The Marketer’s Challenge
In the simplest of terms, marketing’s role is to increase awareness, consideration, and preference for an organization’s solutions among a market of prospective buyers. The end goal of course, is to enable sales and win more business.
While the objective is clear, challenges abound for marketers trying to develop a real connection with prospective buyers, particularly for high consideration products and services where:
- The buyer has to live with the decision for a period of time and switching costs are high
- It is often a purchase decision the buyer has never made before or does infrequently
- Buyers weigh multiple options and often struggle to make apples-to-apples comparisons
- There is concern, if not fear, about making the wrong decision
- There are several “moments of truth” in the decision including who buyers consider initially
There is a lot at stake for these buyers. Insight into these concerns is the starting point for marketers of high consideration solutions. And, unlike sales professionals, marketers don’t have the face-to-face interactions that help them to understand a prospective buyer’s attitudes, needs, and concerns at a deep enough level to develop effective marketing strategies and content. The result is often buyer hypotheses based on a combination of sales anecdotes and secondary research rather than any real insight from actual buyers of your solutions.
Flip the Marketing Challenge into an Opportunity Using Buyer Personas
What is a buyer persona? Built from interviews with recent buyers, a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves. Much more than a one-dimensional profile of the PEOPLE you need to influence, actionable buyer personas reveal insights about your BUYERS’ DECISIONS — the Priority Initiatives (triggers), Success Factors (desired outcomes), Purchase Barriers, Decision Criteria and Buyers Journey that drive prospective customers to choose you, your competitor, or the status quo.
If you are ready to commit to an informed and targeted approach to marketing, there is a pragmatic path forward enabled by buyer insights:
First, demonstrate early on that you REALLY understand prospective buyers in the context of the purchase decision they are making, including what the buyer needs to get out of their investment and concerns that they have. At the moment when buyers decide to look at their options, a precious opportunity awaits you. But only if you can deliver content that resonates so deeply with the buyer that they have the confidence to put your brand on their list of potential providers.
Unscripted interviews with people who have recently evaluated a solution like yours will tell you which pains cause your buyers to seek change — to stop everything and pay attention now. Within a buyer persona, we call these Priority Initiatives (or triggers) and understanding these is the first step towards developing the right content and approach to reach buyers as they begin their journey.
Second, reframe the prospective buyer’s situation in a new way that helps them see that their problems are not only solvable but will lead to a better place once remedied. This provides the buyer with tangible evidence that something better IS out there and that you, as the “trusted advisor”, can help them get there.
Within a buyer persona, Success Factors are the inverse of the pain points your buyers feel, explaining what they want to achieve once they purchase a solution like yours. Leveraging Priority Initiatives (triggers) and Success Factors (desired benefits), develop thought leadership that communicates with buyers with such amazing clarity that buyers say, “I hadn’t seen my situation that way, but now that I do, I realize that there is a clear path to success and must make this a priority.”
Through verbatim quotes from buyers, you will also know how to describe the Success Factors that matter to your buyers. Instead of copying your competitor’s message that the solution is “lightweight and easy to use,” you will know how buyers evaluate this attribute and why it is important. Your buyer interviews will tell you everything you need to know about how to make your benefits so specific that they educate and resonate with your buyers.
Third, credibly address ALL the purchase barriers and decision criteria that prospective buyers have. Within your buyer persona, Purchase Barriers are those things that prevent a prospective buyer from choosing your solution or deciding not to invest in anything at all. Decision Criteria are the key questions that buyers need satisfactory answers to if they are going to choose you. Proactively and convincingly addressing these components of the decision process is a crucial step in earning a buyer’s trust and their business.
Leveraging your buyer persona, use Purchase Barriers and Decision Criteria to focus messaging on your solution’s capabilities that best address a prospective buyer’s top concerns and questions. By doing so, you will begin to separate yourself from other providers who rely on scatter shot, featured-based messaging that is unfocused and undifferentiated.
Finally, connect with buyers at all phases in their purchase journey. Develop strategies, content and experiences that provide prospective buyers with everything they need at all the pivotal moments in their journey. This will ensure you continuously make the cut as buyers ween down their options.
Within your buyer persona, Buyer’s Journey insights, if developed from interviews with recent buyers, will reveal all the purchase steps taken, decision influencers involved, and resources used and trusted that will directly inform your strategy.
“Work smarter, not harder” – Allen F. Morgenstern
As marketing professionals, we need to listen to Mr. Morgenstern’s advice. Rather than continuously turning out new marketing campaigns, reams of content for every conceivable occasion, and feature-heavy messaging, let’s all take a collective breath and focus on what’s truly important to the buyer. Everything else is white noise that will quickly fade into the abyss.
The first step is putting yourself in your buyer’s shoes. The only way to do that is to talk to them, listen, probe for clarity, and listen some more. Only then will you understand “their story”, as it happened, including all the steps they took in their purchase journey and why they made the decisions they did along the way. With these insights, you will be able to confidently focus your attention on marketing activities and content that has a real chance to improve sales performance. Deprioritize or even eliminate the rest.
If you want to know how to conduct interviews with your buyers, attend our online Buyer Persona Masterclass or contact us, we would be happy to interview buyers and reveal everything you need to know about their buying decisions.