A lot of B2B content ends up being ‘audience agnostic’: written to appeal to multiple roles or verticals for efficiency’s sake or because target B2B buyer personas haven’t been defined. While this may allow you to create more content faster, it will be too generic to really provide value to your buyers.
The more your content speaks to specific pain points or explains how to solve a particular challenge, the more valuable it will be — and the more the content will differentiate you from competitors. When your buyer sees themselves and their priorities in your content, the more engaged your audience will be.
When your buyer sees themselves and their priorities in your content, the more engaged your audience will be.
In other words, it pays to invest time and effort in researching your buyers. But which details are most critical when developing B2B buyer personas? How many personas do you need? And how do you use them to produce better content?
All great questions. Let’s dig in…
Think beyond demographics for B2B buyer personas
Personas have traditionally been built on demographic attributes such as gender, age and education. These can be pretty fundamental in B2C marketing but in the B2B context are what I would consider “good to know”: they can’t hurt, and may inform your choice of format or channel, but I’m not sure they’ll really help you develop better content.
So what details are more relevant?
Find out what keeps your buyers up at night
At the end of the day, a buyer will find value in your content if it helps them solve a problem — especially their biggest one. That’s why figuring out what keeps your buyer up at night is the Holy Grail of a detailed B2B persona. If you have that insight and it’s well-documented, your content can’t help but hit the mark.
…a buyer will find value in your content if it helps them solve a problem — especially their biggest one.
To get at this crucial pain point, you need to go to the source. Talk directly with existing and prospective customers. If that’s not possible, talking to sales is a good proxy. But hearing the insights first-hand is better. You want to ask customers about their needs and challenges as well as priorities and any roadblocks they face. Once you understand their greatest needs, you’ll know where to focus your content.
Understand their role in the buying group
According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers. A Forrester report found that when buyers were involved in the purchase of a solution costing more than $5,000, a group of three or more made the decision 84% of the time.
Regardless of which number you believe, it’s clear that when you are building your B2B buyer personas, you need to consider the full buying group, not just one individual in it. You have to understand the role(s) each persona plays in the purchase, from influencer or decision-maker to gatekeeper or user. A job title alone won’t necessarily tell you this: you need to dig deeper.
Each role will have different information needs and you want to make sure your content meets them. At the same time, be careful not to create too many personas, as that can become overwhelming. There’s no ‘golden number’, but often you’ll find there are fewer than you think, and the majority of your purchases will be made by an even smaller subset. Once you’ve developed a few personas, see if there are similarities between them. Different job titles may actually encompass the same persona, in which case you can combine them.
Answer their questions with your content
So where does this leave us? How do you use persona-based insights to build better content?
First off, with solid understanding of your personas you can envision the individual you’re developing content for. Knowing their responsibilities — and what keeps them up — at night allows you to anticipate the kinds of questions they’re likely to ask along their journey. Which means you’ll be prepared to answer them.
Identifying those questions may be the most valuable thing you can do. As you research your buyers, try to find out the questions they most want answered. When you talk to sales, find out what questions they get asked during their presentations — and when. Make sure you capture all the questions and then, as you build your personas, include them in the details. Map them to the buyer journey, and plan content that answers the most frequent ones.
For me, this is the true gold mine. Instead of guessing at topics or which details to share, you can focus each content piece on one very specific question for the audience you want to reach.
Instead of guessing at topics or which details to share, you can focus each content piece on one very specific question for the audience you want to reach.
With the right depth and insight, the content will feel like a one-on-one, tailor-made Q&A session for your buyer.
The result of detailed B2B buyer personas
Building detailed B2B buyer personas takes time and effort. That’s why many companies — even if they’re convinced of the value personas can bring — don’t bother or do the demographic minimum. How can you convince others to help you create rich, high-quality personas? Fortunately, the benefits are well documented — and point directly to business results.
In a Marketing Sherpa case study, one company reported a 900% increase in visit duration and a 46% increase in conversions when its new website was launched based on detailed personas. Another company increased organic search traffic by 55% and sales leads by 124% after the company invested in persona development.
With results like that, it should be pretty easy to justify the initial investment in building personas. Once you have them and start using them, you can then measure your own results to show how ongoing investment will continue to pay off, since personas aren’t static and need to be revisited over time.
Building buyer personas is not easy or a skill set everyone has, but it can make all the difference to the effectiveness of your content. If you’re struggling with how to reach your audience, check out the B2B Content Survival Guide we recently developed at Zinc Marketing. And if you want to talk about how to build more details B2B buyer personas, we are here to help.
Download the B2B Content Survival Guide.