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How digital intelligence can revolutionise your buyer personas

What does digital intelligence mean to you? How can you use it in your marketing campaigns and feed it into your wider business strategy? A famously grey area, digital intelligence can mean different things and comprises of many different data sources, to build a full picture of your audience, your customer, or your ideal consumer.

We decided to wrap up our inspiring three-day Buyer Persona summit by bringing together a panel of digital marketing experts and consultants including Rand Fishkin (SparkToro), Lea Queroub (Similarweb), Michael Brito (Zeno Group), Fernando Angulo (Semrush), Natalie Furness (Niam Marketing) and our very own Carlos Serra, to discuss how digital intelligence informs buyer personas, chaired by Adrienne Barnes (Best Buyer Persona).

In this hour-long panel session, we asked what digital intelligence means to them, how people can apply digital intelligence findings to their buyer personas and evaluated the potential strengths and weaknesses. Here are the top tips for getting the most out of digital intelligence to build better buyer personas!

Get your data up to scratch

To create truly valuable buyer personas, you must start with valuable data. This can be a challenge for marketers looking to glean fast insights with a limited amount of time, resource, and budget. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to get under the skin of what we can learn from the interactions that people are having with their online interfaces,” said Lea.

One of the most useful things any marketer can do is check, check, and check their data again. “A vetting process will help ensure that the data is as accurate as it could be,” Michael said. “I don’t put my trust in a platform and just click export.” Michael’s point of view with particularly interesting for the panellists, who agreed that while accurate data is critical, very few marketers have the time or the skills to critique the data available to them.

However, Rand supported the importance of data validity. “If you can’t statistically validate it you can’t see an ROI” said Rand. “Marketers trust us, so I think the obligation rests on us, the data collectors, to validate it.” The takeaway? Marketers need to be prepared to query the validity of the data they’re feeding into the buyer personas by cross-referencing data sourcest the same time, digital platforms should be focused on providing the most accurate data possible to build trust among their users.

Understand how data supports your goals

It may sound simple, but a critical component of actionable digital intelligence is understanding your end goal. “Digital intelligence is only intelligent when it provides you with that leap”, said Natalie. “You can have all of these data sources, but until you’ve done your analysis and really understood it, what is the data actually telling you?”

Rand also emphasised the importance of and collecting data purposefully, instead of taking a “let’s get the data, what are we going to do with it?” approach. Building buyer personas is a process that is intended to align every element of the business, by putting a structure in place for data collection, marketers are better equipped to increase revenues.

Likewise, Lea added that marketers need to ask themselves what do they want to do with the data and what are they trying to understand? “There are different types of data that sit behind what digital intelligence is,” she told us. Developing buyer personas involves getting to the root of your customer needs and motivations, which means the data you’re collecting has to support your goals - whether that’s acquiring more customers, keeping the ones you already have, or optimising the customer journey.

Perfect your methodology

Time constraints and budget constraints can make it difficult for marketers to truly understand their data, which is why a tried-and-tested methodology needs to be established to help them quickly process and distil valuable insight. Carlos suggested making digital intelligence smarter by democratising the data, which is “how people can collect data from different sources and put them together in a methodology that they understand”.

Natalie raised an interesting point around breaking down silos to process data better and understand what is useful for the wider business, citing an example of working with multiple teams. Having conversations can perfect methodology by identifying the key metric. “Actually when you sit down with teams and understand [which customers] are providing the best lifetime value, you realise maybe we should actually be going all the way to customer success and working backgrounds, before we decide who we should be building customer personas around,” she said.

A vital point was also raised in building personas and how too much data can overwhelm the process. “You need to make them specific enough so that everybody finds what they’re going to be able to leverage most,” agreed Lea. “That’s where the challenge comes in, you want to build something holistic, but you don’t want to exclude people either.” The more sophisticated you try to make your personas, the less actionable they potentially become.

Apply learnings across the business

Fernando encouraged marketers to think outside of the box when it comes to how buyer personas, and the data that feeds into them, is shared across the wider business. “Digital intelligence can help you build a better product as well” said Fernando, who emphasised the value of digital intelligence beyond persona building. “You’re already generating the insight inside of your teams.”

All the data you are collecting feeds into the knowledge of your customer, sharing that knowledge more widely can help you build better across the business. “Digital intelligence is how you structure data across different silos and repurpose it,” agreed Carlos. Thinking about the different types of data being collected, from social media activity to qualitative interviews and product surveys, can empower you to build buyer personas with real depth, beyond the “Beefy Bob” and “Silly Susan” archetypical representations that Rand shared.

Perhaps most importantly for marketers is how to unify metrics and apply learnings across the business. Our panel agreed that education at every level, regardless of whether an employee works in marketing or not, is critical. “You should all have a baseline understanding of what certain things mean,” said Michael. “Your definition of view rate may not be my definition.” Establishing data literacy and clearly communicating how results are measured and data is processed is key.

The Audiense Buyer Persona Summit, created in partnership with Adrienne Barnes, was full of actionable insights, fireside chats with experts, and opportunities to tap into the experience and know-how of professionals across a range of industries.

Access all the content from the summit here.