I was born into a family that loves to hunt, fish and camp year round. Here in Texas we have numerous lakes that are havens for great fishing and camping. Some of my best memories, and stories, come from those outings. So, let’s say we are going fishing this weekend and we’ve picked one of our favorite lakes deep in the forests of East Texas. One of the first questions we would ask is, for what type of fishing is the lake known? Once we know that, we have a really good clue as to what bait and fishing tackle we’re going to use. Are we fishing from shore, or do we need a boat? All these are great questions to help us make our outing a fun and successful trip.
Effective marketing is very similar to fishing. Before we launch out and hit the marketplace, we need to do some specific analysis of our B2B buyers and their needs. Experienced fishermen know that certain fish have propensities to prefer specific types of bait. Do we force buyers to like our bait, or do we go with the proven patterns? If content marketing is the cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy, then the foundation is knowing your buyer. So we must study our buyer’s preferences, needs, habits and concerns, mapping all of this into buyer personas. Then we can provide them high-quality content that will position our offering above the rest in a helpful and informative way.
The Four Steps to Defining Your Buyer
1. Know your buyer’s environment: Marketers often advise developing buyer personas that define the background, demographics, preferences and goals of individual buyers. That is a good step, but I suggest we go further. Take a typical buyer persona and then place them in a corporate environment. What are the priorities of their role, who influences them and what pressures do they regularly face? What will cause them to seek out your product or service? What will make them look good, or help their career? The ultimate goal of this exercise is to create personalized content that will resonate with your ideal buyer. Defining your buyer’s environment can be done through a combination of previous client experiences, market research, surveys, interviews and many other tools that are available. For more details on this process, Hubspot has a nice article and templates.
2. Map your buyer’s journey: As your buyer begins to study and evaluate options, what content will help them in that process? This content must be tailored to your buyer’s preferences and must be both informative and authoritative. In the early buying stages they may want to develop ROI models, so show them how to do that. Look at other buyers’ patterns and identify early stage content that will best assist them. In the next stage, they may want to go deep with product evaluations and comparisons. Make this easy for them to find and use your imagination to make it fun, graphical and factual. The point is to know how your buyer, based on their buyer persona, is going to think before they do! Develop the appropriate content that meets their needs as they progress through their buying evaluation process, study your competition and refine this process continually based on data you collect and measure.
3. Publish your content where your buyers are: Great content must be found by your buyer to be of any value. Part of the buyer persona development process will help define where your buyers can be found. There are numerous great choices, such as Facebook, but if your B2B buyers aren’t there, you should publish where they are. What blogs and forums do they spend time using? This is a great place to start, and researching these sites will also provide you with ideas as to what they’re discussing, what interests them, and what their primary concerns are.
4. Know their decision process and criteria: In prior customer buying processes, what did they prioritize when making their decisions? What was the compelling event that drove them to consider your solution? Be sure your late state content helps them with the tough or important questions. Also, be sure you clearly overcome buyer concerns and objections with positive benefits and clear explanations.
Knowing your buyer isn’t a one-time process that has a discrete end. Knowing your customer means continually getting their feedback, whether through data or discussions. You should definitely put an internal expiration date on your content and review it regularly so you’re up to date and meeting their needs. Finally, track your metrics relentlessly so you can study the effectiveness of your digital marketing programs and make changes and updates as needed. This way, you will always have the most up-to-date understanding of your customer, who they are, how they move through the buying process and how to help them do it more effectively.