Customer experience marketing is a proven antidote to the complex buyer journeys that characterize the B2B sector today. The goal is to serve highly relevant content to buyers in the right place at the right time, enhancing lead nurture and conversion to deliver better revenue growth.
Progressive firms are achieving this via intelligent one-to-one, in the moment marketing. Others are struggling to make the shift from product-centric to customer-centric approaches. How can they address this fundamental issue?
The good news is that persona research can provide many of the answers. I’m not talking about traditional personas rooted in demographic and firmographic data with an occasional sprinkling of psychographic insight. Persona research in the digital age needs to take account of buyers’ real-time situations, the specific tasks they need to fulfill and the challenges they encounter. This give a richer context to help shape the development and application of marketing messages and assets.
1. Understand the Buyer’s Situation
An understanding of the backstory and current problems or ‘jobs to be done’ should form the cornerstone of a buyer persona. There could be dozens of reasons why a buyer is in the market for a given product or service. Marketing activity achieves better resonance and engagement when it acknowledges and addresses these reasons.
For instance, the needs and challenges of a fast-growing start-up relocating to new premises could be entirely different to those of an established business that is opening a new office, and different again to a firm that is having to scale back its operations due to a difficult climate. Each of these scenarios could create a need for new technologies, furnishings or equipment, but there will be huge variations in buyers’ attitudes, emotions and priorities.
"...the needs and challenges of a fast-growing start-up relocating to new premises could be entirely different to those of an established business that is opening a new office, and different again to a firm that is having to scale back its operations due to a difficult climate."
To obtain this level of buyer understanding, it can be helpful to talk informally with existing customers and establish the sequence of events that led them to require your services. Ask what actions they needed to complete during the buying process, and find out which caused the most aggravation.
These conversations can reveal valuable insights. They can form a strong foundation for persona-led marketing that cuts to the chase and addresses specific problems buyers are trying to solve, particularly those that are not met by competitors. Segmentation can also become more sophisticated, enabling marketing spend to focus on personas with a higher propensity to convert.
2. Gather Relevant Data
Once the various need-drivers for a product or service have been established, it’s possible to identify relevant ‘digital breadcrumbs’. These are key indicators of a buyer’s current situation and their stage in the buyer journey. Digital breadcrumbs can include Google search terms, social media comments or open source information related to pertinent issues.
The collection, organization and analysis of such data facilitates context-led persona development, unlocking the capability for one-to-one in the moment marketing. This enables marketing spend to be prioritized more intelligently, with activity aligned to the specific needs of individual buyer journeys.
For instance, at some point in the purchasing process, buyers look at the logistics of how and when a solution will be delivered. If persona research reveals that this is a bugbear for a target group, marketers can develop content that counters this, then deploy it strategically.
This approach can be augmented through analysis of data surrounding buyers’ digital and human exchanges with your brand. Interactions with your website and marketing automation platforms, sales conversation records and CRM tracking can all provide additional insight to enrich personas.
"Interactions with your website and marketing automation platforms, sales conversation records and CRM tracking can all provide additional insight to enrich personas."
3. Align Buyer Personas with the Buyer’s Journey
Traditional personas – pen portraits rooted in demographic and firmographic data – played an important role in their day. However, in 2017 demographics and firmographics represent the finishing touches of a persona, not the core substance.
Today’s B2B buyer’s journeys involve multiple, convoluted steps, from ‘defining the specifics of a problem’ to ‘defining criteria to evaluate solutions’ and ‘determining where to acquire the solution.’ Each of these steps is associated with various needs and required outcomes. For marketers to navigate this environment and provide buyers with relevant assets that add value, persona research needs to give the full picture. That means understanding the buyer’s current situation, where they’re trying to get to, and the jobs they need to complete to get there.
It follows that B2B marketing strategies need to be rooted in fundamental contextual information about the buyer. Persona research must be strategically aligned with the buyer’s journey and leveraged intelligently via appropriate content and omnichannel tactics. While demographic and firmographic tailoring is important to achieve surface-level resonance, contextual insight enables buyers’ deeper needs to be addressed.
When marketers understand buyers’ situations and how they quantify success, strategies can be developed to help them complete tasks more quickly and easily. Intelligent persona research, effectively leveraged, can unlock whole new ways of working, enabling marketers to add tangible value to buyers in the moments that matter.