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Buyer Persona: The Missing Link in the Inbound Marketing Chain

By John McTigueAug 14, 2012

buyer persona inbound marketingI had an interesting conversation with Adele Revella, who heads up the Buyer Persona Institute, last week. The gist of it: understanding buyer persona is the key to marketing message, content mapping and lead segmentation, scoring and nurturing. It makes sense if you think about it; we need to know who we are talking to and why before we can effectively market to them. The trouble is, most of us have no idea how to obtain those critical pieces of information. So, we do the "next best thing"—we assume we know those things or we use tools that ask the wrong questions. Both are dangerous and may lead us down the wrong path. Is there a better way to understand our buyers?

To Do Today

  1. Sit and Think
  2. Reach Enlightenment
  3. Feed the Cats

- Jarod Kintz, I Should Have Renamed This

Buyer Persona—The Most Misunderstood Marketing Concept on the Planet

It's simple really. Who buys your products and why? You might think you have a pretty good idea because you can identify your buyers. You can study their LinkedIn profiles, gather sales intelligence from your CRM, talk to your sales team, read their blogs ... the list goes on. But what makes them tick? Why did they opt-in on your brand and not your competitor's? What made them decide to buy now and not six months from now? What questions did they ask, and how did your team answer them? What were their objections and how did you overcome them? What was the key element that drove the sale? No idea, right? To borrow a phrase from Willie Nelson, "Nobody said it was going to be easy..."

How Do We Traditionally Get at Buyer Persona?

  • We assume we know the answers—score yourself a "0" for this one.
  • We assume our sales team knows the answers—another "0." Sales people are not motivated to elicit buyer persona for future marketing purposes, they just want to close a sale.
  • We send out consumer surveys and ask a million questions—at best you are confirming what you already assume to be true. There's no way to drill down and get the "real" answers.
  • We interview customers using pre-scripted questions—again we are not getting to the truth, just confirmation or denial of what we believe to be true.

What's the Best Way?

According to Adele, we should be conducting real, unscripted interviews designed to help both us and our customers understand their buy cycle and all of the nuances involved in their decisions. You mean just talk to them and do a lot of listening? Well, sure, that's a start. Consider yourself a friendly investigator whose mission is to discover the entire buying process and find the salient factors in both winning and losing. Is this an easy thing to know how to do? No way. If it were easy, we would all be doing it by now, and how many of us can say we really know our customers? There's a lot more to this than just conducting better interviews. Adele has built a very nice business teaching marketers how to enlighten themselves and gain the power of buyer insight.

What's the Impact of Failure?

Not knowing your buyers has a ripple effect throughout the entire inbound marketing chain:

  • Your brand and message will likely be off target
  • Your content marketing strategy and mapping may not be relevant to buyers
  • Your campaigns may target the wrong markets with inappropriate messages and timing
  • You will likely capture a large majority of unqualified leads
  • Your lead nurturing campaigns will be ineffective
  • Your entire inbound marketing program will be deemed a failure

Yes, that would suck. Let's go back to basics and get that buyer persona thing nailed down before we invest in all of this sales funnel optimization stuff. Just sayin'.

Photo credit: Kris Hoet



Spending Too Much Per Lead?

The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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