A few days ago, Mark Schaefer published an article entitled “Why customer personas may be an outdated marketing technique.” In it he argues that every competitor is marketing to the same people, so if marketers rely on obvious data about their customers to guide their content, they’ll all come to the same conclusion and deliver the same useless content. I agree.
He goes on to relate a story about sitting with a CEO client while her agency asked questions in a persona template. Mark was trying to manage his frustration when the CEO stopped this ridiculous conversation, thank goodness.
The rush to build buyer personas is resulting in too many experiences just like Mark’s. If we don’t stop this insanity and get real about what’s involved in building and relying upon insights into buying decisions, influential stakeholders like Mark (and your CMO) will draw this same conclusion.
Buyers created the need for audience marketing
Let’s stop to remember why audience and content marketing first became vital initiatives. You have probably heard that today’s self-educated buyers are, on average, 60% of the way to a buying decision before they talk to our sales people.
Before the buyers messed this up, it was marketing’s job to build awareness with cleverly crafted and placed messaging about the benefits of our solutions. When buyers needed more information they’d contact us and we’d send in our sales experts, people who had been trained to discover the goals, concerns and purchase criteria for that buying decision. The reps would use these insights to position their solution as a perfect fit for that buyer and win the business.
Once buyers decided to keep salespeople at arms length until they had narrowed the field to just two or three solutions, audience marketing was supposed to keep us on the buyer’s list for as long as it took to get our sales people into the account.
Marketers underestimate the changes buyers have imposed
Few companies understood the magnitude of the responsibilities these buyers had imposed upon marketing. But it did make sense to “know your customer,” so marketers began to rely upon familiar approaches such as surveys, scripted interviews and agency partners to complete profiles for each job title or role who might influence the purchase. By some counts, 80% of marketers will have these templates completed by the end of this year.
But try to find a marketer who says that the purpose of audience marketing is to understand the buying decision so well that they know which questions buyers will ask, the answers they want to hear, and can create content that explains the capabilities that align with that buyer’s expectations.
It’s clear that the agency marketer Mark Schaefer met didn’t know that useful buyer personas require direct interviews with recent evaluators of a similar solution, or that they feature verbatim quotes to tell you, in the buyers’ own words, what triggers their decision to initiate this type of purchase, which outcomes they anticipate, their barriers to purchase, and the criteria they use to weigh their options.
If we don’t get this right, buyers will take things into their own hands
Yes, our goal is to know our buyers, but the knowledge we’re capturing in buyer personas is misguided and rarely used for anything at all.
Now that we have the mandate and automation to deliver content throughout the buying cycle, marketers need to know how to deliver more than the appetizer-grade, benefits-oriented messaging that was always meant for the top of the funnel. It’s time to deliver the beef, the main course that will help the buyer make an educated decision about whether we are the best qualified company to address their problem.
When we fail, buyers rely on their peers, consultants and employee’s prior experiences to decide which options they should consider. At that point, anything can happen.
This isn’t idle speculation. Over the course of the last year we had lengthy, unscripted conversations with 419 buyers who had recently evaluated our client’s high consideration solutions. It wasn’t fun to report back that we are losing deals, at least in part, because buyers couldn’t get the information they needed from their sales and marketing interactions.
We can change this outcome, but first we must realize that we have big shoes to fill. Salespeople have a much better chance of convincing one buyer at a time, but the buyers we interview don’t seem likely to make this any easier for us.
In case you’re looking to make your 2015 New Year’s resolutions a few days after the fact, here’s five your buyers want you to consider.
- I’ll find the time or budget to interview buyers and understand their mindset.
- I’ll bring the buyer’s perspective to our company’s internal discussions and decisions, replacing “I think” with “we’ve been listening to buyers and they think”.
- I’ll align with our salespeople by focusing on how we can work together to be helpful to buyers.
- I’ll ensure that our time and budget is allocated to creating content and resources that provide clear and useful information to buyers.
- I’ll stop making stuff up.
If this is too many to take on all at once, I highly recommend the final one, and that you’ll start with a plan to stop making up your buyer personas. Too many marketers are treating buyer personas as a creative exercise, with predictably disastrous results.
For example, we recently completed a buyer persona study for a company that had been delivering content to the executive buyer of their technology solution by focusing on its business benefits.
Here’s a verbatim quote from one of the buyers we interviewed:
“I’m looking for a level of detail that would need to be provided by an engineer. I’m not interested in a colorful brochure. I’m not interested in one that has been extensively wordsmithed. I’m just looking for a particular set of capabilities.”
In the next sentence, this executive described the capabilities he wanted in this type of solution. Then he talked about the perceived limitations of each of the solutions he had considered. He said that the business benefits were obvious, available from every vendor, and that marketing materials that focused on those points were useless.
This marketing team is not alone. Countless marketers have made similar mistakes by segmenting their buyer personas by job title and guessing about the content that will be useful to those people. It’s not that these marketers are wrong about the need to focus on business value, but it’s difficult if not impossible to guess about what it will take to persuade that executive that their solution is the best way to achieve a specific goal.
As I look towards the new year, I’m thrilled about the enthusiasm that marketers are showing for buyer personas. But I’m also alarmed about the long term prospect for buyer personas if marketers don’t realize that the purpose of buyer personas is to gain insight into the buyer’s mindset.
I hope that 2015 will be the year that marketers resolve to become buyer experts, and that my upcoming book from Wiley — Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business – will be an easy way for marketers to understand what’s required. The launch is scheduled for March, and the Kindle and hardcover editions are now available for pre-order here.
You might have noticed that I haven’t published updates on this blog and that my presence on social media has been scarce over the last few months. I wish I could tell you that I’d been sailing the seas or lolling around on a beach somewhere, but in fact I’ve been heads down in my office and barely noticed the passing of spring or summer.
In March of 2015, John Wiley & Sons will publish the book that kept me locked away all these many months: Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customers Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business.
It’s an incredible honor to be published by one of the world’s leading presses for business professionals. And I’m thrilled that the foreword is by David Meerman Scott, international bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR and The New Rule of Sales and Service.
David had been bugging me to write this book for years and I knew that he was right. As the interest in buyer personas has gone global, there is enormous confusion about how to discover and utilize the insights they should reveal. The misdirection I find online and the questions we field in our daily client interactions consistently confirm the need for a definitive guide on this topic.
But the simple truth is, I don’t like to write. I’d rather interact with people. Put me in front of an audience and I’m never at a loss for words, but I’ll procrastinate forever on a writing assignment. When I forced myself to sit down and write a 256-page book, I learned a lot about myself.
Psychologists Katharine Briggs and Isabel Meyers have a great explanation for the difference between introverts and extroverts. They say an introvert is someone who gets energy from being alone and with that energy, they can then go be with people for a while. An extrovert, on the other hand, gets energy from being with people and uses that energy to handle being alone. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am definitely an extrovert.
Now I know why I get sleepy when I write, and why it’s always been easier for me to edit something written by others. When I’m editing someone else’s work, that’s almost like a stand-in for having a person in the room that I can engage with. I can see what I need to say to alter a perception or explain a concept that wasn’t clear. I understand what is already understood and how to avoid boring the person with information that might be interesting to me but irrelevant to my audience.
I learned a lot about myself by stepping out of my comfort zone to write this book, and even came to see how this aspect of my personality underlies my commitment to buyer personas as a method for marketing strategies. We don’t create buyer personas while sitting alone in a room. We talk to real people and we use the insights they give us to reflect on their actual needs, interests and concerns. With a persona as a stand-in for the buyers we need to influence, we know exactly what we need to do and say to engage those people, adjust their perceptions, and avoid boring them to tears.
While reflecting on these personal insights a week after submitting the manuscript, I decided to dedicate the book “to every marketer who questions the wisdom of making stuff up.”
I’m grateful to the many clients and colleagues whose questions and stories kept my energy flowing so that I could meet Wiley’s deadline. By showing me how real marketers were employing my methodology and finding success with it, you helped me to dig deep and tell the whole story. I hope that it is helpful to many marketers and look forward to the next step in our journey together.
I’ll tell you more about Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customers Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business in the coming months. You can pre-order the book on Amazon here.
We frequently talk about how buyer persona insights add value to sales, messaging and content, but how does that work in a company with more than a thousand marketers around the globe? Over the last two and a half years, we’ve had the opportunity to explore that challenge with SAP.
We started with a clear business objective – ensure that global campaigns would engage strategic audiences in targeted buying centers and be implemented effectively by any SAP marketer throughout the world.
In Spain, Germany, France, and each of the 188 countries where SAP supplies software, marketers work with finite budgets to achieve all of the same goals as any marketer. To simplify marketing and conserve funds they want to leverage these global campaigns, but they need to have confidence that they will drive results with their own country’s buyers.
You might think that our next step was to conduct buyer persona research in each of these regions. However, we were concerned about scalability and, more critically, knew that the differences among buyers in different parts of the world, while relevant for certain tactical activities, would be unlikely to affect the SAP core messaging and marketing content.
So we started by building personas and extracting insights based on interviews in North America. Then the global marketing team used them to guide development of campaign materials including email copy, infographics and videos.
The next step is where things really got interesting. For its demand generation campaigns, selected SAP marketers work together in a virtual team that includes participants with different functional responsibilities plus field marketers from key countries. In online meetings, we presented the buyer persona insights to each virtual team, fielding questions and comments about the findings. We gave the marketers in Latin America a chance to look at the personas and say “does that look like the kind of things we’re hearing in our part of the world?” The marketing teams had the opportunity to think about the buyers in their regions before they decided if the messaging resonated and which campaigns to build.
Over the next year, SAP will conduct quantitative research to validate the buyer persona insights in some of the countries, bolstering confidence in the insights and identifying regions where more qualitative research will be needed.
I’m thrilled to be speaking with Joan Sherlock, VP of Marketing for Worldwide Marketing Programs at SAP, at Content Marketing World this September 9th in Cleveland. We’ll talk about results of this program to date plus the exciting new ways that buyer personas will be used at SAP in the next year. We hope to see you there.
One of the life experiences I credit most for teaching me about marketing was the five years I spent in sales. I came to that job in a roundabout way – a division of Wells Fargo Bank wanted a paperless office and asked me to make that happen. I knew nothing about technology (and ultimately failed to create paperless-ness) but I quickly fell in love with computers.
My boss at that company helped too, giving me some of the best career advice I’ve ever received. He told me “You’ve got to love the core business you’re in or you’ll never get ahead.” I hated the core business I was in (banking), so I cut bait and started trying to find a job as a salesperson in a technology company.
My first assignment was a sales “overlay” position that focused on winning more business from the current customer base. I loved it and grew revenue by 300%, but the reps weren’t happy that someone else was making money from their customers. Management didn’t want to irritate the reps, so they eliminated my position and offered me a job in marketing.
Fast forward ten years, and in another company I spent four years in charge of both sales and marketing teams.
So while I consider myself a marketer, those five years in sales helped me see that several aspects of the way we differentiate the two roles is illogical and costly.
1. Sales and marketing are both about persuasion. The sales person’s job is to persuade one buyer at a time, while the marketer’s job is to persuade markets full of buyers.
When I was in sales, it was marketing’s job to get a buyer to notice us, and then it was my job to persuade that buyer to choose us. This was a great division of labor, because it’s way more difficult to persuade a market full of buyers than one at a time. But today’s buyers have changed the rules, navigating 60% to 80% of their decision before they talk to a salesperson. Companies that haven’t made the shift to persuasive marketing risk elimination before the salespeople have a chance to do their job.
2. Salespeople have the opportunity, permission and training to listen to buyers before they build a strategy to persuade them. Marketers have none of these things.
As a sales rep, I learned to dedicate the first part of every sales call to listening to my buyer, gaining real insight into that account’s needs and expectations. Then it was my job to describe our solution in a way that established a perfect fit between that buyer’s needs and our product. Go tell sales management that you want their reps to stop listening to buyers before they sell to them, and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. But everyone expects marketers to do just that.
3. Sales people have to optimize their time to persuade buyers to buy now, but marketers have to optimize their investments to build pipeline for the future.
By the time I started running sales, I completely understood the importance of marketing. However, it wasn’t long before all of my time and attention shifted to the salespeople. Faced with the urgency of meeting this month’s numbers, our longer-term investments suffered. I learned that it’s really difficult to balance short and long term priorities, and that marketing metrics need to focus on results that impact the next quarter or next year, even if this seems less tangible.
4. While there are dozens of things that every good sales person learns about each buyer, the ability to be persuasive hinges on just 5 key insights.
When I decided to help marketers understand their buyer personas, I knew that many of the things I learned about buyers in sales only worked when I had the opportunity to build a strategy to persuade one buyer at a time. It was easy to see that tracking all of these distinctions about buyers would cause a lot of confusion and far too many different strategies. So I started thinking about what really helped me to be a persuasive sales rep, and that’s how the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ became the foundation of buyer personas.
5. Despite everything you’ve heard about price, the company that wins the buyer’s trust wins their business.
The solutions I had to sell were invariably more expensive than our competition. So we didn’t win on price. We competed for the buyer’s business by being the best listeners and using our insights to persuade buyers that we were best qualified to meet their expectations. Now that buyers can avoid sales contact for so long, a lot of that responsibility belongs to the marketing team.
I think it’s fair to say that when I was in sales, we had a lot more impact on the outcome of a deal than the reps I know today. And because this change is driven by buyers who have ready access to the information they think they need, this trend is unlikely to reverse itself. It’s time for marketers to gain the deep buyer insights that have always been the foundation of successful sales.
This Thursday, I’ll deliver an online seminar at Marketing Profs that I’m really excited about.
I’ve delivered countless presentations about the need for effective buyer personas, but this is the first time where I’ve got 90 minutes to focus on how to effectively use them.
The idea for this session came from a recent ITSMA survey where marketers were asked if they felt their buyer personas were being used effectively. The vast majority – 83% – answered “somewhat.”
That’s obviously not the response we want for a tool that can be incredibly powerful in the right hands. So how do we leverage these personas and the insights we gain from them to make a measurable difference in marketing ROI?
This Marketing Profs Pro Online Seminar focuses on three important aspects of the application of buyer personas.
The first is building your message and core value propositions. Finding the essential message of a marketing campaign is tough stuff. Delivering 15 to 20 words that compel a buyer to learn more is harder yet. Too many marketing groups opt for a summary approach – “We’re the market-leading provider of scalable flexible compatible enterprise greatness” – that doesn’t give a buyer anything they haven’t heard dozens of times before.
Once you have the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ for your persona, the most difficult part of the messaging effort is complete. Armed with this detailed list of your buyers’ expectations, it’s relatively easy to identify the engaging, actionable information that positions your solution as a perfect match for that buyer’s needs.
The second topic I’ll talk about on Thursday is building a solid content marketing strategy. Employing the 5 Rings of Buying Insight around each buyer should give you a list of 20 to 25 thoughts and concerns that the buyer has through the purchasing cycle. These are rich fodder for long-form content or multi-touch marketing – blog posts, white papers and other venues where you can address topics served up to you in your buyer’s own words.
And the third topic is sales enablement. We talked about this a bit in last week’s blog post, but this week’s presentation will give me a chance to talk about how buyer personas change the relationship between sales and marketing. I’ll focus on the buyer insights that motivate salespeople to follow new leads and land new customers.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything you should be doing to leverage your buyer personas, but it’s three things that should be at the top of your list.
I’ll be going into everything above in much more detail during Thursday’s online seminar. I hope to see you there.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you’re well aware of the impact that properly-constructed buyer personas can have on sales and marketing. But – and this might seem strange – for best results, you don’t want to send your personas straight to the sales team.
There’s one more step, and it’s crucial, because sales people are one of the primary beneficiaries of the deep insights you’ve uncovered. A misstep has consequences that can cast your persona initiative in a less than favorable light.
Remember that an insightful buyer persona talks about what buyers want from solutions like yours. Sometimes buyers want something your solution can’t deliver. Or the buyers may describe expectations where you need to give some thought to your response.
Here’s an example – say “easy to use” is an important part of your persona’s decision criteria. From the interviews that we conducted with real buyers, we know that buyers who say “easy to use” want it to “work just like other programs I use, so I won’t need any additional training.”
But your product might not work just like these other programs. It might need additional training. So Marketing would work with involved departments to make the training something that can be minimized – say with a 30-minute video that will bring users up to speed simply and effectively.
Now Sales can address “ease-of-use” with a direct, factual response that keeps the company honest. “It’s just a 30-minute video.”
When Marketing communicates buyer expectations without describing the appropriate response, it can lead to a lot of counterproductive behavior, including that classic move where Sales makes things up to impress the buyer. Or Sales may avoid following up on your leads, feeling defeated because they can’t deliver on every expectation.
Marketers also need to remember that sales people are trained to treat every buyer as unique. Talk about buyer personas and you could spend your time defending the entire concept of an example buyer, distracting everyone from the powerful insights you’ve uncovered and how your salespeople can leverage that knowledge in their sales calls.
Sales people are reluctant to follow up on leads when they don’t have experience with a particular solution and buyer. Understandably, they’re concerned about what questions might arise or how the competitors might derail their sale. With buyer personas, we can give them advance warning – here is the type of buyer that you’ll be talking to at every step in the sale. These are the expectations that each person will bring to the table. And, best of all, here are the resources you need to address those expectations and close the sale.
Keep your personas in marketing, but by all means communicate the insights you’ve uncovered and your strategies to address them.
It’s been almost three years since I published The Buyer Persona Manifesto, and so much has changed.
In 2011, few marketers had even heard about buyer personas. That’s why I devoted a sizable portion of the book to explaining what a buyer persona is about and why they are important.
Fast forward to 2014 and buyer personas are in use or under development by 73% of B2B marketers who completed a recent survey by ITSMA.
The interest in buyer personas has exploded, but the need to understand them hasn’t changed. In fact, at the Buyer Persona Institute we hear from marketers every day who lost their way as they attempted to build or leverage this important tool.
So I decided to publish a Second Edition of The Buyer Persona Manifesto to clear the waters and lay down a proven foundation for using buyer personas to produce reliable, actionable results in marketing.
In this completely updated ebook, I talk about:
- How to move beyond the buyer’s picture and capture her voice, focusing precisely on the narratives that are crucial to the marketing mission
- How buyer personas differ based on the amount of consideration a buyer gives to the buying decision
- How to avoid the traps of too many buyer personas that reveal too little in the way of insights
- How to interview buyers, including who to interview and what to ask
- How to put buyer personas to work for marketing and sales enablement
The one thing we didn’t change? All of our buyer persona resources, including this new ebook, our buyer persona templates, and the ebook I co-authored with Maribeth Ross: For Content Marketing, Let Your Buyers Be Your Guide, are still available absolutely free. And the ebook is published under a Creative Commons license to encourage everyone to share it with anyone who might benefit.
I believe that buyer personas are one of the most powerful resources in a marketer’s toolset. I want to make sure that every single person using them has the reaction that inspired the opening sentences of The Buyer Persona Manifesto:
“It’s almost like cheating, like getting the exam paper weeks before the final. Instead of guessing what matters, now I know… not only what the customer wants; I know how she goes about deciding. It’s fantastic!”
So please read, share, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to ask any questions you might have.
People ask me why I decided to focus on buyer personas.
Easy. I like to impress people.
And it’s easier to impress people when you know what they want.
Very early in my life, I learned that I could exceed expectations by figuring out what mattered most to the people around me. I learned how to ask good questions, and to listen intently to the way the person interacted with me about the topic.
People would often give me short answers that weren’t very helpful. But through persistence and interesting follow-up questions, I was able to learn the most amazing things.
This is the approach that landed me in the technology field more than 30 years ago. I had zero background in computers, but because I was genuinely interested, not only in how it worked but also why it was important to people, there was always someone willing to talk to me.
When I got into marketing, this simple approach began to pay big dividends. By then I had learned that information that was easy to get wouldn’t set me apart from anyone else. So I quickly observed that the best way to impress my boss, the salespeople, and a whole lot of other people was to make a positive impression on the buyers who were looking for solutions like ours.
No one told me that directly, mind you. In fact, the people I worked around didn’t even talk about our buyers. Every conversation was centered around our company’s products, strategies, or goals. We had endless meetings to evaluate options to talk about what we were doing and deliver that message to the market.
But no one ever talked about what the buyers wanted.
My colleagues would sometimes talk about “the market.” But this never seemed like a very useful conversation. “The market” seemed to consist of relatively meaningless statistics about the size of the companies or industries where our buyers worked.
Sometimes we’d hear what the analysts were saying about “the market,” which was mainly their perception about how we were doing compared to the competition. This led to discussions about how we could be better or different than the other companies.
None of this addressed my deeply-held conviction that success comes easiest to those who know what matters to real people. During our meetings, I’d ask questions like “what do the buyers want?” and “if we make these changes, will the buyers care?”
I generally got blank stares.
But I persisted, because I knew that if I had these answers, I could use them to build strategies that worked for everyone. I knew that I had to find the place where our products, strategies and goals intersected with what the buyers actually wanted.
I started finding ways to talk directly to buyers. Since one of my key goals was leads and demand generation, I was extremely curious about why some buyers had suddenly decided to make it a priority to investigate a solution like ours. So I found opportunities to talk to people who had recently bought our solutions.
I’d start the conversation by asking them about what happened on the day when they started looking for a solution like ours. After probing on that theme for a while, I’d get the buyers to tell me their whole story about what happened as they evaluated all of their options. I never accepted an easy, obvious answer. The process was one of digging around, looking for real insight.
I saw again and again that people want to engage in an open conversation about what matters most to them. I listened intently as people got caught up in the dialog and provided information I could have never thought to ask about.
It didn’t take long to see patterns in our buyers’ stories. It didn’t take long to notice that some of the distinctions we’d had about market segments were largely irrelevant. And it didn’t take long before I could build and defend strategies and tactics that I knew would resonate with our buyers.
I know that this simple idea is the reason that three different companies asked me to serve as the executive responsible for their product management, marketing and sales teams. Through that experience, I saw the power of buyer personas to impact every one of these functions
So in 2001, when I built the product marketing workshop for Pragmatic Marketing, buyer personas were the organizing principle for the entire course. Over the next ten years, I traveled the world, attempting to cram everything I knew into two action-packed days. The feedback forms always told me that buyer personas were the most important part of the workshop.
In the emails that followed, I saw that people needed more guidance. I saw that conducting this type of interview didn’t come naturally to many people.
I realized that I had to build structure and training around the interviews or marketers would create buyer personas that were only skin deep. I noticed that larger companies needed help with the cultural and process issues that emerge when the buyer’s voice is a part of the workflow. And I saw that many companies preferred to have buyer personas built by people who were already experts.
Once again, I listened intently to what really matters to people and founded Buyer Persona Institute to answer that need. This gave us the opportunity to impress hundreds of clients, thousands of marketers, and countless buyers all over the world.
This cycle of listening and impressing buyers is the reason that we say that our sole aim at Buyer Persona Institute is enabling marketers to say: “This is what matters to our buyers. So here’s the plan.”
Top Resolutions for 2014
I wonder if the companies that help us to get fit or organized realize just how lucky they are. They have the luxury of perfect timing, confident that once each year the clock will strike midnight, the ball will drop in New York’s Times Square and millions of people will suddenly be motivated to BUY NOW.
Those of us in B2B marketing can learn a lot from this extraordinary shift in buyer priorities. Consumer buyers have likely wanted to lose weight, quit smoking or clean up their messy closets for a long time. They have been the target of extensive marketing programs extolling the benefits of perfectly relevant products and services. Yet throughout the year, only a fraction of them invested the time or money to make that happen.
Then every year on January 1, approximately 45% of consumers* make a decision to adjust their priorities. Within a few short weeks, they’ll consume marketing content at an unprecedented rate and spend money on solutions that had been there all along.
Although B2B marketers will never experience anything like this dramatic shift in their buyers’ priorities, this annual event tells us a lot about why our marketing frequently inspires such a disappointing response rate. We can see that every buyer’s journey begins with a deep motivation to achieve a specific goal, and absent that commitment, they’re simply not listening.
Our buyer’s attention is almost always focused on priorities that we do not address. Then “something happens” and whammo!, solving this problem is suddenly at or near the top of the buyer’s priority list. This is the moment when that buyer will find the time, budget and political capital to solve the problem that we’ve been talking about for so long.
B2B marketers will never have the confidence of New Year’s Eve for market timing, but we can understand how the buyer’s internally driven circumstances impact their decision to consider the solutions we are marketing. This Priority Initiative insight (one of the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ for buyer personas) tells us what we need to do and say to look like a perfect match for whatever inspires that resolution to take action now.
Most marketers know very little about these triggers. They can talk about their solution’s pain points and benefits, statements that are usually reverse engineered based on the features and functions of their products or services. But very few companies can explain, in their buyer’s own words, why so many people choose to live with that pain. Nor can they say what is unique about the circumstances that drive buyers to resolve that pain.
I’m not suggesting that we should stop marketing to people who aren’t currently evaluating our category of solutions. I’m saying that if at all possible, we need to learn how to do or say something that captures the attention of buyers whose priorities lie elsewhere. I’m also noting that achieving this outcome is more difficult and protracted than we would hope, and that our best chance to motivate any buyer is to understand what really triggers their peers to take action.
With so much emphasis on the buyer’s journey, it’s interesting that marketers seem to know the least about the very first step. Insightful buyer personas tell marketers exactly what drives their buyers’ resolve, clarifying the marketing activities that will capture a disproportionate share of that buyer’s attention and business.