Quick question: If you were about to play a game of darts with a friend — and let’s just say for the sake of argument there’s some money riding on this — would you pause to put on a blindfold before throwing the first dart?
. . . I didn’t say it would be a good question.
But unfortunately, that’s exactly the way some companies run their inbound marketing campaigns:
- Fill bucket with lots of darts.
- Secure blindfold.
Thankfully, however, this bad business habit has a proven fix: fleshing-out your ‘buyer persona.’
What’s a Buyer Persona?
Simply put, your buyer persona is a theoretical representation of the person you want to buy your products or services.
Knowing your specific buyer persona is so important to your integrated marketing campaign (and branding, and sales process development, etc.), that when clients don’t have their buyer persona clearly defined, I recommend that they pause all other aspects of their communications strategy and address the oversight.
The fact is, the fundamental elements of inbound marketing and PR — brand development, website development, content strategy, social media engagement, and SEO — are all inextricably linked to your buyer persona. In business, where the bottom line is king, your customers’ thoughts, problems, and aspirations should guide your company’s every move.
First, look at all existing sales data, including the length of a typical sales cycle, profitable vs. unprofitable times of year, even prefered payment methods. This will give you a snapshot of the possible obstacles, financial or otherwise, your customers may have to overcome before purchasing from you.
For example, if you build custom nanopositioners ideal for laboratories and you see a significant sales spike in the fall, you can probably assume your buyers — academics, most likely — can’t make a purchase until grants are finalized annually in September.
And now you’ve got an angle for creating premium content. You might release an ebook or webinar series, not about nanopositioners, but about simplifying the grant application process for young academics inexperienced in this area. Perhaps you write a case study outlining the successful grant proposal of a past customer including a checklist and timeline of important dates.
Essentially, you’re branding your company as an information resource for helping potential customers buy the products from you they have a genuine internal drive for — the foundational idea behind inbound marketing.
Look For Segmentation
But let’s say, beside the yearly nanopositioner sales spike in September, your company receives occasional orders from a company that makes thermal imaging equipment.
Now, you have a second buyer persona, radically different from those in the academic market. In addition to creating content tailored to academics, you’re also targeting C-level executives who will likely be more receptive to content that illustrates you as the price-driven alternative.
Your PR efforts might include an optimized press release highlighting any charitable donations or other related news about your company — positive associations that might appeal to a company that manufactures military weapons.
Creating Buyer Persona Profiles
Once you’ve considered your buyer personas in a general sense, it’s time to get specific. Perform thorough market research using resources from ComScore and other market research guides. (Inc. put together a great list to check out once you’re at this stage.)
Then ask yourself these questions about your customer base:
- What are their goals and aspirations?
- What are their problems?
- What media do they rely on for information and answers to problems?
- How can we reach them?
Monitor the online media where your customers spend their time — you’ll gain two things from this:
- You’ll start to understand the voice and social norms necessary to successfully engage your buyers in their native mediums.
- You’ll get an idea of the keywords and phrases you’ll needed to harness for search engine optimization.
Using this data and the answers to the questions above, write a short bio about your ideal customer: include age, education, profession, career goals, personal goals and interests, problems, and — it’s going to sound stupid — give them a name to help personalize them. For example:
Jessica is a biosciences researcher at Johns Hopkins University, 31 years old, married, identifies politically as a moderate conservative. Due to a hectic schedule, Jessica performs the majority of her product research online. Purchases involve multiple levels of administrative approval. Professionally, Jessica aspires to one day found a privately-held biotech company, thus the motivations for her company research are twofold: (1) “Who will I buy from now?” and (2) “Who will I buy from when I’m the decision-maker?” She keeps an eye on mainstream industry publications but prefers the less-formal tone of company blogs and citizen journalists that cover her niche. At home, she prefers her iPad to other devices.
If you’ve done your research and crafted an accurate buyer persona, you’ll have a ton of useful information for crafting the core elements of an inbound marketing plan (brand, web, content, social, search) tailored to your unique audience.
After the elements are in place, you’ll be able to focus on strategic communications guided by the most fundamental idea behind customer acquisition and retention: “They really do understand me.”