17 Feb 2015

How Buyer Personas Come to Life with Content Creation

Buyer personas are quickly becoming a hot trend in digital marketing as agencies and brands seek out new and refined ways to ensure their campaigns reach the right audience. Thanks in large part to technology products like HubSpot and content marketing thought leaders like the Content Marketing Institute and Marketo, buyer personas are constantly discussed as a significant, and often critical, first step in a holistic content strategy.

Why Buyer Personas Matter

customer life cycle

High-performing, effective content marketing carefully designs, produces, and distributes content that your brand or organization’s audience wants to consume. The most successful content campaigns have five core principles in common:

  1. Centered on audience needs: educates and/or entertains
  2. Connects to the audience’s self-identity
  3. Generates an emotional connection
  4. Distributed through relevant and visible mediums
  5. Designed to fit a strategic place in the sales funnel

And it’s within these principles where buyer personas make their entrance. Well defined buyer personas allow you to create insightful content tailored directly to the specific audience segment you want to target within the sales funnel. By investing the time to deeply understand how, why, and where your audience is and what they need from you, you can move prospects closer to a conversion and solidify your reputation as go-to resource.

Buyer Personas Defined and Created

Buyer personas are detailed profiles of each of the core segments your brand targets. Each profile serves as representative model of your core user base and the most effective buyer personas are largely based on data you’ve gathered from your ideal customers — individuals who have demonstrated buyer behavior.

By looking at trends and patterns among your audience members who have already converted, you’ll be able to accurately identify who your true customer is rather than create an untested, idealized version.

In order to create profiles that properly inform the content you will create, buyer personas should identify (at a minimum)

  • Demographic Data: Age range and gender
  • Personality Traits: Relevant adjectives that describe their personality
  • Goals: Problem(s) they want to solve
  • Needs:  Requirements needed to purchase. Expectations of service.
  • Pain Points: Hesitations or stopping points in the decision making process
  • Sources of Information: Resources used to find answers to questions/ get feedback
  • Digital Comfort Level: Familiarity and use of technology

The above list is certainly not all-inclusive of what you can include when creating your own buyer personas. In fact, buyer personas can be extremely nuanced and complicated, with sections for income, job title, and even a narrative that describes what a typical day is like for this customer.

And while you should continually refine your buyer personas as you measure and see how your efforts pan out, it’s important not to lose sight of why you’re investing the time to create these models in the first place: to produce amazing content! Marcus Sheridan of the popular “The Sales Lion” blog encourages us to avoid “paralysis by buyer persona analysis” where marketers become so focused on building the perfect audience profile they end up stuck in pre-strategy land — unable to move forward with the design and execution of content.

Example: Building a Buyer Persona

So how do we go about actually building a buyer persona? Let’s build a fictional business and audience segment and see how buyer personas come to life.

Industry: Medical practice specializing in eye care
Audience Type: B2C. Practice wants to reach potential patients (new and returning)
Business Description:

  • Local practice with several locations across a major metropolitan area.
  • Been in business for over 30 years
  • Fantastic reputation. Have a website. Not substantially investing in content.

Selecting the Buyer Persona

Potential patients are grouped by the practice’s core service offerings related to ophthalmology. We’ll focus on one of this company’s most profitable service area: LASIK.

Building the Buyer Persona

Here we go through the minimum needs to identify a buyer persona. This exercise can be quickly completed with some initial brainstorming and standard background information.

  • Demographic Data: Age range and gender
    • Over 18
    • Both male and female
  • Personality Traits:  Relevant adjectives that describe their personality
    • Open to change
  • Goals: Problem(s) they want to solve
    • Dramatically improve eyesight
    • No longer required to wear glasses
  • Needs:  An understanding of requirements needed to purchase. Expectations of service.
    • Feel comfortable and informed about candidate eligibility and procedure process
    • Respect and confidence in clinic’s and ophthalmologist’s abilities
    • Procedure within budget. Can justify price.
    • High level of care, and qualified and empathetic staff
  • Pain Points: Hesitations or stopping points in the decision making process
    • Lack of procedure and candidate education
    • Concerns over the quality and long-term investment
    • Lack of visibility into price and cost
    • Fear over actual procedure
  • Sources of Information: Resources used to find answers to questions/get feedback
    • Ask friends and family who wear glasses or have had LASIK
    • Internet research
    • One-on-one with or referrals from other health professionals
  • Digital Comfort Level: Familiarity and use of technology
    • Generally high and likely positive. Able to adopt a new technology. Likely has a smartphone and uses the Internet regularly outside of email and social media.

How to Map Content to the Buyer’s Journey

Now that we have our base buyer persona for a potential LASIK patient, we need to map this profile to the sales funnel. The end goal in this step is to be able to identify what content is relevant and valuable to this specific buyer persona at each interaction with our fictional eye care clinic.

HubSpot Buyer's Journey

 

Given that the sales journey is often nonlinear, mapping content that aligns with your buyer persona at each stage allows your content to maximize its effectiveness — this process helps you design content to address specific factors that build a positive association to your brand and keep potential leads engaged.

And while we discuss mapping below within a consecutive framework, keep in mind that your audience may fluctuate between these different stages. The most important factor is to identify where and how you can have content readily available and easily consumable to reinforce (1) why your brand can meet your buyer persona’s needs and (2) keep pain points from spurring a permanent exit from the conversion funnel.

Stage Buyer Persona Profile: LASIK Example Content Types
Awareness Goals Overview web copy, self-evaluation tests, integration of third-party reviews of LASIK
Consideration Need and Pain Points FAQs, testimonials and case studies, free guides, start-to-finish procedure education, pricing and cost guides, Meet the Doctor profiles
Decision Needs and Paint Points Comparison fact sheet, Consultation guide and FAQ

 

Awareness: Your buyer persona has identified they want to solve the problem they are experiencing. They look for content that confirms your brand offers a product or service that solves their problem.

Interest/Research: Your buyer persona is interested in moving forward and is now researching their options. They need content that focuses on their needs and pain points. By offering material that speaks to these significant audience characteristics, you establish your brand as authoritative and connected to your buyer.

Decision: Your buyer persona is ready to make a decision. This is a crucial point and is your chance to offer content that clearly differentiates you from your competition, offers insight into the consultation or demo process, and outlines the next steps once your buyer decides to select you.

Buyer personas are an important part of content marketing and are critical to develop effective content that resonates with your audience and accurately engages with them as they move throughout their decision journey. Content creation in the absence of buyer personas often leads to missed opportunities as your audience moves to brands that have fully addressed their needs and hesitations.

Want to learn more?

guide to content marketingDownload our Content Marketing Quick Start, with multiple worksheets dedicated to helping you start the buyer persona creation process.





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