By Elton Mayfield, Partner
Why Buyer Personas and Buyer Journeys Are Only Half of the Full Picture
As more and more B2B buyers have started to demand content before making a purchase (on average, consumers now engage with more than 11 pieces of content before ever making a purchase1), content marketing has become a huge player in the B2B marketing world. Consequently, B2B companies are learning the power of good, relevant content when it comes to closing a sale. They’re analyzing the Buyer Journey to determine what kind of content their audience needs as they work their way down the sales funnel. Some companies are even making content for a specific audience based on Buyer Personas.
The problem is that those two things each represent only half of the full 360° view that companies are missing. In order to truly provide sales prospects with the content they need to make a decision, B2B marketers must start producing content relevant to the intersection between the buyer’s persona and their journey down the sales funnel.
180° - Buyer Personas
More people than ever are consuming content to educate themselves on products, but only 21% of B2B companies personalize their content based on audience profiles and preferences2. Furthermore, almost half of B2B companies now openly admit they struggle to produce content that engages3. So what are B2B companies missing?
It’s simple: Many companies are still talking to all of their audiences the same way, rather than based on their personas; likewise, the content produced is rarely adapted to their audience’s needs. Producing this kind of content is certainly easier, but far from customer-centric. So is it any wonder that only 25% of marketing generated leads are considered sales-ready4?
B2B companies must begin making concerted efforts to understand who and what kind of personas make up their audience. And that doesn’t mean simply looking at tombstone data like name, address, business, etc. It’s about the problem the buyer is trying to solve, their role in the organization, and what they expect and need from a product or service. It’s about the buyer’s behavior and what motivates their purchases. For example: What concerns them about a product switch? What drives them to maintain what they currently have? What would alleviate their worries about a large purchase?
The notion of Buyer Personas is not new. And used correctly, they represent an enormous opportunity for B2B companies to get into the mind and emotions of their audience — or, in the case of content marketing, their reader. As potential buyers weigh their purchasing options, knowing what tips the scales is certainly something to look at. But it only offers a 180° view. B2B marketers need the full 360°.
180° - Buyer Journey
Most B2B buyers go through some type of journey when they are choosing which products or services to purchase — or companies to partner with. Whether it’s exploration, then information, engagement, and ultimately a sale, or some completely different path, there is no question that most B2B buyers are already far down the sales funnel by the time they sit down with a sales rep to make a deal. In fact, most of them are between 70-90% of the way through their Buyer Journey before ever engaging with a sales rep5.
For example, a Buyer Journey typically starts with their recognition of some “symptom(s)” that would lead to a purchase. Something is broken, lacking,
or needed within their company. They need general knowledge as to why — and they need it from experts. (In fact, experts are “critical at the onset of a purchase cycle.6 )” The next stage requires deeper understanding of the problem, as well as options for solutions. The final stage is when the solution has been determined and the final decision on product must be made.
So how does this impact a content marketing plan? Simply put, it’s no longer enough for B2B companies to know their buyers’ motivations, concerns, objections, etc. — they must also know where that buyer is in their journey. The Buyer Journey, though critically important, represents only half of what is needed to complete the full 360° viewpoint from which content marketing should be viewed.
The Full 360°
As buyers continue to take a greater role in their own sales education, there is a need for a new type of content marketing — one that considers both who the buyer is and where they are in the sales journey. Today, the same buyer is looking for different things at different times in their own, unique sales cycle. To meet their needs, B2B marketers will need to stop believing that it is enough to create “good” content. Instead, they will need to focus on creating the right content.
In this regard, expectations will be high on B2B marketers to become smarter and more in touch with their audience. They will have to create the right content for the right person at the right time. Content and messaging will have to change and fuse based not only on the type of person being spoken to, but also where that person is in their Buyer Journey. If a company only looks at one of these two components without the other, they’re only getting 180° of the picture. They need the full 360° to give their audience what they truly need.
ELTON MAYFIELD is a founding partner of ER Marketing, a B2B marketing agency that focuses on the building products, industrial and construction industry as well as channel marketing programs. He currently serves as the Vice President of Chapter Development on the International Board of Advisors for the Business Marketing Association (BMA). Elton has become an advocate for the use of social media, mobile technology and the effective integration of B2B marketing. The company produces a blog, www.navigate-the-channel.com that focuses on the building industry sales and marketing channel. Elton has been a resource for articles appearing in several B2B publications, most recently in Hanley Wood’s ProSales on the topic of email marketing and social media. He was also named to the publication’s list of “Industry Pro’s Twitter Feeds That You Should Follow.”