As marketers, we know how important it is to understand who our audience are, what information they need, and when they need it. Without this information, you’ll be running a fool’s errand.
This is where buyer personas come in.
They outline the who and the what, making them a crucial part to the inbound marketing approach. But without an understanding of the buyer’s journey - the when - you’re all bark and no bite.
Buyer personas help us craft content that is meaningful and valuable for both the customer and the business. But to truly amplify their benefits as an inbound marketing tool, we need to align them with the buyer’s journey. Then and only then will we be able to truly understand when the customers need specific information...
...the sweet spot of inbound marketing so to speak.
So join me as I break down how you can marry personas with the B2B buyer journey for content marketing success!
Up, up, and away
Let’s start with what the buyer’s journey actually is.
It’s the active research process your personas go through ahead of a purchase. Yep, that’s right…
“The buyer’s journey does not start with customers searching for your product.”
- Michael Brenner at #MPB2B
In fact, 57% of a prospect’s buying decision is complete before they first make contact with your brand. (Conference Executive Board: Marketing Leadership Council Research, Sales Leadership Council Research)
So, if it doesn’t start with your product - where does it all begin?
Well, there are three stages of the business to business buying journey:
- Awareness: buyers have realised they have a problem but need to do educational research to frame, name, and properly understand it.
- Consideration: buyers have defined their problem, and are now researching the possible solutions.
- Decision: buyers are now able to weigh up the relevant solutions and choose the right one for them.
And together, they get to the bottom of what you’re really trying to figure out with inbound marketing - how buyers move from identifying their challenge to choosing who will help them.
Let’s SupaReal this…
But to extract as much value from the buyer journey as we possible can, we need to be sure we know the specifics about what buyers expect from us at each stage. How can we tailor each and every interaction to the customer’s position in the buyer’s journey?
*At the risk of sounding like a beating drum…* Define your buyer personas, and in detail.
The buyer’s journey without buyer personas is like a rowing boat without oars - it’s going nowhere. (If I learnt anything from my 5 year ‘career’ as a rower, it’s this!) So make sure you go beyond the small details and use the two hand in hand to provide insights into buyer behaviour.
When you develop detailed and insightful buyer personas, you get to know your ideal customer inside out. Their pain points, their responsibilities, their likes, their dislikes - the list is endless. And it’s all valuable.
Without it, you wouldn’t be able to move forwards with an effective content marketing strategy...
This stuff is gold dust
Inbound marketing has a neat little theory called content mapping which brings together three fundamentals. Content type, keywords and terms, and user behaviour.
1. Content type
Surprise, surprise, this is the type of content buyers will find most helpful in each stage of their buying journey…
- eBooks, white papers and research reports will appeal to the buyers in the awareness stage as they seek to educate themselves on their problem.
- Podcasts, comparison white papers and expert guides help buyers in the consideration stage understand the methods of solution.
- Case studies, live demos and trial downloads are perfect for buyers in the decision stage looking to shortlist the possible solutions.
Keyword research is a fundamental step in any content marketing campaign. It gives content a solid direction and improves visibility in front of a targeted audience. And leveraging relevant terms in each stage of the buyer’s journey is just as valuable…
- Keywords in the awareness stage are going to be terms like resolve, improve, help, prevent, risks and optimise.
- In the consideration stage, buyers will likely use keywords such as solution, tool, device, provider, service and appliance.
- The decision stage will attract keywords and terms like compare, review, trial, test, pros and cons and benchmark.
User behaviour is simply what we already know and understand about each stage…
- In the awareness stage, prospects are experiencing symptoms of a problem.
- Whereas in the consideration stage, they are looking for all the possible solutions.
- And in the decision stage, prospects are looking for the best provider of their chosen solution.
3 fundamentals that help us deliver the inbound sales methodology - transform selling to match the way people buy.
3 fundamentals which bring us back to my favourite point - without buyer personas, you’d crash and burn. You wouldn’t understand the problems your consumers, and therefore wouldn’t have the knowledge to nurture prospects through the B2B buyer’s journey.
But with buyer personas, you can use these fundamentals to align your content. Match it with a specific stage of the buyer’s journey and create a complete content marketing strategy…
We constantly rant about how important it is to make sure your content is actually helpful. But it’s bloody essential, so listen!
Stop interrupting what your audience find useful, and be what they find useful.
When prospects first realise they have a problem, they don’t give a damn about your brand. Instead, they want to pinpoint the ins and outs of their problem. Create content that helps them during this stage, and trust us - you’ll be back in the game!
Keep it brand-neutral, educational, and valuable!
‘Finally, I can upsell our brand!’ - WRONG!
In this stage, buyers want to weigh up all the possible solutions. So create compelling content that guides them through their problem, and towards viable solutions.
With the help of your educational content, buyers in the decision stage will have a thorough understanding of their ideal solution. They are looking for the business who best fulfills their needs.
Now you can start to promote your brand. Nothing too salesy - remember, the aim is to help the buyer, not bombard them. Free trials, demonstrations, pricing guides and case studies are a natural way to upsell your business without forcing anything down their throat.
Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self
Customers who haven’t yet defined their problem are not going to care about your product.
Think about it - if you went to the hairdressers and they shaved your head before you even had chance to say ‘cut and blow please’, you would be a little pissed off. Which is why every piece of content you create should help the customer, not anger them or back them into a corner.
So make sure you move down the buying path ‘holding their hand’.Use your personas to map out and visualise their buying journey, to understand and create helpful, meaningful content. Reach the right people, at the right time, with the right stuff. Simple.