I’m interviewing candidates for a marketing position, and one of the questions I like to ask is, “which marketing gurus do you follow, and why?” One interviewee responded that she follows HubSpot and downloads a lot of their content.
You and every other marketer, I thought.
When it comes to inbound marketing content, there are a handful of organizations whose content stands out, and for me, HubSpot is one of them. It seems like every article is written with me in mind. How is it they know me so well?
The answer is buyer personas.
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your target audience. For instance, one of the services we provide is direct marketing for charities and nonprofits, so we’ve created buyer personas to represent the development director at each of those organizations.
However, the development director for a Boy Scout council is different from the development director of a college or university. And a humane society development director is nothing like either.
Not All Buyer Personas are Created Equal
What I mean by “different” is that the goals, challenges, job roles and values of those development directors will differ depending on the type of nonprofit they work for.
A Boy Scout development director, for example, has a yearly fundraising goal that he must achieve to receive a salary increase, and he must make a name for himself to get promoted. That may not be true of other organizations.
A Boy Scout development director may be an avid hunter. A humane society development director? Unlikely.
What does hunting have to do with marketing, you ask? Because knowing your buyer that well lets you accomplish four important business and marketing goals.
1. Buyer Personas Let You Create Irresistible Content
Going back to my HubSpot example, not every piece of content they produce is about inbound marketing. A recent article that got my attention was How to Keep Your Computer’s Desktop Clean & Organized: 7 Helpful Tips. (Did I mention how all their articles were written for me?)
Developing effective buyer personas means actually talking with some of your customers. And one of the questions you must ask is, what’s your typical day like?
My day involves creating all kinds of files in a mad rush to create content, then saving them in the most expedient location—usually my desktop—then neglecting to file or discard them once uploaded. So my desktop … yeah, desperately in need of cleaning and organizing.
In other words, all your content need not be related to your product or service. In fact, it shouldn’t be, because your prospect is nowhere near as interested in that as you are. What they are interested in is improving the quality of their life.
And if your content can help them do that, they’ll keep coming back to your blog for more.
That establishes trust and credibility for your brand, giving you more opportunities to engage with them and convert them into customers.
2. Buyer Personas Let You Create Persona-Specific Content
Another division of our company provides a very different product, serving a vastly different clientele. It’s a web-based marketing application for companies whose customers are homeowners. So a roofer can use the software to find homes with roofs that are 20 years old.
But an insurance agent uses it to find homes whose property insurance is due to expire to offer the homeowner a better policy.
Marketing successfully to such a diverse customer base requires buyer personas. I’ve never been a roofer or sold insurance, but I’m pretty sure their “typical day” is nothing alike.
They do have one thing in common, though. Both use our software to find customers. So rather than writing a generic one-size-fits-all article, we can show insurance agents five proven ways to close more sales and offer roofers The Complete Roofer’s Guide to Lead Generation.
3. Buyer Personas Let You Target Your Most Profitable Clients More Effectively
Once you develop your buyer personas, determine which are most profitable. They could be the segment most inclined to purchase your product, or the ones that spend the most.
For example, roofers, real estate agents, lawn care professionals, insurance agents, mortgage lenders, and home improvement contractors all use our software. Yet, three particular personas account for over 65 percent of our sales. So we focus the majority of our marketing content on these.
Focusing on your best customers is not a persona-specific activity—it’s just smart business. However, having buyer personas helps you market to them more effectively. So if you’re planning on developing personas, start with your top clients.
4. Buyer Personas Help You Identify Your Ideal Client
If you’re like most businesses, you probably have plenty of “typical” clients and not enough “ideal” ones.
Our third division sells a mix of print and online marketing. Twenty years ago, our typical customer and ideal customer was the same—a small business or mom-and-pop shop with very few advertising options. And the print advertising solutions we offered brought them customers.
Today, realizing the need to include web marketing, those clients are moving some of their marketing dollars away from print and into digital. And even though we provide those digital marketing services, many of them invest that money in do-it-yourself web marketing platforms, because they think they’re saving money.
One study estimates that 60% of small businesses utilize DIY web marketing platforms rather than paying a marketing firm to do it for them.
That means our typical client is becoming a not-so-ideal client. And while having buyer personas for our existing client base is still a good practice, developing personas for the ideal client we need to start targeting is essential.
Developing comprehensive buyer personas takes time and research—which is why most companies don’t bother. You may be tempted to use existing data and information you already know about your customer. While that’s a good place to start, bear in mind that the purpose of developing buyer personas is to discover something you don’t already know. And that only comes from speaking directly to some of your existing customers.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.
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