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Bulldog Buyer Persona

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Excellent step by step process for audience segmentation

Excellent step by step process for audience segmentation


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  • 1. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas By Ahmed Taleb, Director of Strategic Planning, Bulldog Solutions www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008 © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • 2. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas Executive Overview BtoB marketers are under increasing pressure to provide accountability for their marketing spend. To that end, audience focus is more important than it has ever been. While there are many audience targeting methodologies, creating buyer personas is one of the most common. Personas have received a lot of press recently—both favorable and critical—but until now, their use has been much more prevalent in BtoC organizations. Recently, BtoB marketers have begun to embrace personas, and in that arena, there has been much consternation over the level of effort required to build them and the anticipated return to the organization. Bulldog Solutions’ approach to creating buyer personas can help simplify the process and provide more directly actionable insights to help bridge the gap between buying behavior and successful sales engagements. In this first of a four-part series on strategic planning, I will walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to uncover the key attributes of your most valuable customers—and then how to create buyer personas to help focus your marketing efforts on finding more of them. www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008 2 © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • 3. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas Table of Contents Executive Overview ............................................................................................................................................................. 2 Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas ...................................................................  What Buyer Personas Are Not: A Definition ....................................................................................................................... 4 First Step: Build Acceptance by Choosing the Right Team ............................................................................................... 4 Words to the Wise Before You Begin ................................................................................................................................. 5 Getting Started .................................................................................................................................................................... 5 Who Are Your Future Customers? ...................................................................................................................................... 5 What Makes Your Prospects Tick? ..................................................................................................................................... 6 Follow Your Prospects’ Eyes and Ears ............................................................................................................................... 9 Building an ‘Always-On’ Engine: Lead Scores ................................................................................................................... 9 Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas Strategic planning is the process by which an organization envisions its future and develops strategies, goals, objectives and action plans to achieve that future. This planning process includes four key steps: 1. Identify your audience 2. Develop an effective message . Choose relevant channels for promotion 4. Plan for future lead conversion Creating an effective and actionable audience segmentation strategy can be a daunting task for many BtoB organizations; however, if they approach this strategy with the right organizational expectations and a systematic process, they will be well on their way to creating a blueprint for internal planning of lead optimization and nurturing programs. Much has been written about the use of personas to guide the creative design process. In recent years, BtoB marketers have begun adopting the practice of using personas to identify key customer segments and to drive marketing communication strategies to better engage those segments. Despite these early successes, creating buyer personas has not been the panacea BtoB marketers had hoped for. While buyer personas can be a unique and valuable tool for defining audience, adoption has not been as rapid as anticipated. One key reason for this is beginning to emerge—buyer personas need to be crafted, evolved and deployed at the core of a holistic marketing strategy. They need to be firmly entrenched in the business from the start. Attempts at building and deploying these tools in isolation can lead to lackluster results. www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008  © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • 4. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas What Buyer Personas Are Not: A Definition There are many preconceived notions of what buyer personas are and what they’re used for in BtoB marketing. The use of the term “persona” most often refers to design personas. In their simplest form, design personas are tools that capture behavioral attributes of a unique population using inferential means, such as demographic analysis, behavioral studies and direct observation. They are used primarily to help drive design and marketing activities and align offerings around a set of beliefs about user goals and behaviors. Design personas often ring false in the BtoB marketing world. First, design personas differ from formal customer segmentation models in that they’re typically created using a combination of anecdotal evidence and observation. While they’re strong tools to help shape product offerings or to craft an effective user experience, they lack the required insight into BtoB purchase behavior to be truly effective, particularly where complex product offerings and multi-stakeholder decision models are involved. Typically, design personas will also focus on use cases, often including scenario-based content to help provide context into how users interact with a product or service offering. Buyer personas differ in that they focus less, if at all, on scenarios and more on identifying buyers’ pain points and their common points of resistance to the sales process. Inherently, buyer personas focus on more pragmatic goals; that is, they focus attention on the purchase process and help BtoB marketers zero in on the key profile and behavioral attributes that are crucial to sales success. First Step: Build Acceptance by Choosing the Right Team Creating a working set of buyer personas is an iterative practice that requires a measure of organizational alignment to ensure that the initiative is positioned for success. Building corporate acceptance typically begins with the endorsement of a senior corporate champion, who will help strengthen the mandate that future marketing activities adhere to the direction laid out by the exercise. To that end, make sure you have a strong project team assigned to the initiative. The core team will typically include members of the field marketing team, and within that team, a champion and program owner to ensure that the effort will be given enough priority and focus within the organization to be successful. Buyer personas have an additional (and often, unintentional) benefit of helping to bridge the Sales/Marketing gap. By actively involving Sales in defining specific attributes of their target prospects, the profile of an “ideal sales-qualified lead” is intrinsically woven into the fabric of the buyer personas. This participation creates a much deeper Sales acceptance and accountability for future prospecting, as delivered leads begin to align more closely with stated targets. You should also solicit Sales feedback towards the end of the exercise to identify and document the most common sales objections that are overcome during the sales process. But for the remainder of the exercise, the core field marketing team members will be the key architects of the program. www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008 4 © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • 5. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas Words to the Wise Before You Begin Often, the biggest challenge marketers face when building actionable buyer personas is deciding how many. A useful guideline is to create only as many discrete and mutually exclusive personas as is necessary to support targeted marketing that drives sales follow-up. As the number of personas increases, there is also an incremental increase in marketing investment, as well as a diminishing return on that investment as each target contains fewer and fewer suspects. Most persona development exercises will generate between three and six personas in an actionable set of marketing tools. When building personas, it can be tempting to place too much emphasis on target companies. While this is important information to integrate, remember that deals begin with conversations between people, not corporate entities. If a buyer persona is too focused on the company, it may become less effective in inspiring engaging, targeted messaging. The BtoB audience is constantly changing. For this very reason, building buyer personas is an iterative process. Organizations can often make the false assumption that they have “finished” their audience definition process once they have created a defined set of buyer personas. On the contrary, buyer personas are only the starting point of an evolutionary process. They should be thought of as a hypothesis; that is, only after marketing results are collected can personas be fully validated, or, on the other hand, revised and improved. Getting Started The core of the buyer persona is the segment profile. Segment profiles are sets of descriptive and measurable data points that you can capture explicitly via a registration process or through other qualification methods. Data points such as job title, company size and vertical make up the key segment identifiers. The registration page is the “front door” for your program. Please bear in mind that there is a direct relationship between the number of questions you ask on your registration form and the rate of abandonment. Once your team determines the key segment identifiers, the next step is to articulate a unique value proposition that captures the most fundamental needs of the segment in a single statement. Who Are Your Future Customers? The objective of the segment ID exercise mentioned above is to find the common attributes that define the key buyer types in your target market. There are, of course, many types of buyers, but a sound (and simple) approach is to start with the following categories: Economic, Technical, Executive, and Key Influencers. Beyond these, add complexity to this model only if absolutely necessary. A simpler model with broader segments will allow your marketing team to build and deploy the tool quickly, and then refine based on real sales results. www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008 5 © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • 6. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas A natural starting point is to define the attributes of companies in your key clients list. This is a comfortable extension of the sales process and will often drive deep insight into how many unique sales propositions your company undertakes. A strong company profile mining exercise also helps identify common attributes across clients that begin to help define differences between segments. Examples of these attributes are company vertical, size, distribution and geography, as well as specific identifiers that are leading indicators of sales success. From this starting point, you can then shift your focus towards identifying the key people at each of these companies that are typically involved in the sales process. To effectively aggregate the many roles across organizations, you’ll need to define title, role (if not directly discernible from title), and traditional “Budget Authority Need Timeline (BANT)” criteria. These criteria provide the core framework in which you can define and populate your basic Economic, Executive, Technical and Influencer buyer types. What Makes Your Prospects Tick? The next step is to define and document the specific behavioral attributes that can impact decision making in your newly defined target personas. Defining behavioral traits can be difficult without drawing some broad conclusions about the individuals that make up your target prospects; however, you will use these behavioral cues primarily to trigger interest in a marketing message and to inspire relevant offer positioning. There are many possible behavioral traits you can target to help inspire action in your prospects. For the sake of simplicity and efficacy, I advise focusing on the three most powerful types of behavior: Avoidance (Pain Points), Attraction (Motivators) and Validation (third-party consultation). Pain points are simply the set of stimuli that cause a prospect to react with a set of actions that minimize or eliminate negative outcomes. These are the things that most trouble a prospect and can be the most powerful motivating force behind rational decision making. Motivators, on the other hand, are the set of stimuli that operate in exactly the opposite way—they inspire action to encourage or repeat a positive outcome. And finally, Validation can be used to better understand the prospect’s decision-making process. For example, if an economic buyer routinely consults with third-party research and industry experts before finalizing a purchase decision, a shrewd marketer will court these entities and integrate them into the overall marketing message. www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008 6 © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • 7. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas The Buying Zone Profile attributes are the explicit measures that are captured through registration. Profile alone will help determine some of the ‘BANT’ criteria for a particular prospect. Behavior measures are implicit variables that help determine Need and Timing, ultimately highlighting prospects that are sales-ready. www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008  © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • 8. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas Follow Your Prospects’ Eyes and Ears Once you have a strong understanding of your buyer personas’ profiles and behavioral hot buttons, you can then turn your attention to understanding their media consumption habits. In order to get a targeted, relevant and effective message in front of prospects, marketers should make some decisions about which media vehicles are most likely to reach their targets. However, the story does not end there. With the rate of convergence of digital media and the growing popularity of handheld digital devices, the ability for prospects to consume media in a portable, digital and/or time-shifted format is rapidly increasing. For these reasons, it’s important to identify the specific environment in which your prospects work in order to position your message more effectively. This exercise also allows marketers to better understand their cross-promotion landscape. In other words, you can use this information in order to integrate a targeted message across complementary channels or syndicate a message across vehicles that are more conducive to time-shifted consumption. Building an ‘Always-On’ Engine: Lead Scores Building a quantitative lead scoring framework to prescreen prospects for desirable attributes is a luxury for most organizations. One of the benefits of building a buyer persona-driven marketing function is the ease with which you can apply quantitative measures to support an always-on engine to identify prospects who meet your buyer criteria. At the core of this always-on engine is a lead score, a number that tells how well a particular prospect matches a given set of attributes. But one can rarely have a lead score without compelling content; prospects will rarely offer up their personal information without a valuable incentive. Simply put, the value of an organization’s thought leadership content can be measured by the extent to which prospects are willing to give their personal information in order to access it. With a quantitative lead scoring system in place, based on a defined set of buyer personas, you can evaluate your prospects in real time with each submitted registration form. Prospects that match your persona attributes most closely surface automatically. www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008 8 © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.
  • 9. Bulldog Solutions Defining Your Audience: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas Below is an example of a buyer persona which shows the results of the systematic process I have outlined above: Creating and driving a buyer persona initiative can be a daunting task considering the amount of coordinated effort required to build consensus across the silos of a typical organization. However, as I’ve outlined in this paper, the process doesn’t have to be complicated: 1. Plan to build support from within the leadership ranks before embarking on a mission to redefine marketing and sales targets. 2. Give the initiative every opportunity to succeed by staffing a team and defining key roles for building and executing the program. . Prepare your downstream stakeholders that the first iterations of the program are the starting point for an evolutionary process, and then involve them in gathering feedback to drive improvements. 4. Approach the entire program as a hypothesis-testing exercise—start with an educated framework for identifying your best suspects and refine the approach based on actual data. Ahmed Taleb is Director of Strategic Planning at Bulldog Solutions, the lead-generation optimization and management company. Visit http://www.bulldogsolutions.com to learn more. www.bulldogsolutions.com Audience_Segment 10/24/2008 9 © 2008 Bulldog Solutions, Inc.