The Big Problem with Buyer Personas in Content Marketing and What to Do About It
Before I delve into the topic of today’s little post, I find myself sitting at the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark after being here a full week and soaking in the incredible culture that is Danish life. My body has stayed on east coast time, which means it’s currently 4:30am in the morning, but as I was reflecting on this past week and the many Danish businesses I was able to speak to, my mind was brought back to a specific question that has been appearing a good bit more on my radar as of recently—Marketing Personas. (aka your “ideal” customer.)
Paralysis by Buyer Persona Analysis
Before I dive into my thoughts here, let me stress that I’m NOT against defining marketing personas.
Actually, I’m just the opposite.
That being said, I do think the quest for defining marketing personas has seriously stalled or even paralyzed many companies from actually getting work done, especially when it comes to producing great content.
Over the past few years (and a good bit lately as I’ve given more and more talks and workshops) many folks have asked me why I don’t speak much about marketing personas.
My answer to this goes back to what I feel is the essence of content marketing—4 simple principles that are timeless but quite misunderstood in this space:
- Listen (Are you obsessed with the way your prospects and customers ask questions? Are you obsessed with their pain points? Are you obsessed with the way they think, feel, and act with respect to *their* needs.)
- Communicate (Do you talk, write, and speak in a way your audience not only understands you, but says, “This person gets me.”
- Teach (Do you see yourself as a teacher, truly in it for the student (customer) or are you more interested in you, your product, and your glorious company?)
- Help (Are you constantly thinking about how you can help your prospects and customers solve their problems?)
If you look at those 4 principles, hopefully you’ll see it’s a natural byproduct to understand/identify your personas.
The Natural Process of Identifying Buyer Personas
Let’s say you have two B2B prospects in two different industries. Are they going to be asking the same questions? Will they have the exact same needs?
Of course the answer is “no.” They will have different needs based on *who they are.*
This, in my opinion, is the essence of understanding personas.
In other words, if we adhere to the basics the process of identifying our buyer personas it will happen quite naturally.
Recently, I got an email from a reader and this is exactly what it said:
Marcus, Not sure if you are aware already but take a look at the “Buyer Persona” template from Hubspot, which I’ve attached. A heavy lifting process that may well create the old analysis-paralysis phenomenon for a small business or a solopreneur and certainly with my client. It could well delay or even stop the content machine from firing up and getting into action right away. I do prefer the pragmatic approach from The Sales Lion….
I don’t share this email in a “look at me, I’m smarter than HubSpot” manner, but rather to make this point:
For the majority of companies around the world, the more complicated you make sales and marketing, the less they’ll actually get done.
It is for this reason the phrase “They Ask, You Answer” has worked so very well these past 5 years. It’s simple. Small businesses and big brands get it. And because they get it, they get stuff done.
I’m not saying here the HubSpot buyer persona template isn’t good or useful. In fact, I’d argue the opposite—it’s really great.
But too many times over the past few years have I had companies give me a story that sounds something like this:
Company: Marcus, we are on our way with content marketing. We’ve identified all of our marketing personas!
Me: That’s wonderful. But how much content have you actually produced?
Company: Well, not much, but we’ve identified our marketing personas!
And so it goes…
Get Stuff Done (#GSD)
The great divide of the digital world are the companies willing to move fast, make mistakes as they go, and okay with “figuring it out” as they go.
And this is the essential key to buyer personas that most companies fundamentally do not understand:
- Until you become a true teacher and “Youtility” to your prospects and customers, it’s impossible to know who your ideal personas are.
- Until you’ve been in business for some time, and gotten a chance to work with a variety of clients, it’s impossible to know who your ideal personas are.
- And until you’ve had the chance to produce content (become a great teacher) and watch what gets results and what does not(as you’re listening to your audience the entire time) it’s impossible to know who your buyer personas are.
Oh, and one final point: Because your business is always evolving, so are your buyer personas.
Isn’t that nice? 🙂
My point here my friends is a simple one—We need to do the work. We need to listen, communicate, teach, and help. And along the way, assuming we do this well, we just may understand that little thing we call “buyer personas.”