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The Buyer's Journey And Buyer Personas For Marketing Managers

Posted by Maggie Kelleher on Jun 12, 2014 10:30:00 AM

As a marketing manager, you know all about your target customers. You know their needs and their wants and where to find them, but have you ever heard of buyer personas? Has the concept of buyer personas confused you? Or do you just want to better understand the buyer's journey through an inbound marketing-enabled website?
For the confused: Buyer personas are essentially target customers, they just go by a different name when it comes to inbound. These depict a static picture of your ideal buyer, factoring in their habits and needs. 

Why you need to know and use your buyer personas?

1. They lead to content topics. Worried about what to blog about? Just think about the needs of your ideal buyer and write to solve their problems!

2. They help keep that content relevant. 56% of U.S. email users unsubscribe from company email lists because of content that is no longer relevant, by responding to the needs of your ideal customer you ensure that the people who you want on your company email lists will read and enjoy your content and keep coming back for more.

3. Knowing your buyer personas allows you to call them out by name on your website and in posts, helping to lead them to you. Notice how "Marketing Managers" is a part of the title of this post? That was not an accident. If you are a marketing manager looking for a solution to a problem do you search "buyer personas for dummies" or "buyer personas for marketing managers"?

Still not convinced?

According to Gleastner Research, 71-89% of your website's traffic is not yet looking to buy anything, but instead want an answer to some question or problem. Only 25% of the leads you generate are ready to buy within 24 months. The other 75% need to be nurtured! This means that your online content can not just be selling your product. It needs to be problem-solving gold for visitors, and it needs to offer content for buyers in every stage of their journey. 

Those stages? Simplified they are awareness, consideration, and decision, and each stage requires different content for customers, in order to keep them coming back and create trust for when they are finally ready to buy. 

Let's dive further into each stage and what your buyers' needs are throughout those stages and the content you need for each stage.

Buyer Personas and the Customer Journey

Inbound marketing requires a lot of content that will bring in high levels of interaction, from the right visitors. That's where the buyer personas come in!

Need an example? Here at Responsive Inbound Marketing we aim to solve the problems of marketing managers who are looking to enter the world of inbound marketing but have limited resources. We use our content to discuss and solve these problems. How do we know what these problems are? We define the perfect client! Our ideal buyers are Marketing Margaret and Oscar Owner, we even gave them back stories to better understand their needs! Here is our bio of Marketing Margaret.

Buyer persona example
Not only does your content have to appeal to your ideal customer, but it has to appeal to them at the stage of the buying process that they are in. What does that mean? You don't want to show prices to a potential customer who is just starting to research a problem, just as you don't want to go on and on about how you address problems to a customer who is at the price-comparing stage. Thus, you need to understand the buyer's journey for each persona!

The Buyer's Journey: Awareness Stage

At the awareness stage, a potential buyer is doing preliminary educational research. Often they are trying to diagnose and better understand a problem that they have. Does your company offer a product that can solve their problem? That's fantastic! Content that explains the problem could bring them to your site and introduce you as a thought leader. Just keep in mind that trying to solve their problem too quickly might scare off those in the awareness stage. 

What content is appropriate for buyers in the awareness stage? Anything that provides them the education that they are looking for! That can be anything from analyst and research reports to eBooks, editorial and expert content, and White papers. 

how to use the buyers journey

Can I give you one more example? Think about why you are reading this post, most likely you are trying to learn more about inbound marketing to grasp what it's all about, not to hire a consultant on the spot. So are we going to push a pricing quote on you? No, you probably wouldn't appreciate that. So we are just going to offer a link to one of our popular e-books about inbound marketing best practices.  After you read this e-book you'll be able to diagnose what's wrong with your current marketing plan. Once you put a name to your problem, you'll enter into the next stage of the buyer's journey; the consideration stage.

The Buyer's Journey: Consideration Stage

So you know why buyer personas are important and you understand the awareness stage and how to provide potential customers with the educational information that they need. But what happens next? Once you teach your visitors about their problem how do you go about fixing it and becoming a trusted thought leader?

This is most important during the second stage of the buyer's journey, the consideration stage. At this stage, visitors have now clearly defined their problem or an opportunity that they are looking to take advantage of. Hopefully, you can say that "my prospects defined their problems due to my content," but if not, you still have the chance to capture prospects' trust by teaching them about the solution to their problem. You see, depending on the motivation level of your buyers and the complexity of their problem, they'll start compiling mental lists of their options. Heck, they may even write down lists of options.

 

Consideration stage

Remember, visitors in the consideration stage are still not ready to buy, they are researching their options and are not yet ready for prices or contacts. Take advantage of this opportunity to convince prospects that you know what you are doing and how to solve their problem without being too pushy and give them information that helps them compile their options!

An example: Responsive Inbound Marketing is here to help our customers with their inbound marketing needs. In the awareness stage, potential buyers might ask, "How to I get my website seen more?" But in the consideration stage they have already decided that their problem is that they are not using inbound marketing to generate new business and are therefore asking questions more like "What are the steps of inbound marketing?" and "What are my options for using inbound marketing?" "

So it's our job to freely give away information about how to implement inbound marketing! 

You might be in the consideration stage right now. What are you looking for? A conversation with our sales team or a great eBook about turning site visitors into customers? The eBook, you say? That's what I thought.

When creating content for buyers in the consideration stage, focus on white papers, expert guides, live interactions, and webcasts, podcasts, or videos. Keep in mind that you should be providing information that helps buyers compile their options for solving their problem/ realizing their opportunity. This is where most people go wrong, and start promoting themselves. It's still too soon! 

A note about Consideration stage options: In the consideration stage, folks are not just looking for a list of providers/products. They also need to be educated about their options for strategy and approach. For example, if you haven't eaten all day, you know you are hungry...really hungry! You've put a name to your problem. But now, you have to decide how (strategy/approach) you are going to get some food to feed yourself AND where (what service/company/product)you are going to get it. So if you are hungry you have to decide if you are going to go out to eat vs getting groceries (strategy/approach). Then if you decide to go out to eat, you have to decide which restaurant.

The key here is to get your company on the list of options that your customers are considering AND guide your customer to consider a strategy that would include a service/product that you provide. Content that can narrow down these lists will also be useful.  The more you help them narrow things down, the closer to the final buyer's journey stage they'll get.

The decision stage in the last installment of the buyer's journey.

The Buyer's Journey: Decision Stage

Sick of buyer personas and the buyer's journey yet? Well, we are almost done! We have gone over why personas are important as well as the first and second stages of their journey and the research process before a purchase, but how do you make sure that a buyer chooses your company? I will go over just that in this final section.

It is definitely important to catch prospects in the educational stage of their journey. You want your company to be your prospects' trusted source, and you can establish that trust in the early stages. But when it comes to the decision stage, content is still important. 

You need your website to take the leads you have nourished and turn them into customers! This happens during the decision stage. 

In the decision stage a prospect has defined their problem, decided on a strategy, has a list of available vendors and products to implement that solution.

Now they are comparing the different options to make their final decision.

Decision stage in the buyer journey

 

By supplying prospects with vendor and product comparisons, case studies, trial downloads, product literature, and even live demos, you can bring prospects making a decision to your site by giving them the information that they are looking for. 

This is the only stage where you get to talk about how much better your company/ service/ product is than everybody else's.

But you still can be promotional! Huh? No, you have to be providing information only. If you can do something better than your competitor, say it with a VS blog post. If your product is easy to use, show it with a case study or pre-recorded demo. Get detailed by showing use cases that your current customers have been benefiting from.

Your goal in this stage is to give your prospects enough information to buy online, or to reach out to your sales team with specific questions about the product or what plan to use.  

At the end of the Decision stage, your customers should decide that you are the right service/tool/product to solve the problem/ get the opportunity that they were experiencing pain/longing from in the awareness stage at the beginning of the customer journey.

It's a lot to keep track of for an in-house marketing team with less than 6 team members. That's why we think outsourcing some or all of your inbound marketing is very important.

Download some consideration stage content to help you decide if hiring an agency is a good option to fill some gaps in your marketing.Click below to download: 

What to consider when choosing an inbound marketing agency

Topics: Inbound Marketing Strategy

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