How to develop buyer personas for manufacturing

Written by Katie Hughes  |  8, September, 2017  |  0 Comments

In previous posts we’ve talked about how valuable content marketing is for manufacturing companies. And seemingly, manufacturers agree. According to research by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 85 per cent of manufacturing companies use content marketing.

However, only one in five (20 per cent) say their approach is extremely or very successful.

The success of your content marketing efforts is reliant on having well-defined buyer personas. By developing buyer personas you gain a deeper understanding of your target audience and their buying behaviours, so you can create content that will nurture them through the buyer’s journey.

They help answer questions like ‘What messages should I focus my content around?’, ‘What types of content should I create?’, and ‘Where should I share my content?’. You could be writing two or three blog posts a week, but if that content doesn’t speak directly to your ideal customers, your efforts will be wasted. It’s about quality, not quantity.

The buyer persona approach for manufacturing

When developing buyer personas, you should start by collating all the information you have about your target buyers. Your Marketing team will have data on where your current online visitors are located and how they found your website, as well as some details about their demographics, industry and job role. They may also have collected data from market research, such as customer satisfaction surveys.

Your Sales team will have a strong understanding of the types of customers your business attracts, what they want to achieve from investing in your product or service, and what the common objections to purchasing are.

Compile all this existing knowledge, data and feedback, and hold a workshop with your Sales and Marketing teams to build a top-level sketch of your buyer personas.

The next step is to interview your existing customers. Your buyer personas shouldn’t be built on internal knowledge and experiences alone. To really understand your target audience, you need to speak to your customers. ‘Closed-lost’ prospects, who chose a competitor product over your own, are also a good group to speak to as they can tell you how and why they concluded that your product or service was not as good as the one they purchased.

While there’s no hard and fast rule for how many buyer personas you should create, it’s important you develop one for each of the main types of customers you sell to. Even if you only manufacture one product, it’s likely you’ll still be selling to more than one type of customer. Decision makers in Procurement, Operations, Engineering, and the C-suite, may all be involved in the buying process. Therefore, you’ll want to craft separate pieces of content for each of them that directly addresses their specific needs and priorities.

What your buyer personas should include

Once you’ve gathered all the information you can about your buyer personas, you can create a comprehensive profile for each of them. These should be shared amongst your Marketing and Sales teams and used to inform the content you produce.

Your buyer persona profiles should be built around the Buyer Persona Institute’s ‘Five Rings of Buyer Insight™’:

  1. Priority Initiatives: What causes buyers to invest in solutions like yours and what is different about buyers who are satisfied with the status quo?
  2. Success Factors: What operational or personal results does your buyer persona expect to achieve by purchasing this solution?
  3. Perceived Barriers: What concerns cause your buyer to believe that your solution or company is not their best option?
  4. Buyer’s Journey: This insight reveals details about who and what impacts your customer as they evaluate their options and select one.
  5. Decision Criteria: Which aspects of the competing products, services, solutions or company do your buyers perceive as most critical, and what are their expectations for each?

Your buyer persona profiles should provide detailed answers to these questions. 

They should also include:

  • A catchy name, like Engineering Ed, or Board Member Bill
  • An image (use can stock imagery)
  • Quotes from your interviews (to help bring your persona to life)
  • A description of their demographics, job role, values and job pressures
  • A list of the key online and offline resources they use

Every piece of content you create should be created with a clear intent: to meet an anticipated or known need of a target buyer. Your buyer persona profiles will be bursting with opportunities for content that will respond to those needs.

Once you’ve created them, ensure they are regularly reviewed and updated. Your target audience’s needs aren’t static, they can be subject to change, for instance due to shifts in the economy, or the introduction of new technologies.

The future of manufacturing is expected to bring big changes, with the Internet of Things, 3D printing, and mass customisation leading the way. It’s therefore more important than ever that your manufacturing company understands the needs, fears and aspirations of your target audience. By developing buyer personas, and reviewing and updating them regularly, you can ensure your content taps into these.

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