Believe it or not, buyer persona research has a lot in common with New Year's resolutions.
You craft them carefully, write them down with neat handwriting or in a pretty PowerPoint (depending on your preference) and you are all excited to put them into action!
But after a while, they are forgotten about and collect dust. When you do happen to come across them, they induce an uncomfortable stab of nagging guilt. You know you should put them to work. But how?
To prevent your marketing from suffering "forgotten-target-persona-itis", here are ten practical and creative ways to get the most out of your buyer personas today!
1) Segment Your Entire Contact Database By Buyer Personas
A majority of the online marketing activities we do every day has the ultimate goal to grow our email database.
The reason for this is simple. Contrary to some marketers who tout it as dead or at least dying, email is alive and kicking because it is incredibly useful if done right! And it shows in the numbers: email marketing has a whopping 4,300% return on investment according to the Direct Marketing Association!
However, most marketers fill their contact database with new contacts regardless of their target persona's key identifying elements. But if you are treating everybody the same way, how will you be able to build a meaningful relationship with them?
Why You Should Create Separate Contact Lists
Let me explain why this is important.
Let's say you have a pet store selling supplies for cats, dogs, and fish. Unless your customers who are dog owners also own cats and fish, they do not want to get their emails clogged with promotions of your latest Valentine-themed cat toy or a new fish tank cleaning solution you just got in. They want to hear about dog food coupons or a free dog training event you are holding next Saturday.
You can segment this list even further as you learn more about your dog owner. Maybe it is a prospective puppy parent that is still unsure if they can handle everything that is involved in caring for their new family addition. Or maybe you are talking to your seasoned dog owner that comes in once a month and would appreciate knowing about the discount you offer on dog food for grown-up dogs.
Now think about your own business. What qualifying question will enable you to learn more about the person who just gave you permission to contact them. This could be their job role, location, relationship to your company or biggest challenge they are trying to solve by connecting with you.
Use Forms And Workflows To Segment Your Contacts
You can simply add a few questions to existing forms to segment future contacts. For your existing contacts, this is a little trickier. If you have asked them some qualifying questions and/or you have been using a marketing automation platform, such as HubSpot, you can assign buyer personas and lifecycle stages by using the workflow tool.
To do this, you first sort all your contacts that belong to one buyer persona into a smart list. This can be done based on a form they filled out, a contact property you set or whatever makes sense in your case.
In this case, which is for a school, I created a list with all the parents of the currently enrolled students that I wanted to assign to the buyer persona "Current Parent". The criteria to move them into a "Current Parent" was to register their child(ren) in school. Then, I had the workflow tool assign their lifecycle stage to "Customer".
Since you are making this a smart list, this workflow will enlist all future parents into this target persona.
2) Kick Your Email Blasts To The Curb Once And For All - Say Hello To Personal Communication!
Most businesses send out monthly or weekly newsletters -- or even worse, on a daily basis blast an untargeted promotional email to their whole database!
Do you know the saying "that's comparing apples to oranges"? Well, kiwi and cucumbers are also not the same. I am not comparing your contacts to fruits or veggies, but you should not throw them all into the same basket either.
In other words, great marketing is all about having a one-on-one conversation and showing your prospects and customers that you care about them. But how can you have a meaningful one-on-one conversation if you are still sending email blasts or the same weekly newsletters to your entire contact database regardless of their interests, needs, or conversion stages?
It leaves (potential) customers frustrated, unsubscribing or - in the worst case - reporting these emails as spam. But these untargeted emails do more than just annoy your contacts - they can hurt your email sending score and impact the delivery rate of future emails.
Targeted Emails = More Clicks
Once you segment your email database by your main buyer personas, you can think about topics that would interest them the most.
This is a very targeted email marketing campaign we did last month for one of our clients. We only sent out 2 tailored emails to 439 contacts and the response was amazing! We were also able to get an average 64% open rate between the two buyer personas, of which 16% clicked through to the content we wanted to direct traffic to.
And because the email list was clean and did not contain any bought emails, we achieved a 100% delivery rate. You should always aim for as close to 100% as possible.
This email campaign was so successful because we addressed a specific need these buyer personas had.
3) Inspiration For Your Next Inbound Marketing Campaign
Are you stumped as to what your next campaigns should be? Pull out your buyer personas and read through your research.
Have a look at the problems that your buyer personas are facing:
- What are they struggling with on a daily basis?
- What are their biggest objections to buying your product or service?
- What tools could you provide them with to get their job done easier, faster or more efficient?
This will help you to focus your marketing campaigns and make them ultimately more effective. If you keep on targeting your primary customer persona with top-of-the funnel content, such as eBooks, guides, and toolsets, you might not be offering the right kind of middle of the funnel content to move them further down towards a decision.
Pick a problem you could tackle with your next campaign and think about what solution you could offer that would help your prospect. Can you put together a toolkit, checklist or whitepaper? Or do you have a database full of qualified leads that would love to see a customer case study before they get in contact with your sales team?
4) Check Your Copy For Your Persona's Lingo
One of the easiest things you can do to make sure that your visitor feels at home on your website is to use their language. I don't mean languages as in Chinese or English - even though if you are exclusively marketing to the mainstream Chinese market, writing in Chinese is definitely a good idea.
Your buyer personas might speak differently about the same topic based on their prior knowledge (or lack thereof) on the subject matter. For example, let's say you are a solar panel company. A homeowner, who is interested in saving on his energy bill but knows nothing about solar technology, uses different words that your existing solar customers, your installation partners, or commercial institutions.
In contrast, if you are a provider for neurosurgical and neurotherapeutic solutions, you will most likely address neurosurgeons, hospital administrative staff and investors. Depending on who the content is for, you can or may not be able to use medical jargon.
Check Your Content Assets
Use your knowledge about your buyer personas and make sure your content speaks to them:
- Create completely new buyer persona focused website pages that address them and their needs specifically. Add a specific call to action to convert them into leads.
- Check your existing website pages (including product features and descriptions, as well as explanatory content).
- Before writing a blog post, be sure to identify one target persona that you will be writing for. Make sure to address their problems and use the level of jargon they are expecting.
- Adjust your content offers. Your premium content offers need to provide value for your leads. If you are using too many technical words, your content cannot be easily understood by your lay audience - whereas if you are writing too "dumbed-down" for a subject-matter expert, you will bore them.
- Align your search terms and keywords. For example, if you are a company offering adventure outings for corporations, but your buyer persona searches for team building trips, you might be missing out.
5) Identify Content Gaps
Now that you have finished your buyer persona research, it is a great time to conduct a content audit to identify any gaps you might have created.
You might have created content gaps if your team is particularly comfortable to write in a certain style or on a topic. For example, a person who has a background in SEO, will favor topics that center around how to optimize your content for search engines, using crawler tools to find broken links or how to effectively do keyword research. Another person on the team who has a background in marketing might consistently produce content for the buyer persona "Marketing Mary" but neglect "CEO Charlie".
Another way content gaps can be created is if you are not using an editorial calendar strategically.
Building a well-oiled lead generation machine is like building a plumbing system. If you have lots of pipes bringing water into the house, but the middle piece is missing, you will have a hard time "catching" that water in the end piece that connects to your sink. The system is broken and you are ending up with water damage. The same is true for your content.
By conducting a content audit and paying attention to whom the content is written for and what stage in the buying cycle it is meant for, you can identify any weak spots that you might have missed, not covered at all, or neglected over time.
A content audit is basically a thorough inspection of your content, including your website pages, blog posts, content offers, etc. You can read up on how to perform a content audit here.
6) Redesign Your Website With Your Target Persona In Mind
Another way to utilize your research is to let it guide your website redesign - especially if you have buyer personas that are very heterogeneous from each other and they each need different information, use distinctive language or receive separate pricing or product information.
While you cannot exclude any visitors from any public website pages, your visitors will naturally tend to navigate to the content that is specifically created for them anyway.
Let Your Visitors Choose Their Own Destination
A great example of a website that allows their visitors to "pick their destination" is YouVisit. On their homepage, the virtual reality (tour) company lets each type of visitor pick which industry they want to explore more. If I am a high-end real estate company that is interested to showcase my client's estates in the right light, I would click on real estate. After browsing a few tours in this segment, I might want to see what a virtual tour for a university or luxury hotel looks like to get an impression of what else the company can do, but ultimately I would return back to the real estate section to read more.
Want more inspiration? Check out our blog post featuring 5 killer websites that really understand their buyer personas.
7) Personalize Your Website With Contextual Marketing
(Image Credit: HUGS Sydney Slideshare)
According to research from eMarketer, 91% of marketers say they use content in their marketing, but only 42% say they are effective at it. More than 60% say they produce content at least once a week. But more is not always better anymore.
Click To Tweet: The era of "more is better" is over. #contentmarketing
We need to produce better quality content, not more. But there are already plenty of people who write outstanding content. Take your content to the next level by tailoring it to the individual visitor's experience!
Yes, I am saying, you can make your website show specific content to specific people based on their country, device, referral source, membership in one of your contact lists and lifecycle stage!
For example, if Mark has visited your website yesterday for the first time, then filled out a form and became a lead, he will now see different content displayed. Once, he becomes a customer, he will no longer see "Sign up for our trial", he will be asked to review your product or encouraged to share his experience with his friends on social media.
In order to effectively pull off contextual marketing, you have to find strategic places within your website that you would like to change. You can use your knowledge about your ideal customer types to map out, where they would be delighted to see what kind of information.
8) Find New Channels To Reach Your Customers
(Image Credit: Copyblogger)
Let's say your company has been really active on social media for quite a while. Your Facebook page has more than 100,000 fans, but you notice that the engagement is relatively low. Now you are wondering what is happening and how (or if) you can fix it.
Copyblogger shocked the content marketing industry a few months ago by shutting down their Facebook page. You might wonder why they would kill a page that has 38,000 fans.
Since they had never bought likes from a "Like Farm", they were baffled by the low engagement their page was getting. After experimenting with shareable graphics, forced shares and asking questions, but nothing gained traction.
After consulting with an expert, they decided: "It’s not our job to tell our audience where we live. It’s to grow communities where they live."
The same could be true for your business. Through your buyer persona research, you might find that your ideal customers are more engaged on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.
9) Find New Use Cases For Your Products
A study conducted in 2007 found that it is extremely common to use products in a different way than the manufacturer had initially intended. 97% of the people questioned admitted they were using products differently than the given way - the study listed more than 300 use cases such as using a lighter as a bottle opener.
By doing in-depth buyer persona research, you might find that your products are used differently than you had them originally intended to.
This is not only important information for marketing, but also crucial for product development as they can consider optimizing that aspect of the product to fit the new use case. Sometimes, it also becomes a liability issue, so being aware of alternate uses of your product is critical.
10) Better Allocate Marketing Spend
Allocating your marketing dollars to the activities that drive in the biggest return on investment is a no-brainer. While this for most people means allocating more budget to content marketing and less to paid search, your allocation planning should also include your buyer personas.
For example, you can use your HubSpot campaign tools to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. Since all campaigns should have one buyer persona as well as a start and end date assigned to them, you can easily measure your ROI.
Using Campaigns To Organize Your Marketing Efforts By Buyer Persona
For example, take a look at this screenshot of the 2013 Inbound Launch by HubSpot. This campaign has assigned goals to it. Each landing page, call-to-action, blog post, email etc. is linked to the overall campaign tool.
If this targets our buyer persona Marketing Mary and it is performing better than others, we should consider to allocate more money into campaigns that target this buyer persona.
How Are You Using Your Buyer Personas?
We would love to hear how you are using your buyer personas. Is there a creative use case that you would like to share with us in the comments? Please feel free to email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or let us know in the comments.
Need help developing your buyer personas? Download our handy buyer persona development sheet here: