B2B marketers are busy people. Juggling all of the day-to-day tasks with the long-term projects is a challenge we face every day. For me, checking something off my list is very satisfying. It feels good to call a project complete.
However, not all marketing projects have a true beginning and a true end. In fact, many are ongoing and need to be addressed on regular intervals. With all of the metrics that are now available, it’s safe to say, most projects are never really COMPLETE.
One of the key components to developing an effective inbound marketing strategy is establishing and clearly defining your buyer personas. It’s also one of the easiest projects to mark complete and set aside.
Buyer personas are considered in every thing we do. What blog topics we write about, what premium content we create, the social media platforms we use, the events we attend, where we post guest content – this list goes on and on.
Imagine this – as you start on your inbound marketing journey, you spend significant time creating buyer personas. Once they are complete, they are shared throughout your organization…and that’s it…done. Check it off the list and move on to the next phase.
Before you know it, 12 months have passed. Your business has added new products or services. The economy has slowed. New regulations are being enforced in your industry. But your defined and documented buyer personas - that are influencing everything you do as a marketer - are still the same. Still sitting in a binder on your shelf or tucked in the buyer personas folder on your network.
It’s a safe bet that your personas, like your business, industry and market conditions, have also changed. What was important to them 12 months ago, may not even matter to them now. If the content you’re creating is still targeting the original personas, it probably isn’t very effective.
So how do you approach keeping your buyer personas fresh and relevant? It’s important and deserves your ongoing attention. This isn’t something you can simply check off the list.
Here are five things you can do to make sure you’re always in tune with your personas.
1. Conduct primary research
The best source of information about your customers and prospects is your customers and prospects. As part of your initial buyer persona exercise, you may have interviewed select individuals. If they were open to talking with you in the past, they probably will do it again. In person or phone interviews may be challenging to schedule but will provide the best information.
If personal interviews can’t be done, conducting an email survey with a select group can also yield beneficial results.
In either case, repeat the questions you initially asked to see if their opinions or mindsets have changed. Additionally, add questions that relate to new products/services or changes in the industry. The goal is to truly understand their pain points and challenges and how you can help them address those issues.
2. Create a team
There are many sources of knowledge about your customers and prospects throughout your organization. The marketing and sales teams, of course, have knowledge but what about customer service reps, sales development reps and your technical support teams? To keep your personas fresh, create a team of individuals that interact with customers and prospects on a regular, if not daily, basis. Encourage the team members to keep notes about issues and questions that come up on a regular basis. Ask them to pay particular attention to the problems, objections and concerns they hear about during their interactions.
3. Schedule updates
Once your persona team has been created, schedule regular meetings to review and update your personas. If you’re in an industry that is changing rapidly or if your organization is growing and changing rapidly, meet monthly. If you things aren’t changing as fast, schedule your meetings quarterly.
Review each of your primary personas from beginning to end. Ask yourselves the same questions you did when the personas were initially established. Based on what you learn, modify your persona documents if necessary. And then share – share with everyone who interacts with customers and prospects or influences them in some way. Review your editorial calendar and make the appropriate adjustments.
4. Use your data
Marketing automation and CRM platforms contain a lot of information about customers and prospects. When evaluating your personas, use this data. You’re probably already tracking what content is getting the most views, downloads, etc. This will help you determine popular topics, what formats work best and how your personas consume information. Use that data to confirm or disprove what you believe about your personas and adjust appropriately.
As part of your social media strategy, listen to what your target audience is saying…or not saying. Identify and be an active participant in LinkedIn groups or Twitter chats where your buyer personas are also active. Pay attention to what they’re talking about. You may uncover something you didn’t realize was important or find out that they really don’t care about the topics where you’ve been focusing.
Bonus tip: In our Buyer Personas Workbook, we encourage people to create a narrative about their personas and add a photo. The photo will help you remember that they are real people – growing and changing all of the time. Keep them out where you can see them. It will be harder to forget they are alive.
Buyer personas are critically important to your inbound marketing efforts. They are not something that can be checked off the list. Pay attention to them and the result will be positive.