Buyer or marketing personas are now common terms in the B2B sector and it’s likely that your company devises and executes account-based sales and marketing strategies around them. But why are they so important? How much do you know about them? And how can you use them within your integrated marketing campaigns?

Is it just more marketing jargon?

Quite simply: no. Buyer personas are highly useful, reality and category-based representations of your ideal customers. In fact, a key point is that they are not just useful to marketing folk. Rather, they should also help sales, product and services teams to bring to life the ideal customer your business is trying to attract. They should help you think like and attract prospective customers, as well as retain existing clients. They should filter throughout the business and be used as the basis for the development of new products and services, as well as sales and marketing campaigns.

Guess who?

Without personas, you’ll be using any customer insight from Google Analytics and Client Services teams, social listening and market research output combined with lists of target customers as a ‘best guess’ basis for the products, services and content that you think your audiences want. And experience shows that without a full set of customer profiles, you’re more likely to revert to developing ideas based on what you know best (your company) or what you would respond to, instead of the information your audience is actively seeking. Personas are most powerful when regularly reviewed, updated and shared across the business – and so take things to the next level.

By layering personas on top of all the information I’ve just listed, your understanding of a persona will now be much deeper. You’ll ideally glean additional information by profiling and surveying your existing customers. What is their job title? What are their responsibilities? What are their goals? What fears do they have? What are their demographics? What are their challenges? What are their buying, media consumption, social media usage and communication preferences? When collated and analysed, this combined data will help you define your personas, of which there may be several or only a few.

It’s also beneficial to understand the typical lifecycle stage of each of those personas. For example, are they only just aware of having a business problem which needs addressing? Or have they already started the evaluation process for a solution to that problem? Or are they at the purchase stage?

Personas make for powerful audience-centric content and PR

For PR, social media and digital campaigns to align with the broader marketing campaigns, having defined buyer personas will – as a first step – allow specific messages to be developed for each persona.

It is only at this stage and with this depth of knowledge that targeted content should be mapped, created, and then delivered at the right time. And of course, delivery is absolutely critical. The adage of communicating with a target audience seven times to achieve memorable impact still rings true but in today’s noisy market, it is imperative to select only the channels which you know your prospects and customers will consume. Whether for personal or professional purposes, today’s buyers expect – and will respond – to this focused approach to communications.

Establishing a link with Account-Based Marketing

Buyer personas are the precursor to the now widely understood B2B Account-Based Marketing (ABM) framework. At Whiteoaks we define ABM as the way to categorise, build relationships and target companies or accounts into prioritised groups rather than on an individual leads basis. An ABM strategy covers multi-touch and multi-channel which is implemented throughout a company to achieve goals based on high-value, location or sector-specific account.

In practice, this means selecting a multi-channel, content-rich campaign for each of your buyer personas within the account-based marketing framework. Which of your buyers in each ‘account’ are most active on LinkedIn? Are others likely to consume weekly trade newsletters which explore the nuts and bolts of technology? Or are they more likely to subscribe to daily news digests from BBC? Where does another set of ‘accounts’ and personas look for thought-leadership content – and do they start their search for it on Twitter or their favourite trade blogs? If you know, you can ensure your marketing and PR investment is accurately attributed to achieve the most impactful campaigns.

Related: A Perfect Match: ABM and ABS – research by Whiteoaks International

But, why?

A rich, multi-sourced understanding of your ideal customers will enable a more powerful strategy, making best use of all the marketing tools available, including webinars, PR, social media outreach, content marketing, email campaigns and blogs, leading to precise targeting and more accurate measurement. What you learn will feed into your next campaign or plan and so you should be able to measure and demonstrate the power of your investment more thoroughly each time.

Suzanne Griffiths, Managing Director

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