Summary: Most customer persona documents are useless. Learn why and what yours needs. And, how you can get that information, even if sales won’t give it to you.
Time to read: 7 mins
“Ugh!!! We’re still not getting the leads we should from our content!”
You might find yourself saying that a lot. And you’re not alone.
Most B2B content doesn’t work. In fact, the number of B2Bs who claim success in content marketing fell from 38% in 2015 to 30% in 2016, according to Content Marketing Institute.
It could happen for more reasons than I have fingers and toes. But today, I’d like to focus on customer personas.
Why Most Customer Personas Do You Absolutely No Good
Take a look at this sample customer persona template Hubspot offers as a free download:
For our purposes, it’s nice they even target it at a decision maker – the head of human resources. Hubspot does a nice job with this persona document.
In section 8, what they call the “Real Quotes” section, you get to know their exact pain. Plus, you get to know their challenges and common objections.
Now with most customer persona documents, you don’t get that.
Instead, you get all the demographic info:
- Position in the company
That amounts to a brief overview of who they are, not how or what they think.
If you don’t know how your buyer thinks, you might as well not even bother marketing. What you do will be scattershot. Just guessing. And you won’t get good results.
How Do You Learn What Your Buyer Thinks?
It’s actually not hard. You always hear stories about how marketing and sales don’t get along.
Your customer persona documents present an opportunity for you to work together with sales. Since sales interacts with your buyer most, they (should) know your buyer’s biggest pain.
So just talk with the director of sales, and their most successful team members. Ask them:
- What keeps your buyer up at night?
- Why do buyers choose you over the competition?
- What benefits persuade them most?
- Which features do the same?
- What are the most common objections to buying?
So if sales can answer those questions, even in just a simple e-mail, you’re set.
But What Do You Do If Sales Doesn’t Like You Very Much?
Let’s be real.
Sometimes, there’s bad blood between you and sales. You know they won’t give you the information you want. They’re mad at you because they think you don’t give them the lead quality they need (true or not).
While learning your buyer becomes more difficult and time-consuming, it’s not impossible.
Here’s what to do to learn your buyer:
1. Analyze competitor testimonials – Nothing’s better than firsthand market research. While marketing themselves, your competitors give you information you need.
2. Check out competitor case studies – Be somewhat careful here. I’ve studied hundreds of B2B technology and software company case studies. Many don’t contain useful information. But, you can learn more about customers think from their quotes (aka testimonials) and by reading what information your competitor presents.
3. Stalk your buyers online – Not hard to do manually. Simply find your buyers’ social media profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. They all let you see some of their actions publicly. Watch what they say.
4. Watch for industry conferences and topics keynote speakers talk on – This one’s pretty easy too. For example, in my niche of content marketing, Arni Kuenn’s talking about “content repurposing” at Content Marketing World 2016. I know right away that’s a huge concern to B2B and B2C content marketers.
5. Niche blogs – If your target buyer is a CIO, you’d go to CIO.com. Check out some of the top stories. Use Buzzsumo’s free Chrome extension to see how many social shares each story gets. After you check out a few, and the shares for each, you’ll find out which stories perform best. They address the top concerns of your audience.
6. Niche blog comments – Out of all the tactics listed here, this one’s toughest. Comments don’t come easy for any blog. For CIO.com, for example, the 3 most recent stories get a grand total of…wait for it…0 comments! Some blogs have more active communities than others. When you do see blog comments, take them with complete seriousness (‘cept the obviously spam ones). Few people comment unless they really, really feel the desire to.
Forbes and Entrepreneur get decent amounts of comments (5 – 20 or so). 50 – 80 is a lot! Blogs in my niche like NeilPatel.com and Copyblogger.com get that amount. I’ve seen ones with 100+, but that’s rare. And these blogs work awfully hard at building engaged communities.
7. A/B Testing Landing Page Headlines – I left this for last on this list because it’s time-consuming and can be financially expensive. But, what you’d do is test all kinds of different landing page headlines with the exact same copy.
Remember, buyers themselves may tell you one thing. But actions truly count. So, test out various headlines that address different pain points and benefits. See which drives the most action.
And bingo! You’ll know exactly what’s most important to your buyer.
With That In Mind, You’ll Have to Create Your Own Custom B2B Buyer Research Strategy
On the web, you’ll hear dozens of tactics and strategies that “work.” The false assumption you (and I) make is those precise tactics will work for you.
All the strategies and tactics and amazing stores you see online work for their authors. You and I, however, should look at them as inspiration for creating plans that work for us.
I’ve learned from experience.
I’ve tried all kinds of stuff other experts say “works.”
…And got absolutely nothing out of it!
So until next time, that’s a brief overview of how you might make a customer persona document that actually helps you create compelling content your ideal B2B buyer loves.
Next Steps: 3 Ways You Can Win from This Content
- Wanna be seen as the authority in your social network? Insightful and actionable content like this makes it happen for you. Share this sucker on LinkedIn.
- Follow this up by reading Why You Can Forget about Being a “Thought Leader” (And What to Do Instead).
- See the results the principles from this post generate. Learn how sales acceleration company ConnectAndSell, who didn’t think it had a lead generation problem, got 200% more leads per month.
Just Throw Your Customer Persona Document in the Garbage Already! by Dan