The ever-changing buyer landscape of 2020 required marketers to be agile and responsive in order to be effective. Successful marketers in 2021 need to continue to be flexible, but can also benefit from an increased understanding of how these uncertain times have changed their buyers’ needs and motivations. Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends report describes the importance of understanding your audience in 2021, and “shifting your focus from [buyer] demographics to values.” You can demonstrate that you understand what is important to your buyers through relevant messaging and then consistently delivering on those promises. This also helps build trust, which is especially important for the IT buyer. The use of buyer personas can help improve your understanding of your buyers, which makes it easier for you to tailor your content to meet their specific needs, moving them further along the sales funnel.
Table of Contents:
- What is a persona?
- How to build insigntful buyer personas
- Example of an IT manager persona
- Personas Help Build a Successful Content Strategy
What is a Persona?
HubSpot defines a buyer persona as, “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal buyer based on market research and real data about your existing buyers.” Buyer personas differ from buyer segmentation because they extend beyond demographics and include insights such as buyer behaviour patterns, motivations, goals, and challenges. The more specific details you can include in your personas, the more useful they will be in helping you create relevant and compelling content.
How to Build Insightful Buyer Personas
Jeff Seymour, President and Managing Partner of GamePlan, shares his top three tips for building insightful buyer personas:
1) Talk to the right people.
“Interview your sales people who are ‘boots on the ground,’ dealing with IT decision makers day in and day out. They can reveal so much critical strategic information that you may not be able to uncover any other way.”
Doing your research is key to creating accurate, well-defined personas. In addition to interviewing members of your sales team, if you are also able to speak to your buyers directly, you should uncover some great insights. Ardath Albee, author of ‘Buyer Personas,’ also suggests including some external research when building your personas. Ardath believes that external research enhances and validates the information collected in your interviews, helping to keep the personas unbiased. (Content Marketing Institute) External research sources can include: LinkedIn profiles, job listings, research reports on the role or industry, or competitors’ content.
(2) Ask targeted and actionable questions.
“Focus your research on uncovering your buyers’ specific objectives and challenges. The buyer personas can then be used to create content that addresses the specific issues faced by that particular group of IT buyers, resulting in a more persuasive message.”
Detailed, in-depth personas will be the most valuable, so be specific and targeted with your questions. For example, if a pain point of “outdated technology” is identified, ask the interviewee to expand on their answer to provide you with more specific information. Specific challenges that stem from outdated technology may be concerns about potential data security issues or having to pay for large software purchases and migrations all at once when considering a replacement. You can also uncover particular internal challenges by asking the buyer details about their process in acquiring new IT solutions. For example, an IT Manager of a large Fortune 500 company most likely procures new solutions on behalf of a buying committee. They typically do not have the personal or budgetary authority to approve IT purchase decisions on their own. The IT Manager would be responsible for doing all of the research on potential solutions and then presenting their findings to their peers for approval. As a result, they may need specific information such as detailed technical specs or an estimated ROI for the proposed solution, in order to gain approval from their peers. These types of questions enable you to include details in each persona that will help you determine the best way you can help these buyers overcome their challenges. Ensure you ask questions to uncover information about each of the key elements of a persona:
- Challenges and pain points
- What is their procurement process (i.e. is there a buying committee)
- What is their budgetary authority level
- Roles and responsibilities
- Who they report to
- Work experience and education
- Best ways to communicate with them
- What they look for in an ideal IT partner
(3) Minimize the number of personas.
“Create one or two personas per vertical or niche. IT directors and managers could be two key groups in each of your healthcare, government, and education verticals, for example. Or your personas could be based on the owners/operators and sales reps at your key partners.”
You will find that figuring out the ‘right’ number of personas for your business is easier after you’ve completed your persona research. An article published by Forbes agrees with the 1-2 persona guideline, suggesting “a business that targets multiple industries or verticals should have a unique buyer persona for each one.” There are typically unique challenges for each specific industry vertical. For example, the government and private sectors have vastly different IT buying processes, due to their inherent organizational structures. Having a minimal number of well-defined personas allows you to create tailored messaging that addresses the specific issues that matter the most to those individuals. If you have too many personas, you could end up diluting your primary marketing message, making it difficult to present a clear brand story.
Example of an IT Manager Persona
IT Manager for 2 years
Influencer, Researcher – New IT solutions are acquired via a buying committee.
- Maintain IT budget and ensure cost effectiveness.
- Update software and systems to meet increased data demands.
- Improve network and data security.
- Budgetary constraints.
- Risk adverse environment.
- Compatibility with existing IT systems.
- Timely project delivery (long implementation process).
- Balancing completion of day-to-day tasks with planning for future.
Roles & Responsibilities:
The IT Manager oversees the day-to-day tasks related to the management of the IT infrastructure and the more granular needs of individual applications, services, storage, networking and connectivity elements of the IT environment. His role requires him to put out a lot of fires as they arise, to prioritize the most pressing issues, and try to be as proactive as possible in upkeep and maintenance.
Reports to: IT Director, CIO, CTO
Best Ways to Communicate:
Use big picture, strategic messaging aimed at a researcher or influencer.
- Analyst Reports, White Papers
- IT forums, symposiums and educational IT platforms
- Vendor online events and demos
- CNN, Wired, Forbes
- IT World Canada
- LinkedIn and Twitter platforms
Choice of IT Partner:
- Large IT provider
- Knowledgeable about solution options and strong vendors options
- Advanced technical knowledge for large complex infrastructures.
- Able to discuss possible disruptor wins and case studies.
Personas Help Build a Successful Content Strategy
In their annual survey, The Content Marketing Institute asked marketers to rank the top factors that contributed to the success of a content strategy. The number one factor that was ranked by 50% of respondents was, “the ability to understand and connect with the audience’s values, interests, and/or pain points.” (2020 Content Management Strategy Survey) Personas can help you drive smart content choices and build strong connections with your buyers.
Need help building buyer personas?
GamePlan Marketing is a Full-Service Creative & Digital Agency located in the Oakville, Greater Toronto Area in Canada. We Specialize in Digital Marketing for B2B Technology Companies.