Few items in the B2B marketer’s tool kits are as helpful as accurate buyer personas and messaging maps. What’s changed for your buyers in this year of dramatic disruption? It may be worth your while to conduct new persona research to understand what they need from you now.
Persona research was just part of the discussion when we presented our session at the recent Strategy & Planning Series hosted by Demand Gen Report. You can watch the entire webinar on demand here: Data-Driven Content Strategy: How to Turn Survey Data into a Treasure Trove of Insights.
But today let’s take a closer look at what Senior Content Strategist Brenda Caine presented about researching the personas we use to make key decisions about our B2B marketing content.
Go-To Sources for Persona Data
Accurate personas are critical to successful buyer-centric marketing. The more detailed and accurate your buyer personas are, the better you can speak to those personas and their needs in your content. There are lots of potential sources for persona data. Use as many as you can.
- CRM: win/loss analysis themes (pain points, motivators, decision criteria, buying committee)
- Analytics tools: buyer behavior, needs and themes
- Sales/SME interviews: buyer behavior and journey details
- Targeted surveys: relevant titles, quantitative and qualitative questions
- Customer interviews: profile, journey, role in buying committee, and why they buy from you
- Industry/secondary research: buying trends, competitor insights, forecasted needs
Sales, customer success and customer service representatives work with your customers every single day, so they have first-hand insights into buyer behavior and the buying cycle and can offer incredibly valuable insights.
Taking your research to external sources will help you develop even richer personas. You can usually gather the best information by talking directly to your customers. They’ll often give you detailed information, confirm and validate secondary source information and add qualitative insights to your quantitative data.
Qualitative data—the information you get by asking open-ended questions—can also contribute to more accurate messaging, because it gives you a better understanding of how your customers think and how they actually talk.
Create Smart Surveys
Lean on internal SMEs to help you develop questions to ask in your surveys—primarily multiple-choice questions. Surveys should be no longer than about 15 questions. People won’t spend more time responding, so keep it as short as you can and only ask questions you really care about the answers to. Include one or two open-ended questions. Experts often tell us that respondents won’t spend the time answering these, but that hasn’t been our experience.
Your questions could be around key initiatives or priorities, pain points, buying triggers and where they go for information they trust. Ask anything that will help you fill in the gaps in your personas.
Job search sites are Caine’s secret research weapon. She looks for open job descriptions that match the titles she’s researching and is able to glean some eye-popping results.
During the webinar, Caine shared a financial decision-maker persona we developed for a professional services client that drew from respondents in four vertical markets the client was targeting. Internal SMEs helped us create the questionnaires to get started. We learned what we could from those SMEs about buyer behaviors and other insights, and we combined that with our own research to craft the final persona. At that point, we were ready to create the messaging.
Develop Persona Messaging
These messaging maps show the six stages of the buyer’s journey. This structure sets you up to address each stage of the buyer’s journey and provide a narrative that goes with each stage—in the buyer’s words. This is where you take the information you’ve developed from your research and turn it around to create the narrative that would come from that persona’s mouth—so it’s very buyer-focused.
The Value of Research
Personas are just one example of how much value you can pull from buyer research. Watch the webinar on demand to learn how B2B marketers use research to make informed decisions about content strategy and use that research within content itself to add authenticity and attract buyers.
Content4Demand can help you plan and execute a variety of research-based projects, including B2B buyer persona development. Let us know if you have questions or need help with your own research initiatives.
Holly Celeste Fisk is an accomplished marketing pro with 20+ years of experience in B2B and B2C. She’s responsible for Content4Demand’s internal marketing efforts, managing everything from content creation and email marketing to events and sponsorships, blog publishing, website management and social media presence. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sliding into third at softball, buried in a book or practicing her Italian.