How Buyer Personas Can Make Your Marketing Automation Smarter

by Contributor on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 in Targeting & Segmentation

Editor's Note: Today's blog post comes courtesy of Tony Zambito, the creator and today’s leading authority on buyer personas. In 2002, Tony established the first-ever buyer persona development methodology designed specifically for B2B Marketing and Sales. Over the past dozen years, Tony has conducted hundreds of buyer interviews and has helped some of today’s leading Fortune 100 companies acquire deep buyer insights.  Providing him with a pulse on rapidly changing buying behaviors in the new digital age.

As marketing automation matures, focus is turning towards how to be smarter in reaping the benefits.  Getting smarter leads to a better return on your efforts as well as investment.  Effort and smarts are needed in spades when focusing on making marketing automation more effective.  One worthwhile effort to help make your marketing automation smarter is the use of buyer personas.

What Are Buyer Personas?

While the term “buyer persona” has been out in the marketing world for some time, there is much confusion on how to exactly define and use buyer personas.  Let us start with the original definition established more than a decade ago:

Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, where they buy, when buyers decide to buy, and why they make buying decisions. 

The purpose of buyer personas is to give us a deeper understanding, as well as model the buying behaviors, of our buyers and customers.  It takes a level of research to model what we call an archetype of your buyers.  As you can see, the definition goes beyond factual-based segmentation to hone in on behavior.  Why is this important – especially for marketing automation?

Interaction Smarts

What marketing automation allows us to do is foster interaction with buyers and customers.  Thus, buyer personas, in terms of why they are important, give us the insight into how to foster interaction.  And, what is needed today is interaction smarts to get better results.  Let us look at how buyer personas can help provide interaction smarts:


  • Align with buying: turn your interaction from a cold encounter to a warm encounter by relating to the buying dynamics of your buyers and customers.  Buying dynamics, in essence, relate to understanding how buying takes place.  What are their buying cycles and what is their critical buying path-to-purchase?  If you are out of synch here, so will be your interactions.

  • Digital behavior: marketing automation helps us to capture interaction.  Buyer personas help us to be smarter at interpreting the digital behavior of our buyers and customers.  When researching buyer personas, one element we look for is digital behavior and body language.  We can gain clues on the what, how, and when of digital behavior and interaction.

  • Language and terminology: when buyers and customers interact, they want to know if you relate.  As you know, it is hard to relate to someone if you do not know or speak his or her language.  This is a place where buyer personas can be extremely helpful.  They help us to speak to buyers and customers in their language.

  • Topics: when it comes to content development, randomness can be a real downside.  Are you forcing buyers to sort through random topics to find something relevant to them?  Are you trying to be all things to all people?  Gaining insight through the research and creation of buyer personas makes you smarter about topic themes and topic generation.  So, when buyers interact with you, it is about what they care about.

  • Campaign: campaign creation can go from hit or miss to a purposeful effort.  Providing the right content, to the right buyer, and at the right time.  Campaign smarts avoids wasted effort and wasted dollars.


What buyer personas and marketing automation share in common is the concept of modeling.  This is why there can be a hand and glove fit.  When we model who buyers are and their buying behaviors, we can get smarter at modeling the interactions buyers desire via marketing automation.   When you get these aligned with the right buyer personas, you look a whole lot smarter.

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