Customer ExperienceDemand Generation

How to Rock Persona Development

By January 25, 2015 No Comments

I don’t know about you, but every time I think about buyer personas, The Who come to mind…naturally.

Personas are such an important foundational element to building a content strategy—particularly in enterprise companies—yet so many companies haven’t addressed them or only use basic demographic data. How can you create compelling, relevant content if you’re still asking, “Who are you? Who, who, who, who?”

Let’s Look at Some Data

Per the Content Marketing Institute, 93% of B2B marketers have adopted content marketing practice. Yet Sirius Decisions (SD) notes that only 23% have adopted a persona-centric focus. Additionally, SD highlights that the biggest challenge to creating content is a lack of buyer understanding, registering 60% of total responses. For context, here are the next three answers: lack of resources, lack of time, and lack of process come in at 19%, 10%, and 9% respectively.

Last statistic I promise.

SiriusDecisions found that irrelevance is the number one reason why content is not read by buyers, with 29% of respondents mentioning this as their top challenge.

irrelevance and content marketing

So let’s recap: companies say they are content-focused, less than a quarter have developed robust personas, their biggest challenge is a lack of buyer understanding, and finally, buyers are saying current content is irrelevant.

Hmmm, seems like more focus needs to be paid to developing buyer personas.

So, why is it that personas have not become more widely adopted? The need is obviously there for both buyers and sellers.

Let’s dig into this a bit.

Developing Your Personas

Like any initiative worth undertaking, personas take time and resources.

Persona development is more than a marketing exercise; it requires a cross-functional effort.

To understand who your buyers are, spend time with sales and customer services. These teams are on the front line with your prospects and customers. They talk to them directly every day and have more insight and information than they realize.

Once you sit down with them in an open discussion about what they’re hearing, two things happen:

  1. They become more engaged knowing their input is sought out and appreciated.
  2. Their approach changes. They start listening more intently and are more aware of themes that may emerge over time as they talk to people.

It doesn’t stop there, there are other teams to engage with as well. Do you have a social listening practice within the organization? For example, are you part of LinkedIn groups where your prospects and clients are members, and following along or participating in conversations (albeit never selling) to understand the types of challenges they are facing or questions they are asking?

So you say you have some good information already and aren’t sure you need anything more. Perhaps you gathered secondary data or executed primary research around demo- and psychographics. That is excellent, but it’s only part of the picture.

Buyers are people and have a multitude of ideas, questions, information, relationships, and expectations running through their minds at any given moment. As one of our clients recently said, good content is not about whether the message is B2B or B2C, it’s about being H2H. That’s human-to-human. And she couldn’t be more right.

Do you really know what your buyers care about? Guess what, it isn’t you. At best you represent maybe one one-tenth of one percent of their mindshare on any given day. Understanding what they are trying to achieve, what they care about—in effect meeting them where they already stand—is what you want to do. This goes beyond basic data and requires quantitative information-gathering, the types of information sales, customer support, and other social channels deliver.

For additional information on how personas inform an enterprise marketing strategy, check out Content at Scale: Building a Content Framework for the Enterprise.

And instead of getting “Who Are You” stuck in your head, you’ll be hearing something more like U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

Todd Cameron

About Todd Cameron

Content Marketing Consultant. Always happy to help.