inviting them to take part in an interview encourages loyalty to your business—so don’t be shy.
But what to ask? Remember that you’re trying to get to the heart of who they are and what they want. You want to find out about their professional pain points (beyond those that are intrinsically linked to your services), their challenges and their jobs to be done. What big questions do they need answers to, and why?
Don’t shy away from asking questions about their life outside of work. No, we’re not advocating prying—at all! But understanding certain aspects of this can give valuable insights on the characteristics of your buyer personas.
For example, Star Wars is considered sacrosanct in our Engineering Teams. (Tip: If you need to befriend a software engineer at CMap, profess your love for Star Wars). But it’s more of a “mixed bag” in our Sales team. The point we’re making is, different cohorts of people are motivated or interested in different things.
2. Put it all together
After you’ve concluded your data gathering, it’s time to look for patterns in the data.
What common denominators can you spot? Here are some useful categories of information that you can use to help structure your persona:
- Demographics — what is the job title, sector, company size, geographical location, etc., of the people that buy?
- Pain points and challenges — what are the points of frustration that hold people back from achieving their goals and that they’re motivated to address?
- Jobs to be done – what are the activities that need to complete (these will vary depending on function and seniority)?
- Goals and motivations – what do your prospects and customers want (and how can we use that)?
- Likes and dislikes – consider this both their professional and personal lives (we want them to recognize and move away from their negatives to the positives … that you can help them with)
This list is not exhaustive, and of course will depend on the makeup of your business and your prospects/clients.
After you’ve created your personas, you should make them real. Give them a name. Produce a social media or dating profile. Whatever is relevant and will enable you to communicate these personas to your people. Ultimately, you want everyone to have an understanding of your personas, so they can speak to them in the right way, provide the right materials, etc.
But, most importantly, you want to make sure your Sales & Marketing function uses the personas, as every interaction you have with prospects from this moment should be based on their persona.
Personas form a vital part of a lead generation strategy and help you structure your sales and marketing activities in line with customer wants, needs and challenges.
By using a combination of quantitative data analysis and qualitative research and interviews, you can create a detailed profile of who your ideal customer is.
From this you can speak to prospects and clients with highly targeted messaging and promote truly useful content that will help that individual and increase your reputation and their trust in you.
Consider building in a periodic review process into your persona planning. Assess what’s working and what’s not, or if there’s any part of your personas which aren’t quite hitting the mark.
Good luck—and happy lead generating!
To learn more about creating a lead generation strategy for your professional services company, download our free eBook, “A Blueprint for Lead Generation Mastery in Professional Services”. It provides you with all the information you need to implement a winning lead generation strategy: covering value-based marketing, content marketing strategy, how to promote your content … and much more!