Do you know what your buyers think about? How they explore options? What conversations are important for them to have with sales? What type of information needs they have?
For both marketing and sales, getting answers to these questions is becoming critical just to get in the game. While these types of questions have existed throughout the last several decades, they take on new dimensions in the digital age. To answer them requires new perspectives and new skills. Today’s buyers are also changing their own means of getting answers to their questions.
For Chief Marketing Officers, an important charter of their expanding role is to implement new operational models adaptive to new market and buyer dynamics. Trying to figure out an operational model for content creation and strategy has been one of the toughest. As made evident by recent reports highlighting the struggle with effectiveness.
In this article, I suggest B2B marketers implement a new model for content effectiveness. It is based on these 4 guiding principles:
1. Driven by deep and profound buyer insights
2. A holistic view of the entire buying cycle and customer lifecycle
3. Buyer persona-based platform for internal and external communications
4. Content engagement is mapped to buyer goals, issues, challenges, and buying behaviors
By focusing on these key principles, you can begin to focus on what buyers really think and care about. Thinking holistically and aligning with the Persona Buying Cycle™ recognizes buyer goals, issues, challenges, and behaviors change throughout the entire buying cycle and customer lifecycle.
Buyer Persona Content Model™
What I advocate is a buyer persona-based content strategy model. A model which serves as a framework for aligning content themes and topics with what buyers are most concerned with – their goals and challenges.
The Buyer Persona Content Model™ consist of the following components to help you align:
Persona Buying Cycle: This buying cycle view focuses on the behaviors buyers engage in from being an audience member not in the market to a brand loyalist serving as a testimonial. This view asks of you to take on a buyer’s perspective for each stage in the buying cycle.
Market Segment: Specifically for content, it is best to understand specific segments to target. The reason as it relates to content is segments can have their own language and terminology about goals and challenges, which will resonate with buyers. When possible to segment, you want to speak in the language buyers are accustomed to.
Buying POP/Committee: This element helps you to understand where the buyer POP (Point of Purchase)is usually found within your segments. For large enterprises and complex purchasing, the buyer POP is typically evident but understanding the make-up of formal and informal buying committees becomes paramount.
Target Buyer Persona: Depending on the segment and industry, different research-based personas can come in and out of the buying cycle and lifecycle. They can be delegated researchers, option generators, key influencers, executive sponsors, or the key decision-maker. The key buyer persona principle operating in this element is the understanding of the goals of your buyer personas, which shape their mindsets and behaviors.
Buyer Goals: Goals are what drives buyer persona-based models. Content today must resonate with buyer goals whether they exist at conscious or subconscious levels. Goals also help you know how many buyer personas are needed and how to prioritize buyer personas throughout the buying cycle and customer lifecycle.
Primary Challenge/Objective: speaking to primary problems and challenges or objectives connects to the day-to-day top of mind buyer concerns. It is important to distinguish here between the research-based goals of buyers and the factual buyer intelligence around challenges, objectives, and initiatives.
Top Level Buying Behavior/Activity: understanding the behavioral activity buyer’s undertake throughout the buying cycle and customer lifecycle helps you to determine how to build interaction into your content. Activity-based understanding of your buyer personas gives you insight into the steps and actions buyers take during the buying cycle.
Topic Themes: this element addresses the need for the overarching theme in each stage of the Persona Buying Cycle. For example, when a potential buyer is in the Audience behavior stage, “not in the market”, what are the important themes? Is it to keep abreast of technology? Follow your company’s position in the market? Get the latest research?
Topic List: This should flow naturally from your Topic Themes. Your topic should align to buyer goals and the issues as well as challenges they face. The list of subjects can vary but they should map back to what is on the minds of buyers at their specific stage of the Persona Buying Cycle.
Content Preference: this is an important component. What you may have to say can resonate with your target buyer personas. However, if it is a content type they do not prefer, then it will not be read or heard. So through qualitative buyer research, it is important to understand the uniqueness in content preference, which can exists for each segment, buying group, and target buyer personas.
This model represents a best-in-class approach to aligning with buyers. Several organizations I have worked with have first conducted qualitative buyer research. Through on-site interviews and other insight gathering methods, they were able to learn of the information needs of their buyers. Developing buyer personas, which serve as the communications platform to build a content strategy model, truly aligned to the goals, challenges, and preferences of their buyers. Following such a model has enabled them to reach operational effectiveness. Setting them apart from those struggling with ineffectiveness.
As I have previously written about, I believe credibility will be an emerging issue. The ineffectiveness of content strategies is becoming more visible as the volume of content rises unabated. Today, I believe it is less about relevancy and more about becoming a credible source buyers can rely on.
(This content strategy model is available here for you: Buyer Persona Content Model™. I welcome further conversations where I can help your organization to improve content effectiveness via this model. Please share widely – this will help your peers and colleagues to get the right content to the right buyers.)