The Forward Observer > Marketing For The Front Line of Sales

How Buyer Personas Can Improve Your B2B Lead Generation Aim

Written by Douglas Burdett | Aug 6, 2015 2:04:00 PM

Is your B2B lead generation content hit and miss? With properly researched buyer personas you can make sure your content is always on target.

When it comes to actively generating leads there are two ends of the lead generation continuum. You can:

  1. Try to interrupt your way into your prospect’s consciousness.
  2. Try to get found by prospects while they are looking for a solution.

Of course, those are the two ends of the leadgen stick and many companies use a combination of both approaches.

However, the problem with relying on an interruptive, outbound lead generation method is that it’s becoming less effective. Things like DVRs, caller ID, email spam blockers and do-not-call lists are reinforcing the invisible castle walls that people have erected to avoid marketing marauders.

Thanks to the Internet, your customers can do research to educate themselves about their business problems, possible solutions and providers. In fact, studies show that in B2B sales, buyers are 60% to 90% through their purchase research before they first contact a vendor.

Plus, people hate being marketed to. They always have and now they can do something about it. We’re now in the post-war era of the Marketer-Consumer War, from which the consumer has emerged victorious. 

To get found online and generate leads, you need to produce the right content for the right people in the right context

What Are Buyer Personas?

There is no silver bullet for creating content that attracts the right kind of traffic to your site and generates leads. But buyer personas come pretty darned close.

In Adele Revella’s book Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer's Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business, she describes buyer personas this way:

“In the simplest terms, buyer personas are examples or archetypes of real buyers that allow marketers to craft strategies to promote products and services to the people who might buy them.”

Buyer personas are not the traditional marketing demographics.

“Too often, Buyer Profiles are nothing more than an attractive way to display obvious or demographic data . Defining markets based on demographics— data such as a person's age, income, marital status, and education— is the legacy of 60 years of selling to the mass market.”

To research and build an effective buyer persona, you must talk to buyers…

“... the most effective way to build buyer personas is to interview buyers who have previously weighed their options, considered or rejected solutions, and made a decision similar to the one you want to influence.”

When researching your buyers it’s easy to get lost in all the information buyers will share with you. That’s why it’s important to focus on just a few crucial areas that Revella describes as “The Five Rings of Insight™.”

These are the five things that will determine if you have buyer personas that will positively impact your content creation, lead generation and sales.

  1. Priority Initiatives – “What causes certain buyers to invest in a solution like yours, and how are they different from buyers who remain attached to the status quo?” What three to five problems or objectives does your buyer persona dedicate time, budget and political capital? It’s not about you or your product.

  2. Success Factors – “What operational or personal results does your buyer persona expect from purchasing this solution?" To understand the buyer’s approach to a Priority Initiative, identify what tangible or intangible rewards he or she associates with success.

  3. Perceived Barriers – “What concerns cause your buyer to believe that your solution or company is not their best option?” What could prompt the buyer to question whether your company or solution is capable of achieving his or her Success Factors?

  4. The Buyer’s Journey – “…reveals the behind-the-scenes story at each phase of the evaluation.” What process does this persona follow in researching and selecting a solution that can overcome the Perceived Barriers and achieve the Success Factors?

  5. Decision Criteria – “Which aspects of the competing offerings do your buyers perceive as most critical, and what do they expect from each one?” What aspects of each product will the buyer assess in evaluating the alternative solutions available?

Armed with these five insights, Revella explains that your buyer personas will “reveal the buying decision you need to influence – telling how when and why the buyer engages to choose you or a competitor, or to stick with the status quo.”

(Click here to listen to a Marketing Book Podcast interview with Adele Revella about her book "Buyer Personas.")

Buyer Personas Are Like Aiming Stakes

Having served in the U.S. Army Field Artillery for three years AND worked in marketing ever since, I’m struck by how similar buyer personas are to aiming stakes. Granted, I’m probably the only person who has noticed this, but stay with me.

Artillerymen who fire the guns rarely see their target. This form of indirect fire is why a forward observer is needed who can see the target and call the shots.

Before the howitzer fires, the artillerymen use survey equipment to make sure the gun is pointing in exactly the right direction. But once the cannon starts firing it can knock itself off the correct aim.

That’s where aiming stakes come in. The stakes are put in the ground a good distance from the gun (the farther the better) and surveyed in. Then, before each subsequent round is fired, the gunner looks through a scope to make sure the gun is aligned with the stakes. When the stakes are aligned, the gun is pointing in the right direction.

Similarly, buyer personas serve as an aiming stake to make sure that the content you are sending down range is properly aligned for maximum lead generation impact.

Conclusion

With properly researched buyer personas, you can eliminate guesswork about if your content is going to be on time and on target. If your content is not properly aligned with your buyer persona, it’s going to miss the target and fail to generate leads.