1. Why do you need Buyer Personas
Simply put, it helps us create good copy.
You cannot create good copy without having a Buyer Persona to base it on. Without good copy you cannot convince, convert and establish a relationship with your potential customers.
I cannot stress more how important this is for B2B companies. It is a cardinal sin not to start out your marketing strategy with a solid plan for creating buyer persona and do user research.
With copy you motivate your ideal customers to continue their journeys with you.
To be specific, a Buyer Persona should outline what copy you need to write in order to:
Take a person from one set of beliefs to another.
For example, from thinking:
"Those kinds of solutions seem complex and expensive. I'm not interested." to "Hey, it looks easy and it's definitely worth the cost. Let's have a closer look."
Depending on the buyer's maturity in their understanding of their needs and the market, that journey might take 30 minutes for some and 2 years for others. Regardless, we need to outline all the steps between those two beliefs that the journey consists of.
Once you understand what it takes to move a potential customer from “No” to” Yes” based on their beliefs about your product or service, it will outline all the copy you need to create for all content types:
- Content marketing
- Blog posts
- Video content
- Social media posts
- Ad copy and creative
- Landing page copy
- Call to actions
- Email conversion sequences
2. Create Personas without user interviews
In the digital world we live in where almost all information is accessible online, would you still need to meet or talk to real people in order to get all the data you need to create a good Buyer Persona?
It turns out, you don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, talking to leads or customers when you get the opportunity is of course valuable.
The information a sales team can extract from their calls is great (if you can convince them to collect it in a structured way). But that information only tells the story of converters – those that reached the bottom of the funnel, those that filled out that form on your website or answered that email you sent.
But what about the rest of the 99%? Those that got your initial attention, but then decided to not sign up or engage further with your brand.
Where did they get stuck, what beliefs did they have that made them not progress through your funnel?
What if there was a structured approach on how to collect the thoughts and feelings of people about a certain topic?
There is, and that is what we are going to look at today. And we are going to do it without talking to actual people, imagine that.
What do people love to do online? Express their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
They love it, people want to be heard, seen and recognized. And this stuff is all over the place. In social media, forums, comments, reviews, Youtube videos etc.
All this information out there is important because what is in the mind of your leads can become roadblocks for them in your buyer journey or funnel that you have set up.
That is why we need to collect the different thoughts, feelings and beliefs your potential customers have about a product or solution and prepare counter-proof to these beliefs.
We are going to do that with a tool called Empathy Maps.
3. What are Empathy Maps, and why should I care?
We are going to use a tool called an Empathy Map that was originally created by “Visual Thinking” author Dave Gray.
Empathy maps has gained much popularity within the agile software development community and user experience professionals, but we are going to use it to create converting marketing funnels instead.
We will use the Empathy Map in our research phase. This is the part where you spend most of the time. If you have multiple personas, each one will need their own map.
You're out there digging in the trenches, getting your hands dirty and trying to get into the mind of your leads. You need to think like a detective and psychologist at the same time. Some of it is black and white, you see it written down. Some of it you need to read between the lines and connect the dots.
The Empathy Map will do 90% of the heavy lifting for us. Normally companies do this by trial and error over several years, we are going to do it as a focused effort instead.
It will help us a lot with building a high converting lead funnel from the start.
The idea of an Empathy Map is to help you create a visual representation of your lead’s beliefs.
The map collects what people are saying, their thoughts, emotions, beliefs. It should involve minimal guessing. You might think you know your customers, but you don’t. You will always carry a bias based on the knowledge and experience unique to you, even if you don't see it clearly.
The Empathy Map helps you to understand your lead’s environment. How they behave, what keeps them up at night, what their biggest ambitions are. What really moves them to action and what aggravates them more than anything else.
The goal is to speak to prospects using their own language, their own words and phrases. They need to feel recognized and understood.
By addressing their exact pain points and frustrations, you will be able to apply this to your content and convert them consistently.
In this article I will use the topic “Marketing Automation” as our product.
“Marketing Automation” is closely related to tools and processes. Which tools are the best, what tool should I use if X, what if Y, and so forth.
For you it will be the solution you offer or the topic you want to persuade your target audience on.
To give you an idea what I am talking about, this is how a filled out Empathy Map looks like. Having a picture and a name makes it easier to write copy for this persona.
4. Where to gather information
Start with Google Analytics to learn the demographics and psychographics of people who come to your website and consume your content.
To understand user intent, use Google Search Console and Google Ads to see what keywords that get you clicks. And be aware about where in the buyer journey those users are.
Do you market on Facebook? The platform's Audience Insights offers a lot of valuable data.
Tools that help you measure SEO/SEM, like SEMrush, help you see what your competitors are doing for their SEO and even what ad copy they use for SEM.
Get granular and pull actual customer data from your own CRM.
Then move onto broader insights: Social Media, Review Sites, Blogs, Newsletters.
Think and Feel
You want to find out what really matters to the customer, what are their major concerns? What are some of their worries and aspirations? It is useful to put phrases that actually contain the words "think" or "feel" in this part. Consider their choice of words, and their tone of voice.
Best sources: Comments on Reddit, Quora, Blogs and Capterra/G2 reviews
Who are they listening to and getting their advice from? What would their friends, colleagues, and boss be likely to say about the product? This is important since word of mouth contributes to a huge amount of decision making for people – we want to tap into that.
Best sources: Facebook Groups they are in, people they follow on Social Media and Youtube, Blogs they read
What is the person encountering in their daily experiences? What are the people around them doing? What are they watching, reading, and exposed to in their environment or the marketplace that could influence them? It could be alternative products and services or something the competition is doing.
Remember this is their world, not yours, so don’t assume that your company or product is getting their attention.
Best sources: Follow hashtags related to your product on LinkedIn, for instance #marketingautomation, visit competitor website to see their remarketing ads, use LinkedIn and Facebook’s tools to spy on competitors ads
Say and Do
What are their behaviors, what is their attitude and what do they say? This may change depending on where they are, who they are with, or who is nearby. Attitude can be actions towards others or how they convey something. For example, are they constantly posting on Social Media or secretly stalks but doesn’t post.
What are they actually saying in public about your or to you or similar products, and what do we wish they were saying?
Best source: Capterra/G2 reviews, Competitor testimonials, important quotes and keywords used when using Google, activity in Facebook Groups
Fears, frustrations, and the obstacles they need to overcome, it is often in this part we find actual copy that will convert them to our solution.
Best source: Capterra/G2 reviews, Competitor testimonials, Reddit
Goals, wants, and needs; what exactly makes them happy on an everyday basis.
Best source: Competitor reviews and competitor website testimonials
5. How to gather information
Now that you’ve learned what an Empathy Map is and what kind of information we need to gather, let’s move on to what you really came here for.
How do you create a good Empathy Map?
One thing you need to be aware of here, it will be tedious and there are no real shortcuts here.
Companies that don't take the time to understand their audience usually end up with product- or feature heavy bland forgettable copy. You’ve seen it and it’s not a pleasure.
You need to invest some effort into this phase, that is the hard reality. But, once you discover your audience's thoughts and feelings, you will be able to use them for effective communication.
Dig deep into your market to pick out the little gems. That one little thing you can use for a hook, that one little thing you can use for a headline, and so on.
You have to be creative.
Different niches have different places where people go to express their thoughts.
Below is an example list of where to go to do this homework, and further down a detailed example of exactly how to use each one of them.
- Facebook groups
- Google Search Suggestions
- Competition’s website testimonials
- Competition’s reviews Capterra and G2
- Comment sections of blogs
- Amazon book reviews
How do you do your homework and dig into your market to find out these little gems?
The below list will give you indications on how to get creative in your market research but obviously you can go much deeper than in the examples.
Remember to transcribe it word for word in your map when you find good food for the Empathy Map.
Let’s start with reddit. It’s a gold mine if you are within tech, finance, business entrepreneur space. There’s almost a subreddit for every imaginable topic.
So what you do is that you Google: reddit [your topic]
Even here on the search result page can we see that we are off to a good start.
These are comments on some of the treads that highlight the pains and gains of using marketing automation:
On Quora you can get good inspiration from the questions that people post. The actual answers to questions are nowadays more or less filled with promotions. But the questions are usually made by people who genuinely wonder about something.
Facebook groups are good for two reasons. It’s a place where people go for advice and it is a place where people ask questions.
The topics in Facebook groups are usually more advanced and would tailor an audience that has slightly more experience. This stuff is really awesome to use on FAQ pages or on more detailed product feature pages.
Google Search Suggestions
Here I use a tool called AnswerThePublic. It collects Google Search Suggestions for you and compiles them into neat categories. I’ve entered “marketing automation” for this query.
As you can see below it shows some concerns people have then they are researching for a marketing automation tool. Integrations, privacy, GDPR, and personalization are subjects related to marketing automation.
Each one of those related subjects are areas for further investigation. Maybe integration is one key frustration for your audience and addressing it might solve an important pain point.
Linkedin is great for following what is happening in the market, what people are talking about, new trends and thoughts. Enter a hashtag and follow the people that come up as authors of top posts.
In this post below there are some really good Pains and Gains from real people.
Don’t go after people who are promoting themselves. Rather find smaller Youtubers that are speaking about actual pain points and problems. These videos will and that will give you food for the Empathy Map. Transcribe what they are saying word for word.
Competitor’s website Testimonials
Your competitor will obviously not put any negative or bad testimonials on their website, but if you can find genuine positive testimonials and what words they use to describe their experience it can be very valuable.
Find the competitors that ideally solve the same exact niche, or very close to, problem as you are. In the example of Marketing Automation, put this phrase into a google search to find Capterra and G2 Reviews.
These review sites are awesome because you will often find real golden nuggets in the review sections of your competitors.
Study these reviews closely and pay extra attention to the part when they describe where they were before finding their current solution. What was their pain and frustrations, note down the actual words they say.
Blogs are a good source of information if you have the names of the big blogs in your industry. Where you should put your focus here isn’t the articles themselves, but the comment sections. Blogs sometimes have these where people will share their thoughts and feelings.
Amazon Book Reviews
Similar to blogs, where you should put your focus on here is the comment sections of books related to your topic.
6. Compile and categorize the research
Now it is time to take the information you gathered from your mapping exercise, and build out our final Empathy Map. You're in their world now, so imagine what-if scenarios that connect your personas to your content.
What story can you tell that will appeal to them? What kind of content can you produce to engage, educate, and entertain? What kind of content is needed to move their belief of not wanting or needing your solution, to them being interested and buying your product?
Now remember, I spent maybe 2 hours doing this research and finding food for the empathy map and I have just scraped the surface of what’s out there. Imagine what you can do with even 10 hours.
Below I have transcribed some of the comments and data I got from the research and mapped it into the Empathy Map sections.
Think & feel
- Being at a beginner level... which email marketing automation is good for affiliate websites?
- How do I segment my audience?
- How do I know if my automations are working?
- What tools should I be using?
- Can I automate with a small budget?
- What is a workflow?
- Lead scoring is hard?
- I am just thinking if we don't have million users or visitors, is it worth it for us to deploy the marketing automation tools?
- Which platform offers more features and is more affordable and easier to use?
- For someone with a solid grounding in digital marketing principles, but no experience with the major marketing automation platforms, what can I do to make myself more marketable for these roles?
- In automation, there's 1,000 ways to do one thing. What makes someone good is finding the best way out of those 1,000 and constantly improving. It can be a lot of trial and error until you get it right.
- Capturing emails from website visitors is the easy part of email marketing but it is really difficult to convert them as your paying customer.
- Should I use Marketing Automation tools?
- Frustration in learning to use it effectively.
- Why is Marketing Automation software important?
- Is automation just for getting new customers?
- Social Media networks
Say and do
- Marketing automation is not optional in 2020. It is a standard that almost everyone should adopt regardless of their company size and niche.
- Asks questions on Social Media
- Reads blogs and forums about the topic
- I definitely struggle with email deliverability.
- Because it really costs us time and money [...]
- Everyone's an “expert” on the subject, who to listen to?
- Do I need to be tech savvy?
- Too expensive.
- Too advanced.
- Any alternative to Marketo/Eloqua/Pardot for smaller-scale B2B SaaS?
- Schedule large email campaigns based on individual subscribers’ date.
- Customer experience can be personalized on web pages and emails.
- Earn more money while working less.
- Build a larger audience.
4. Buyer knowledge levels
When you start to analyze your small nuggets from all around the web you will start to see different levels of knowledge in your audience.
Some people are new to the industry and some people know the ins and outs of the market and know exactly what they need and what’s out there.
You will also start to see groups and patterns taking shape, which can be categorized into different levels of market knowledge. For example:
Level 1: Total beginner, new to the topic but eager to learn.
Level 2: I know what Marketing Automation is but I need to level up my game.
Level 3: I want to build a business that works for me by using Marketing Automation.
Level 4: I have been using Marketing Automation for years, but need features X and Y to better suit my needs.
Why are we talking about Knowledge Levels? Well, those levels represent your different Buyer Personas.
With your completed Empathy Map in front of you this will become more clear as people tend to have the same problems and repeat the same things.
Create different personas from these levels. Each persona will represent a different knowledge level and will be spoken to in different ways in order to be convinced and sold to.
How many Personas you create based on the Empathy Map research and the Knowledge Levels depends on your product and the supposed user is.
Maybe targeting the absolute beginners doesn’t make sense if your product is mostly used by experienced professionals, or vice versa. You will usually find a good number of personas based on your own experience and gut feeling.
Each of your Buyer Personas should result in one A4 page. It should include a photo and basic demographic info (age, gender, job title, education, income and geographical location) and of course the Empathy Map. You can put the demographic data above the Empathy Map on the page if you would like.
Once you have these A4s, print and hang them up on the wall. Look at them while you are writing the specific copy. Visualizing their pains and thoughts will help you in writing.
Here is an example of a filled out Empathy Map based on our brief 2 hour research.
A Buyer Persona is one of the strongest assets to create a meaningful, relevant, and long-lasting relationship with an audience.
One of the most common reasons for failing a marketing and sales strategy is miscommunication. And that happens because most people simply don’t know exactly who they are talking to.
With a proper Buyer Persona, you can:
- Increase brand awareness and authority
- Deliver tailored solutions based on real needs
- Collect more qualified leads
- Generate more long-term value sales
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