You know you want to generate more sales leads from your website. What you may not know is the most efficient and effective way to do so.
It starts with buyer personas. You need to define the kind of leads you want to get.
In this blog post, I want to walk you through a seven-step process for using buyer personas to generate more leads from your website:
- Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the purpose and value of buyer personas.
- Step 2: Arm yourself with some great examples and templates.
- Step 3: Create a rough draft of the buyer persona.
- Step 4: Get out of the building and talk to some buyers!
- Step 5: Adjust your buyer persona based on what you learned from talking to the buyers.
- Step 6: Create at least one content offer designed for your buyer persona and put it behind a form.
- Step 7: Start blogging to members of your buyer persona group.
What thought process do your customers go through when they are deciding whether to buy your product or service? (Photo of The Thinker by AndrewHorne – public domain; from the Wikimedia Commons)
Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the purpose and value of buyer personas.
If your business sells products or services primarily to other businesses, you often deal with long sales cycles. You are selling things which are either complex or expensive (probably both). Before deciding to buy from you, your buyers engage in a multi-step process of active research, sometimes called “the buyer’s journey.”
Buyer personas are a tool you can use to guide the content strategy of your website. Perhaps you are thinking to yourself: “My website doesn’t have a content strategy — I don’t even know what that is!” Well, if you have a website, you have a content strategy. It may be a bad content strategy and/or an unarticulated content strategy. But if you are in business and you have a website, you have already made some decisions about your content strategy by default.
Same with buyer personas. Knowing your buyers is fundamental to entrepreneurship and business. If you’re in sales, this comes to you almost instinctively. Even if you don’t have a buyer persona written down, I’m sure you still have an idea of who you want to sell your products and services to. Everyone in business has buyer personas in mind as they create their products or package their services. The question is not whether you are using buyer personas. The question is whether your buyer personas are accurate and well-articulated.
You with me so far? The purpose of creating a a buyer persona is to crystallize what you know about your buyers (who they are, what they want, how they make decisions, and why they do what they do). The value of creating a buyer persona comes from the process you must go through to learn more about your buyers in a disciplined way.
Here’s how some of the experts define “buyer persona”:
- “A buyer persona is when you slice your marketplace into individual groups of people.” (David Meerman Scott).
- “A buyer persona is an example of the real person who buys, or might buy, products like the ones you market, based on what you’ve learned from direct interviews with real buyers.” (Adelle Revella, founder of the Buyer Persona Institute).
- “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, and why they make buying decisions.” (Tony Zambito).
Step 2: Arm yourself with some great examples and templates.
Learning about your buyers is about asking the right questions about them, and asking them the right questions. Creating a buyer persona is simply the process of researching your buyers and documenting what you’re learning about them.
Thankfully, there are oodles of great examples of buyer personas. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can have a lot of fun creating buyer personas.
Buyer Persona Examples
What does a finished buyer persona look like? There are as many examples are there are marketers.
Here are three examples:
- Many marketers create a colorful one-page “character” representing the buyer persona.
- Some put their buyer personas on whiteboards.
- And if you’re really serious, you can create a multi-page profile on each buyer persona.
Buyer Persona Templates
Here are three different buyer persona templates to get you started:
- Buyer Persona Template (Buyer Persona Institute)
- Marketer’s Guide to Creating Buyer Personas (HubSpot)
- Buyer Persona Canvas (Tony Zambito)
Step 3: Create a rough draft of the buyer persona.
Remember that I am assuming that lead generation is one of the primary metrics by which you will measure the success of your buyer persona research process. I am also assuming that as a business person, you don’t have the time or the desire to sit around in your cubicle or a conference room coming up with a buyer persona.
To make buyer personas work for your business, you need to subscribe to a couple of fundamental tenets:
- Iterate, iterate, iterate. It might take several hours and several working sessions to complete a buyer persona. If you’re a perfectionist, you’re going to be tempted to come up with the perfect buyer persona the first time. Forget it. That’s not gonna happen.
- Get out of the building! You need to talk to actual buyers. Don’t try to make this stuff up out of your own head. See Step 4 below.
But before you move to Step 4, pick one of the templates I listed above, and create a “rough draft” buyer persona. By the way, a good rule of thumb is that your business probably sells to at least three to five distinct buyer personas.
For example, here is a rough draft buyer persona I created a couple of weeks ago as I thought about the inbound marketing services side of our business:
Eddie Executive is a top business executive (CEO, president, vice-president) of a private company with at least $500K in sales revenue and at least 5 to 7 employees. His job performance is measured by his ability to maximize the long-term sales revenue and profit margin of the company. His company has a national or international market and primarily provides products and services for other businesses. Chances are good that Eddie’s company is in one of the following industries: industrial supplies, professional services, tech security, software, network equipment, shipping, or printing.
Eddie’s typical day is full of meetings, phone calls, and emails as he builds his network, directs the strategy of his company, sets goals, manages his team, and monitors progress toward those goals. Eddie is a persuasive communicator, a decisive servant-leader, and possesses top-notch time management, problem solving, and decision making skills.
I guarantee you that this buyer persona is going to get a lot better and a lot more useful to me over time. But I had to start somewhere. And so do you.
Step 4: Get out of the building and talk to some buyers!
“Get out of the building” is a phrase you hear a lot from Stanford entrepreneurship professor and start-up guru Steve Blank. When he teaches his entrepreneurship class at Stanford, he requires his students to get out of the building and conduct extensive “customer discovery.” Essentially he is asking them to construct buyer personas by talking to real buyers. He is teaching them to build their business around their buyers.
As an owner or manager of an established business, “getting out of the building” can take many forms. It may mean talking to existing customers, giving them a phone call, taking them out for coffee, or sending them an email. If you’re trying to introduce new products and services, it may mean meeting some new people in circles you don’t normally frequent.
Here’s an example:
As I created the example of the Eddie Executive buyer persona above, it soon became painfully obvious that I was grasping at straws because I don’t know many “Eddie Executives” yet. So I asked myself: “How can I ‘get out of the building’ to make this buyer persona more realistic?”
After considering the options, I decided to attend a Technology and Toast event hosted by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC). Southwest Virginia is home to hundreds of “Eddie Executives” and a lot of them hang out at the RBTC. So it was worth it to get up at 5:00am on a cold January morning to meet and talk to some of them.
Step 5: Adjust your buyer persona based on what you learned from talking to the buyers.
Remember, to make buyer personas work for your business, you need to iterate, iterate, iterate! After you get out of the building, you need to go back to your buyer persona and adjust it.
To fine-tune your buyer persona, you will need to hone in on your buyers’ decision-making processes. As buyer persona guru Adele Revella says, “When marketers start with the objective to understand how buyers make the decision they want to influence, they’re building about half as many personas and uncovering insights that tell them exactly what they can (and cannot) do to impact those buyers’ decisions.”
In short, you get the most bang for your buck by focusing on the behavior and motivations of your buyers rather than their incidental demographic characteristics.
Step 6: Create at least one content offer designed for your buyer persona and put it behind a form.
One of these days, I want to enter the debate about whether to put your content behind forms for lead generation purposes. This is a good debate to have, because giving away free stuff can be a great SEO strategy because it attracts lots of inbound hyperlinks.
But this post is about lead generation from your website. To begin generating leads, you need to create at least one juicy “content offer” and put it behind a form on a landing page.
The purpose of the form should be to qualify your lead in some way. For example, when I’m selling IXP’s inbound marketing services, I want to see if you are Eddie Executive: Because if you are not, IXP’s inbound marketing services might not be a good fit for you.
Content offers come in many flavors:
- Case Studies
- Comparison Charts
- Purchasing Guides
You can have a lot of fun with content offers. And especially if you are in a B2B company, your buyers will love them.They will love them so much that they’ll be willing to tell you who they are in exchange for getting a freebie from you.
The key is to figure out what kind of content offer provides value to members of your buyer persona group. Chances are good you already have some content laying around which you use during the sales process: You might just need to polish it up a bit and turn it into a PDF.
Step 7: Start blogging to members of your buyer persona group.
Now that you have your first content offer, it’s time to start talking it up. Write juicy blog posts related to your content offer. Put a call-to-action graphic at the bottom and/or on the side of each one which promotes your content offer. Promote your content offer on social media and email blasts.
That’s it, really. Getting started with buyer personas isn’t complicated or esoteric. But there is an art to it. You need to be willing to ask lots of questions and seek to understand before insisting on being understood. And then you need the right technology and the right team to use your buyer personas to create a profitable inbound marketing system.