Inbound marketing as a methodology works because it places the focus on helping people. While traditional outbound marketing is all about paying for ad space and email lists in the hopes that a qualified lead comes through, inbound marketing aligns your brand with the interests and values of the customer, making your leads cost 60% less than traditional outbound leads.
In fact, only 16% of marketers think that outbound practices provide the highest quality leads. If that’s true, why do some companies still fail at executing a successful inbound marketing strategy?
More often than not, it’s because they don’t really understand their buyers. A whopping 83% of marketers admit they are only slightly or somewhat effective at using buyer personas. And only 44% of B2B marketers use buyer personas on a regular basis. Think about what that means—without understanding your customers, you’re operating your business blindly, throwing content out there hoping that prospects will bite.
As semi-fictional representations of your ideal buyers, personas help you understand your customers better, which in turn, helps you create content geared toward them. And more targeted content attracts more qualified visitors who may turn into customers one day.
Staying connected and aware of your buyers and their needs is the single most important thing a company can do to ensure inbound marketing success. Which means you not only need buyer personas, but you have to make sure they’re actually useful.
There is a difference between biographic and demographic information (“CMOs at companies with over 1,000 employees who tend to be female and live in an urban environment with their husband and two kids”) and in-depth personas that represent a comprehensive view of the motivations, objectives, and obstacles your buyer faces that could be addressed by your company’s product or service.
Your persona documents should take into account everything your team needs to effectively communicate your value to prospects, including:
- Their pain points
- Where they get industry information
- How they research solutions
- Common objections to products or services
- Barriers to gaining buy-in and what helps break down those barriers
- The biggest challenges they face in their role (and how you can help them)
- How they prefer to interact with vendors (email, phone, in person)
Where most companies fall short is focusing only on the elusive “decision maker,” which disregards the way business people actually buy. Considering B2B purchases involve an average of 7 people in the decision, your personas should incorporate insights into this dynamic, including details on what kind of information is needed to gain buy-in from the other people at the table.
It’s important to remember that buyer personas are not a one-and-done deal. If your answer to the question “When was the last time you updated your buyer personas?” is measured in years instead of months, you’re probably overdue for a refresh.
Your buyers’ interests and needs can change as a result of new compliance regulations, the economy, or as new generations enter the workforce and others retire. Reviewing your buyer personas on a regular basis ensures you won’t miss out on critical nuances that impact your audience’s buying decisions.
At the end of the day, inbound marketing is about connecting with your customer base. Considering how much work goes into researching and developing buyer personas, they can be an easy and tempting step to skip in the strategy process. But they’re much more than a basic snapshot of your customers. Personas are a foundational, strategic tool in making decisions that will affect your business growth and bottom line.