How to Use Buyer Personas to Help Create Better Content Marketing Plans

How to Use Buyer Personas to Help Create Better Content Marketing Plans

November 5, 2021
(Reading time: 4 - 8 minutes)

Online marketing goes by several different names, digital marketing, inbound marketing, or content marketing. Regardless of how you refer to it, you know that you should have some sort of content marketing plan for your small businesses. However, you need to understand who you are targeting, and this is where buyer personas come in.

HubSpot defines a buyer persona as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

In a 2017 study by Content Marketing Institute, only 89% of B2B marketers have integrated content marketing. It continues to say that only 37% have a documented content marketing strategy, and only 22% consider their content marketing plans and overall approach to be highly successful.

Buyer personas are a critical foundational element. You need to have a deep understanding of what it is, why you need it, how to build one. 

A Buyer Persona is a Tool – Not a Poster with a Few Phrases

A good buyer persona is just like a good hammer in a builder's tool belt. They may be old and worn and seem like they have seen better days; however, they are vital to your success.

For small businesses in the B2B space, a detailed buyer persona will help determine where to concentrate your efforts, guiding your product development and allowing you to achieve better organizational alignment. As a consequence, your company will be able to attract the most valued visitors, leads, and clients.

When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including the following: 

  • What are your buyers’ demographics
  • Are there any activity trends leading up to the start of the sales cycle
  • Try to describe your buyers’ perspective on your service(s) or product(s).
  • Include your buyer’s connections to other members of the purchasing committee.
  • Identify the roadblocks to progression at each level of the buying process.
  • Try to reveal any information needed throughout the buying process
  • Clarify their challenges and priorities
  • How can your content writers create content that speaks directly to this persona

In addition, a buyer persona will help you to:

  • Determine the tone, style, and voice for the content (e.g., blogs, landing pages, videos, etc.)
  • Allow marketing, product, sales, and customer support to collaborate for a consistent experience
  • Contribute to the development of a consensus on what makes a qualified lead
  • Align your small business goals with their business goals

All of these factors work together to guide your content marketing plan. All this helps you appeal to the needs of your target audience.

4 Steps to Creating a Buyer Persona

Step 1: Internal Interviews

Internal interviews are crucial for building a baseline for how your small business perceives and understands its buyers and clients. This is a critical phase because you will know where the gaps are, how much conflict exists in audience perception throughout the organization, and where the pushbacks may come from when it comes time to institutionalize the personas.

Be sure to select people from sales, product marketing, and business management who are connected to the project’s objective. Aim for at least one to three interviews if you can with each department, and more if possible. If people wear multiple hats, make sure they have that particular hat on when talking to them.

Scheduling interviews is the most challenging part of developing buyer personas. Make it as easy as possible and keep it short, no more than 30 minutes. You will want to make sure that you structure the interviews as conversations. This isn’t a rapid-fire Q&A or a game of 20 questions.

Questions to Ask Salespeople:

  • Who do you usually interact and deal with at your target businesses?
  • Who else is typically involved in these conversations?
  • Who typically makes the final buying decision?
  • What typical questions do they ask you?
  • What is the problem they are attempting to solve, and how do they express it?
  • What do they claim to be their goal?
  • What information do they need to develop the business case?
  • What type of resistance do you encounter as you move forward?
  • What would make them decide not to purchase from you?
  • What kind of competitors come up the most often?
  • What factors do you believe influence purchasers in your favor?

Questions to Ask Product Marketers:

  • What have you heard lately from our clients?
  • What are your products’ roadmap, and why is it there?
  • What trends do you believe will be driving product development in the future?
  • Do you foresee any new applications or users for our products as a result of recent industry developments?
  • Do you see clients using the product differently than you intended?
  • What is the weakest part of your product line or services?
  • What is the strongest part of your product line or services?

Questions to Ask Business Managers:

  • What are your primary priorities for the year?
  • Where do you believe there is the greatest chance of accomplishing them?
  • What do you think will be the most challenging barriers to overcome? 
  • What do you believe that sales needs to win more business?
  • Which of the following do you believe could be improved upon to provide even more value to your clients?

Because they also meet with clients and customers, ask business managers several of the questions from the salesperson list.

Once your internal interviews are complete, prepare a report of your results and agree on the persona(s) that need to be created. This decision should be made based on where you believe marketing campaigns will have the greatest influence on your business.

If you've reached a C-level executive, proceed with caution. Make sure that what you’re offering has high strategic value. Even though they make the ultimate choice, if the majority of the research, review, and development of the business case is done at the lower levels, that is where your attention and focus should ultimately be.

Step 2: External Interviews

In order to create an in-depth buyer persona, you have to gather information from your buyers and clients. If you don't have firsthand insight, you are guessing at best. 

Based on your answers and research gleaned in Step 1, you can define a list of contacts at your clients’ companies that represent your buyer persona. Don’t just limit yourself to titles; also, think about your buyers’ role in the business.

Keep the size of the client business in mind as well. Even the same title will have vastly interpreted in different ways and responsibilities, especially between an SMB vs. a large, enterprise-type business.

If you aren’t focused on a specific niche, be sure to get a mix of different industries. Developing your buyer personas is about identifying commonalities across a wide range of your clients and buyers.

Questions to Ask Your Clients:

Obviously, you will want to tailor these questions to your specific situation. Still, the following are questions that you should be asking to get the information needed to build a solid buyer persona:

  • Tell me about what a typical day entails for someone in your [position title]?
  • What are your top priorities?
  • What are the major obstacles you deal with, and how do you overcome them?
  • What motivated you to look for a solution?
  • What complications were brought about as a result of this problem?
  • How did you identify your intended result?
  • What did you require to solve the problem?
  • Why couldn’t the issue be solved internally?
  • Who all was involved in making the decision?
  • What resources did you use to gather information?
  • What other options did you consider before settling on this one?
  • Did anyone object to your solution?
  • When did everyone finally get on board?
  • What factors influenced your decision to choose our solution?

Ideally, you will want to get seven to ten interviews per buyer persona. If you can get more, then take all that you can get. However, after ten, you will see a distinct pattern.

Step 3: External Research

Some things you won’t discover through interviews, such as a persona’s professional traits, but fortunately, you can locate them on your own with some innovative research.

You should also look at relevant analyst and industry reports. Be sure to review industry portals, blogs, and job postings. Also, pay close attention to competitor blogs and social media profiles. You may locate a hole that allows you to benefit from an overlooked channel.

Step 4: The Persona Build

Now that you’ve finished all the interviews and external research, it’s time to pull all it all together and build your buyer persona. Remember that you want to capture as much detail as possible. There’s a considerable difference between general statements like “Grow sales” and specific statements like “Automate procedures to eliminate inefficiencies and accelerate product launch.” Writing it down also helps to solidify your content marketing process.

There are lots of ways to structure your buyer persona.

Check out this free download to help you get started!

Free Resource: Buyer Persona Guide Download

Adam Bennett

Written by:  |  November 5, 2021

Adam is the president and founder of Cube Creative Design and specializes in private school marketing. Since starting the business in 2005, he has created individual relationships with clients in Western North Carolina and across the United States. He places great value on the needs, expectations, and goals of the client.

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