The key to reaching your target audience in marketing is understanding your customers. Getting to know them from the inside out is a crucial part of actually engaging them with your brand and your product. That’s where marketing personas come into play.
The Psychology of Personas
Personas stem from the work of psychologist Carl Jung, who describes them as “the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual.” Think about that for a minute. You’re creating masks of individuals in order to make sense of the way they interact with the world. This is a great way to start connecting with your audience because it allows you to describe the traits and patterns of the group of people who will find your product interesting.
Developing a marketing persona is an important part of making sure your marketing dollars are being spent effectively. Most startups make sure that persona development is a priority in the early stages. But the trouble is that as the company shifts and changes to adapt its product to new audiences, personas will go through changes too. B2B marketing departments have a lot on their plates (understatement) and sometimes remembering to check in on your personas can slip to the wayside. The fact is that B2B companies have to differentiate between buyers and users – often the people who are purchasing your product aren’t the ones using it and often, early stage startups are probably going to see one, if not several, persona changes as the company continues to grow.
Getting to Know Your Customers
In order to identify your buyer personas, you put a lot of work into researching current and former customers as well as competitors’ customers and others that you have the potential to reach. Companies typically do this with a little team-oriented brainstorming and surveys and interviews that help determine who might be interested in your product, what their backgrounds and values are and what they need. And there is of course, social media stalking your persona models, but we wouldn’t ever say that.
Buyer Persona Checklist:
- Demographics: Age, income, place of residence
- Work-related info: Job title, salary, duties, size of company
- Work-life: Motivations and goals, pain points, likes, why she might care about your product
- Browsing behavior: Where they spend their time online learning about new topics, and what they read outside of work
- Hobbies: Where their personal interests lie, what they like and why, what their values are
- Buying habits: What drives their purchasing decisions. Can this person make a buying decision or just recommend one?
Once your personas have been created, hopefully keeping in mind these 5 Rings of Buying Insight, it’s time to make a story for your marketing team. Don’t create a dozen different personas but instead focus on two or three that can grow and evolve with your company over time.
Your personas are works in progress and can’t be neglected over time. Usually, the material you are using (interviews, surveys, initial data) to create your personas initially is pretty crude and basic. As your company matures, you’ll be collecting much more useful data that you can apply to your relationship with your customers. Who do you have in the pipeline? Who are you aspiring to get? What is your current pricing structure? All of these variables will be in flux as your company grows and you need to remold your buyer personas around them.
Make a Persona Update Schedule
Constantly developing and refining the characteristics of your brand’s buyer personas helps you to imagine you are addressing these individuals directly as you create your marketing content. This can help you create amazing content, but not if it doesn’t change to reflect the changes in your personas. The key is to map out your personas’ individual wants, needs and challenges as they move through the decision-making process.
In order to do so, think of personas not as static theoretical exercises but as dynamic forces that are at the core of your B2B sales pipeline. Have you graduated from selling to small agencies up to mid-size agencies? How can you work to target these more effectively? In fact, make sure to sit with your sales team and look at who is stuck in your pipeline. Why are they? And, on the flip-side, who has purchased your product and is loving it? These specifics are at the heart of persona development.
Your persona update schedule will, of course, depend on the size of your company and how quickly you are growing, but, in general, it’s good to schedule monthly reviews to go over your personas. These reviews should analyze new data that you’ve collected and make sure that your personas are incorporating the latest research and user patterns.
Redmoxy recommends that you think about removing a persona once a season, and being bold enough to bite the bullet and remove a persona when it has become outdated. Consider axing a persona when:
- The persona becomes too vague
- You remove a product or service
- You start to see negative traits in that persona
Remember that buyer personas are just a basic guesstimation of what your buyers look like. Creating them is important but it’s maybe even more important to continue to adapt them to their changing behavior and the behavior of your company.
Keeping Up with Deep Buyer Insights
While our initial buyer personas can help us map out a marketing strategy in the early stages, the best practice for updating your buyer personas is to invest in qualitative research techniques that help to offer deep and profound buyer insights. This can be as simple as doing more field-based observations and on-site interviewing or as complex as digital ethnography, contextual inquiry and other field techniques. This information helps to discern more specific insights into the buyer’s journey and their challenges and goals.
The best-practicing B2B companies are delving into deeper research to flesh out their buyer personas, and are doing so seasonally, if not monthly. These updates help to ensure that you always have the deepest insights into the narratives of your customers and potential customers, which can mean the difference between sinking and swimming. Make sure you don’t forget about the importance of updating your buyer personas – it’s one of the integral parts of inbound marketing.