We talk a lot about persona development and persona-based messaging. Understanding your customers’ priorities and needs is vital to effective marketing, after all.
Recently, we’ve noticed a few traits that can make a big difference in how you engage customers and prospects. They require a bit of extra investigation, but the insight is worth the effort.
The Basics: Start with Your Primary Personas
Suppose you sell smart devices that simplify a daily process that is a necessity but also a common bottleneck for Widget manufacturers. As part of developing messaging, you interview potential and current customers and identify four personas:
Floor worker. Would use your product daily. Worries about keeping up with production quotas, protecting their job from automation, preventing customer complaints.
IT expert. Would be responsible for deploying and maintaining your device. Has spent the past year working on home-grown solutions to work around problems in the status quo approach.
Production manager. Worried about production quotas and customer complaints related to the frequent bottlenecks. Also pressured to keep budgets in line and costs low. This person is the primary buyer of your device.
CEO. Just wants the problem fixed. Isn’t happy with projected sales. Wonders whether floor workers aren’t trained correctly or are overworked or simply unproductive. Is impatient to get home-grown workarounds in place.
With this information, you can evaluate the buying journey of each of these roles. You could create content that walks readers through the logical stages of a purchase decision with you—
Help each persona realize that the process is the cause of customer complaints and production slowdowns.
Foster understanding that a better, more efficient method exists to complete that daily process.
Correlates that approach with better yield, productivity, and customer satisfaction.
Compare your device with other options and shows why it’s clearly the best choice.
Overcome objections around pricing and implementation.
Provide customer testimonials, proof points, white papers, customer support tips, and so on.
But this view of the buying cycle doesn’t consider the interplay of personas when it comes to the full buying lifecycle. Let's look at these next-level persona insights.
1. Decisions, Decisions: Who Makes Them, Who Influences Them?
Dig a bit deeper and you find that the people you’ve identified in your personas have different levels of decision-making power:
The floor worker doesn’t make buying decisions but may be consulted about the decision.
The IT expert worries that the device would come out of their budget, fail to integrate with the workaround they’ve already created, and possibly make their in-house development efforts obsolete.
The plant manager is the person who actually decides on purchases for the company.
The CEO has final approval (or veto) power over those purchases.
That’s probably no surprise. But again, the buying journey might not be cut and dried; it’s not linear.
The plant manager might be making the decisions, but they also might be delegating the initial problem-solving and research tasks to the floor worker and IT expert. Depending on the situation, they might also struggle to get final approval from the CEO.
Or perhaps your customers work in an unusually collaborative environment, with each role taking a different piece of the research and weighing in equally (or nearly so) on the final decision. Each of these situations will demand a different approach to nurture campaigns and other role-based marketing.
2. Talking About Generation: How Does Experience and History Work in the Decision?
Another trait that can fuel unexpected insight is employee generation and time within the workforce. You might find out that—
Floor workers tend to be fairly new to the workforce.
Production managers average around 20 to 25 years within the industry but only 2 to 3 with the present company.
Now, these details are interesting.
If your floor workers tend to be in their mid- to late-20s, they probably also report being comfortable with technology—even if they aren’t involved in IT as part of their daily work. When they need information, they might prefer to find it online, usually on their mobile phone. They spend a lot of time on social media.
This might be less true for our production managers, who utilize online searches but would rather use their desktop. In our example, they’re also more like to read email newsletters and download and read white papers. They’re less likely to spend time on social and more likely to turn to colleagues for vendor referrals.
They’re also likely concerned not just with getting great results for their company, but with how those results reflect on their career potential. They have a lot of industry experience—yet might be on the watch for opportunities to move up or out.
3. The Time Crunch: How Much Attention Do You Really Get?
The CEO in our example (and in many real-life scenarios) doesn’t have time to look at white papers. This person may look at short-form content such as short videos and infographics, then may delegate all possible research tasks. They want to hear the bottom line and see the proof points that back it up.
The plant manager might be the person pulling the details together. And although they may be more interested in diving into longer-form content for a full story, they still are likely dreading the time needed to assemble all that information for the other stakeholders. Imagine how thrilled they’d be if they could download a ready-made proof package—with clear comparison charts, ROI calculations, and top reasons to buy (from a CEO perspective)—directly from you?
The same idea applies to our other personas. What content or tools can you provide to make life easier for each of them, as they interact to make a final buying decision? Go beyond answering their own questions and give them the tools they need to address pushback or simplify communication with teammates who might not ever visit your site, listen to your podcast, or watch your video.
Look Beyond the Obvious
The plain truth today is that B2B purchase decisions don’t happen in a vacuum; probably, your buyers go through a complex process and involve many stakeholders at many levels before they even pop up on your radar. When they do engage with you, it’s important to greet them with the content and materials they are looking for.
A multi-level content marketing program with content for all participants doesn’t happen automatically—and the prospect may seem daunting. But when you start with the right information about your personas, then ask the right questions, you can begin to see the opportunities you have for improving the experience for your buyers—no matter who they are.
Get a Fresh Perspective on Your Personas