The first step of any communications strategy is to figure out who it is you are talking to.
Where once upon a time marketers could guide a wide-range of prospects through an increasingly narrow funnel, today’s consumers control their own buying journeys. The result is a less-linear, more-scattershot approach to making purchasing decisions.
The challenge for marketers is to constantly stay in front of their prospects, ready to offer education, comparisons and testimonials to would-be customers as those needs arise.
But how do you do that when buyers aren’t waiting to be targeted and instead turn to Google to search for everything from investment advice to the world’s best coffee?
Well, that’s where buyer personas come in.
A buyer persona is, in simple terms, an idealized version of one of your customer segments. It looks at hundreds or thousands of real-life people who have already made the decision to buy your product (or at least download your content) and finds the commonalities among them.
You can create buyer personas for clients you’re not attracting but want to work with, and for your most valuable current clients. You can even create negative personas for clients that don’t make sense for your business.
How? By gathering the right kinds of information.
First and foremost, your data should be based on actual research, not assumptions. Talk to people and find out:
Basic business information. Marketing a business-to-business service or product? Job titles and seniority, teammate titles, the size of the company—all of this information can help target your marketing efforts to the right person within an ideal target.
Goals. What are your clients trying to achieve? How does your product or service help them?
Priorities. Most people weigh a number of factors before making a buying decision. What’s important to them? Service? Support? Sales price? What factors aren’t you considering?
Challenges. What hurdles exist between your prospects’ efforts and what they want to accomplish? Once you know how your solution fits into this equation, you’ll be better able to communicate its advantages to would-be clients.
When done well, buyer personas put prospects at the center of your communications efforts—and keep them there. Armed with qualitative and quantitative data, you can continue to engage individuals throughout the customer lifecycle, adding more value to both new and existing relationships.