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The Secret to B2B Marketing Content That Helps Win More Clients; Buyer Personas

personas

You might think this article is about how to write in an engaging, persuasive way that brings prospects flocking to your website, downloading e-books, white papers and case studies, and picking up the phone to place their orders.  

It’s not.  

That’s because good content doesn’t start with pecking out words on your keyboard. Compelling content begins with gaining a deep understanding of your prospective customers and creating buyer personas. Adele Revella of the Buyer Persona Institute says feedback she hears about buyer personas often sounds like this:

  It’s almost like cheating, like getting the exam paper weeks before the final. Instead of guessing what matters, I now know … not only what she wants; I know how she goes about (buying).”  

 

Buyer personas answer the following questions, enabling you to create content marketing plans tailored to your prospects’ and clients’ information needs. Producing content that answers buyers’ questions in the formats they prefer helps to shorten your sales cycle and bring more buyers in the door.  

 

  1. What makes solving this problem or exploiting this opportunity a priority?

Because business people lack the resources to deal with all their problems, you want to understand what motivates them to make it a priority to address the problem your product or service solves. For example, in a recent persona project I explored with a business owner why he had put a priority on addressing fraud. He told me that his company had been hemorrhaging money, and if he hadn’t found a solution to address fraud, he would be out of business. The businessman’s answer clearly revealed why finding a solution to fraud was on the top of his “to-do” list and the emotions or pain we could tap into with our marketing content.   

  1. How do prospects envision the results of a successful purchase?

You want to discover how the prospect views the benefits of buying the product. Do they hope to save money? Increase safety? Stay ahead of the competition? Whatever it is, you’ll want to address these benefits in your content.  

  1. What prevents a buyer from investigating a solution to their problem or buying it from you?

There are many issues that prevent prospects from charging forward to address a problem. Of course, you probably encounter price resistance all the time. But there are more subtle barriers that impede action. For example, prospects may be waylaid by internal politics or past bad experiences; fear that the learning curve is too steep; or lack the bandwidth to deal with the problem.  

  1. How do they decide which product, service or solution to buy?

This question goes beyond the benefits, explored in question #2, that a buyer expects.  Now we’re looking at which features and attributes pushed a product over the last hurdle to become the finalist.  

  1. What are the steps through the buying process?

You want to understand how the buyer moves through the buying process.  How do they initially become aware of products on the market? Are they researching on the Internet or do they gain a lot of information by word-of-mouth.   Once buyers know what’s available, they consider different options. In this phase of the cycle are they looking at case studies, articles, white papers, or something else? And what do they look for to make the final decision? Perhaps they’re looking at price and data sheets, and need information to put together a business case.   Once you know the questions buyers are asking as they move through the buying process and the content they like to consume, you’ll be able to map out the marketing content you need to produce.   

 

To create a buyer persona, you’ll need to interview several buyers. If possible, it’s also helpful to talk with prospects who decided not to buy from you, either because they opted for a competitor’s product or decided not to take action. Your interviews should be unstructured conversations that enable you to dig deeply into buyer motivations and needs. By doing so, you’ll gain the insights that can only be found below the surface — those that give you the edge over your competition.    

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  • Michael Kelly

    Excellent advice, but shouldn’t these questions (not the answers) be obvious? What is missing in education for business, marketing and communication that would make this helpful advice, to,in effect, know your audience?
    Also, I wonder how asking a few questions to a handful of people is enough to understand the complex situation of an entire market segment. It might help,but the best way to find out is to walk in their shoes, to do their job, to work with them. Short of that, engage with them, listen, watch, learn. Don’t rush to action with a few bit of information.

    • Paul Mosenson

      Michael:

      Thank you for your comment. The
      questions to ask may be obvious to you but perhaps not to people who are not
      as involved in content marketing. Many business to business marketers
      think of personas being similar to those created for the consumer world.
      For example, in the 90’s the U.S. political campaign managers created the
      “soccer mom.” These women made up part of the electorate who could swing
      the election. People could picture a day in the soccer mom’s life, shuttling
      her kids here and there. However, what was not examined in such detail
      was how she went about decision making. Because decisions in the B2B world are
      so much more complex with so many influencers and decision makers, the way you
      build a buyer persona is different. Therefore, the questions need to be
      different.

      I agree with you that it would
      be ideal to walk in the shoes of the buyers, and do their jobs, but the reality
      is that’s not usually practical. Therefore, interviews are helpful. While
      you’ll be talking with a limited number of people, you can feel comfortable
      that you’ve talked to enough people once you see themes emerge. However,
      I believe that your personas should not be etched in stone. Keep interviewing
      new customers (and those you lost) in order to capture rich detail and stay on
      top of changes in the market. By doing this, you can gain the competitive edge.

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