Have you noticed how disjointed some B2B marketing is? Over the last ten, and especially five, years this seemed to be a growing trend. Article after article talked about and many B2B marketers implemented digital marketing, social media marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, etc. as though each can stand alone. And sadly, in many cases, each has stood alone with little thought given to an overall strategy and, unfortunately, delivered less than stellar results. But last week I attended a conference that gives me hope we may finally be seeing a return to strategic integrated marketing. Read on to learn more about this and other takeaways from the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit (MAM Summit). Continue reading
Part 3 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey
I discussed in Part 1: Awareness stage challenges and in Part2: 6 Tips for Conquering Consideration Stage Challenges. In Part 3 of this 3-Part series, I’ll discuss the Decision stage of the buyer’s journey and provide tips for overcoming the top B2B content marketing challenges.
Decision stage buyer activities
The buyer moves into the Decision stage once they know the best type of solution for solving their problem or opportunity for improvement. They are ready to buy, but haven’t decided exactly which vendor to use, but your company made their short list. During the Decision stage the buyer is typically researching their short list vendors online. The buyer wants to understand the specific products, services, and capabilities of each vendor on their short list to determine which vendor is the best fit for their needs. They are looking for content that helps them:
- compare vendors and pricing
- sell the solution internally to upper management (return on investment, ROI calculators)
- purchase and implement the solution
The goal for a content marketer during the Decision stage is to convince the buyer your solution is the best fit for them.
Content marketing in the Decision stage
For most B2B companies, the Decision stage is where others such as purchasing and upper management become active participants in the buying decision. So it’s important Continue reading
Part 1 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey
B2B content marketing seeks to provide helpful and compelling content for each stage of the Buyer’s Journey. By thinking about what actions a buyer is taking in each stage, we as B2B marketers should provide content that educates and helps the buyer progress to the next stage in the Buyer’s Journey and toward our product or service.
In a three-part series of blogs over the next several weeks I’ll address the primary challenges B2B content marketers face during each stage of the buyer’s journey and provide tips for how to conquer these challenges. So let’s jump in!
Review of the buyer’s journey
First, a quick review of the buyer’s journey which defines the typical actions and steps a prospective buyer takes from first understanding their problem to finally purchasing a solution. By defining specific phases or stages along the journey we can better understand what information the buyer needs in each stage. There are many different buyer’s journeys available, some more granular than others. I prefer HubSpot’s Buyers Journey, shown in the graphic below, because it is easy to understand and more than adequate for content marketing purposes.
The entire journey has only three stages, Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. In this blog, Part 1 of 3, I discuss the Awareness stage.
Awareness stage buyer activities
During the Awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, the buyer is just becoming aware there is a problem that may need to be solved or is discovering an opportunity for improvement. The buyer is typically researching online and offline to better understand if they have a problem or opportunity and if it’s worth further investigation. They are looking for trustworthy educational content that is not trying to sell and helps them more clearly define their problem or opportunity. The goal for a content marketer during the Awareness stage is to gain the buyer’s attention by offering educational and helpful content in the places where the buyer is looking and researching.
Top 2 content marketing challenges in Awareness stage
Assuming you know and have defined your target Personas (read my post, B2B Buyer Personas: 6 Easy Ways to Research & Develop, if you need help creating Personas) and have compelling content appropriate for the Awareness stage, your top 2 challenges for Continue reading
In my previous post I shared 7 reasons B2B marketers need buyer personas. A buyer persona describes your ideal customer so that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attract, convert, and nurture the right people.
Now that you’re convinced you need buyer personas, these tips will help you get started. According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study high-performing companies use a variety of methods to compile insights about their buyers, while underperforming companies reported using fewer sources of data. So use as many of the tips below as you can to research and develop your buyer personas.
Here are 6 tips for researching and developing your buyer personas:
1. Create (steal) a persona template – The first thing you need to know is what information will describe and personify your ideal customer so that it’s meaningful to internal users in marketing and sales. Create a buyer persona template with sections for the types of information you want to collect.
Why start from scratch when you can get persona templates for free. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll find many more in addition to these – HubSpot Buyer Persona Guide, Content Marketing Institute Target Persona Template, Content4Demand Buyer Profile Playbook. The HubSpot and CMI templates are simple to use, but I like the Content4Demand templates which are downloadable from within their Playbook because they are more comprehensive, providing a richer description of the persona. As you review the templates, take what makes sense for your situation to create your own custom buyer persona template. With this in hand, the rest of your persona research will fill in the blanks.
2. Analyze customer and prospect data – According to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America 64% of marketers use a dedicated email platform while 51% use a marketing automation system. That’s a lot of contact data. Plus you’ve likely got a CRM system with even more customer and prospect data. Mine your contact data for things like contact titles, company types, gender, and vertical. Use this information to focus in on specific LinkedIn profiles (see #5 below), or segment and send a survey to your contacts to gather insights.
It is concerning to see that only 47% of B2B marketers use buyer personas according to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America even though more than half use a dedicated email platform or marketing automation system. Apparently these marketers aren’t convinced they need buyer personas.
3. Interview sales – Your frontline sales people know who they want as customers and who have made the best customers in the past. The same goes for Key Account or National Account sales people. So interview your sales team to learn who they see as your ideal customer. Be sure to pick sales people from the different geographies you sell into and with experience in the persona’s vertical. It may also be insightful to interview sales support or account managers, depending on your product/service and company structure, since these people probably know your existing customers better than anyone else.
Attending regional or national sales meetings is a great way to get in-person interviews with sales, but picking up the phone works too, especially if timing is an issue. Interviewing sales team members has the added bonus of helping align sales and marketing.
4. Interview your customers and prospects – There’s nothing better than hearing firsthand what your customers and prospects think, how they find information, and who they look to for advice. If you have time and access, conduct in-person or phone interviews with customers and prospects.
Trade shows can be a great place to do quick in-person interviews, as are sales ride-alongs. Or filter through your CRM database with guidance from sales to find suitable customers and prospects to interview over the phone. Be sure to keep the call less than 30 minutes, 15 minutes is better.
5. Use LinkedIn – Search LinkedIn to find real customers, prospects, and others similar to them using titles, companies, and verticals. Look at individual profiles to learn their education level, interests, “typical” background, certifications, associations, and years of experience. See what LinkedIn groups they belong to and who they follow. LinkedIn job postings for the titles/roles you are researching provide additional insight into education, background and experience, certifications, plus their responsibilities and goals. You may need a LinkedIn Premium account to see the information you want, but can drop back to a free Basic account afterwards.
6. Interview customer service – You may need to understand and describe those who actually use your product, a user persona, especially if your marketing efforts include customer retention goals. The user of your product or service often has direct influence on renewal/repurchase decisions. Your customer service reps know better than anyone in your company what describes your ideal user – their challenges, typical titles/role in the company, where they go to get information, and how their input factors into the buying decision.
You may only need one persona to improve your marketing results and can add others later. Developing buyer personas is a bit like exercising — it can be hard to get going and there’s many ways to go about it. But like the Nike slogan – Just Do It! Using these tips can make getting started on your highest priority persona easy.
What techniques have you found effective for researching and developing B2B buyer personas?
How confident are you that your B2B marketing efforts are targeting the right audience? Most B2B buyers today self-educate long before reaching out to sales.
You’ve seen the numbers — 57% of the purchase decision happens before sales gets involved according to CEB and 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally according to SiriusDecisions – so it’s more important than ever that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attract, convert, and nurture the right people – your ideal customer or buyer persona.
Here are 7 reasons you need buyer personas for B2B marketing success:
- B2B buying is complicated – Most B2B buying decisions aren’t made by one person. Sure, there may be a single signature on the contract or PO, but usually a buying team has purchasing, technical and functional experts, as well as senior management weighting in on final B2B purchase decisions. In fact, CEB’s research shows that an average of 5.4 people are involved in B2B buying decisions. Personas help marketing reach and influence each person on the buying team.
- Helps you prioritize – Every marketing team has limited resources. The process of developing personas helps you and your marketing team (and sales for that matter) really home in on your ideal prospects for growth. In addition to the role of your ideal customer (see above), developing personas forces everyone to think about and prioritize verticals, geography, etc. that will drive growth for your organization.
- Improves sales and marketing alignment – Since marketing works closely with sales to develop personas, this naturally drives alignment between marketing and sales teams. Marketing will learn from sales, and marketing and sales will be aligned on reaching the priority prospects. The personas you develop can become part of sales on-boarding to help new sales reps ramp up more quickly and align them with marketing.
- Improves lead quality –Creating your marketing campaigns and content with your persona in mind will naturally attract people more likely to convert to leads. And those leads will be easier to segment for more targeted, personalized and engaging campaigns resulting in more effective nurturing. Marketing will be handing off higher quality leads to sales – sales will love you!
- Better focus channels – Assuming you’ve done your research right, you’ll know where your personas go to get information, educate themselves, and research new solutions. This means you can devote resources and promote your content to the channels where your personas are, not where you think they might be, saving both time and money.
- Improves content topic ideation – Without personas your team will be wasting time trying to guess what topics will be of interest, or even worse, developing content that never gets seen. Well-developed personas clearly spell out pain points and challenges, interests, common problems, goals, etc. which makes it much easier to develop topics that will resonate with and engage your ideal prospect.
During the persona development process you will invariably uncover internal resources for developing future topics and content.
7. Quicker and better content – Having a persona to share when making content development requests or assignments helps ensure it’s written with the right audience in mind, no matter if it’s written by a new marketing team member, guest blogger, outside writer, or internal subject matter expert. This saves time and improves your content.
According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study, companies that exceeded their lead and revenue goals were 2.2 times more likely to have and document buyer personas than companies that miss their goals. So what’s holding you back? Isn’t it time you made formalized buyer personas a priority for your B2B marketing success? In my next blog I’ll provide tips for how to go about developing buyer personas.