Buyer personas are integral to everything you create as a content marketer. They represent the people that you want to connect with; without them, you are essentially creating content blind and slinging it into the stratosphere. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to define your personas in detail.
First of all, let’s clarify exactly what a persona is. Here’s a definition from HubSpot: "A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers."
Personas are not specific people, but they should embody the main fears, problems and ambitions of your target audience. By delineating your personas, you can better deliver value through your content.
So how can you implement this process effectively within your B2B content marketing?
How many buyer personas should you have?
There really is no definitive answer to this question, as the number depends on your business and industry. However, you can have too many – you don’t want to be moving into double figures.
A good rule of thumb is to identify two or three personas that best represent your current prospects and customers – as well as those people that you feel would benefit from doing business with you. However, it's important to be realistic when it comes to the latter – sometimes the people you think you want to connect with in the future aren't necessarily the right fit for your business.
These personas should be distinct from one another with their own clear set of characteristics, and they should be detailed and thorough. However, it’s perfectly okay if they contain elements that still have a question mark over them and require ongoing work.
How to create your buyer personas
It’s a good idea to set up a meeting (or series of meetings) to bring together your leadership team and content team. Depending on the time you have available, you may decide to focus on just one persona in any single meeting.
A great way to start is to give you personas a name – for example, CEO Chris or Business Owner Belinda. Again, these are not real people but they are characters, so they need to be believable and relatable. Then, it’s time to start fleshing out these personas.
You will want to establish their likes, dislikes, habits, behaviours, motivations, concerns, and demographics. A useful way to approach this task is to ask a series of questions that get to the heart of the criteria you are defining. There are a number of online resources that can guide you in this process. HubSpot offers a wealth of information, including:
- How to create personas
- 20 questions to ask when creating personas
- How to create detailed personas for your business
Here at Equinet, our methods also incorporate the Buyer Persona Institute's "Five Rings of Buyer Insight™". The five rings are:
- Priority initiatives – what causes certain buyers to invest in solutions like yours, and what is different about buyers who are satisfied with the status quo?
- Perceived barriers – what concerns cause your buyer to believe that your solution or company is not the best option?
- Buyer journey – this insight reveals details about who and what impacts your buyer as they evaluate their options and select one.
- Success factors – what operational or personal results does your persona expect to achieve by purchasing this solution?
- Decision criteria – which aspects of the competing products, services, solutions or company does your buyer perceive as most critical, and what are their expectations for each?
By going through each of these steps, you will be able to paint a comprehensive picture of your personas, and you can write this information up into a document that is accessible to all the relevant people within your company. However, this document can be amended and edited as and when you see fit – your personas should be a continuously evolving entity.
What role do your buyer personas play?
Your personas should guide every element of your B2B content marketing; they should always be at the forefront of your mind. Each time you create a blog post, eBook, podcast or the like, you should be thinking about how you can connect with those people represented by your personas.
Having defined your personas, you will be able to see what problems they are facing, any questions they have and what their ambitions are – and you can then address these through your content. For example, you might create eBooks that are targeted at each persona.
This approach will help you to gain new leads and customers because you are proving your knowledge and expertise in your specific field – and, more importantly, showing that you genuinely understand your target audience. You'll also have a clearer idea of where your personas spend time online – whether that's Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or another platform – and you can ensure you focus your efforts on these areas.
Personas are a critical element of your B2B content marketing, which help you to refine your focus and reach the people that really matter to your business. They should inform each piece of content that you create and guide your social media strategy too. By getting to grips with your personas, you will move closer to your ideal customers.