Marketing personas, buyer personas, audience personas. It doesn’t matter what you call them, developing a clear understanding of your customer and what matters most to them remains a key component in any successful marketing strategy.
In modern marketing a valuable persona is built on data, not assumptions. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 73% of B2B marketers were planning to use buyer personas in 2020. But how many of these marketers also planned to keep their personas up to date?
Michael Brito, Global Head of Analytics at Zeno Group, delivered an eye-opening session of persona marketing and the impact it has on brand relevance. Jam-packed with insight and expertise, we’ve highlighted three main takeaways from the session, let’s dig in!
Building buyer personas of yore involved putting multiple stakeholders in a room and throwing ideas around about who they think they’re selling to. “It's all based on intuition and or desire, who did they desire their audiences to be?,” said Michael. “It very rarely ever includes data on who the audience actually is.” If you want to create campaigns that are relevant, you need to dig into the data, and it’s no longer just about demographics.
Think about the other parameters that are relevant to your audience and what they care about most. Michael suggests thinking about triggers such as are they in the market for a smartwatch? Are they trying to buy a new home? Are they in the market for new software? Data can help you understand your customer’s brand affinities, the topics at the front of their mind, and point you in the direction of the best channels to reach them.
Building personas based around supply and demand will tell a story that can make your brand more relevant to your customers. “If you understand what those stories are, what those key words and phrases are, you can start to adapt what you have control over,” Michael revealed. “Like social content [and] owned content, you can adapt that that your go-to market strategy, so that you can meet the demand of the audience.”
Buyer journeys are complex. The path from awareness to conversion is never liner, and there are many stops along the way. While we can gather data on how particular audiences may engage and the channels they’re using to engage and consumer - i.e., YouTube, Google, Reddit, Twitter - every customer journey will vary slightly.
When building personas, you need to factor in these multiple touchpoints to remain relevant. Successfully doing this involves mapping out those key engagement drivers. “We put together what a buyer journey might look like… to visually show how an audience would engage and how you would reach them with repetitive and consistent storytelling,” explained Michael. Data can give you a stronger sense of which touchpoints will have the most impact, which in turn will allow you to be more strategic with your marketing spend.
“One thing that I found is that not all just because a particular audience group follows a media publication doesn't necessarily mean that they read it or share it,” Michael emphasised. This opens the door to greater analysis of specific touchpoint performance. “Part of the analysis include the URLs that are being shared by the audience. We can extract any articles, any keywords, so you can start to correlate affinity-based data versus share-based data or conversational-based data and start to see how in many cases they're aligned.”
Audience personas should be a living, breathing work in progress, not a static document you glance at once every few years. According to a report by Cintell, 47% of companies who exceed revenue goals report themselves to be consistently effective at maintaining personas. Over the last 12 months, marketers have been more responsive to the changing needs of their audiences because of the pandemic, but it doesn’t just take a major global event to change behaviour.
“I would suggest to clients that six months at a minimum, you should go back and redo a persona analysis,” Michael advised. But what does this mean in a practical sense? For many companies, personas are based off primary research studies that are produced every few years. These provide a solid foundation but should be supplemented with other forms of real-time data, collected from a variety of consumer channels.
“You can use social analytics and other kind of forms of audience data to start to give a more detailed view and perspective of who your audience is,” said Michael. “70% of any analytics project should be human curated, so you'll get those insights by having your team really dig into the data.” Building in time to review and adapt your personas on a regular basis will ensure your brand and its offering remains relevant to your ideal audience.
Michael’s session on Persona Marketing: The Key to Brand Relevance is available now as part of this year’s TMRE event. You can watch it in full here: