The Connection Between Buyer Personas and Customer Journey Marketing

Posted on December 16, 2013

The pace at which marketers must learn new methodology, implement new technology and deliver weekly sales leads is a challenge.

One area that is critical for marketers to understand if they are to build more credible marketing plans is the role of buyer personas and buyer journeys (the latter being popularized by McKinsey & Company in their Customer Decision Journey research in 2010-2012). I’ve heard some marketers question whether buyer personas are valuable and therefore may be optional to their efforts.  I wanted to take the time to explain the application of how to use the information collected in a buyer persona to the development of an effective marketing strategy.

Buyer persona templates have evolved greatly and the best examples now integrate traditional personas (demographics, psychographics, trusted media) with customer journey and decision criteria information.  An optional insight to capture are the success factors by which the buyer will be judged. A benefit of integrating the customer journey and decision criteria within the buyer persona framework is that you can capture buyer profile, journey and decision criteria in a single primary research effort.

Here are a few examples of how to apply the integrated buyer persona insights to your customer journey marketing tactics:

  • Pain Points & Motivators – you need to appeal to these psychological drivers in your content marketing and advertising messages (e.g. PPC copy).  You want to position your brand as able to remove pain points and fulfill the motivators.
  • Success Factors – these are the attributes the buyer is seeking in their new solution and could be viewed as benefits the buyer will derive.  They might include ease of use, increased productivity, greater control, integration with other business processes, etc.
  • Validators – these are the third-party influencers your buyers turn to to seek validation of their product or vendor selection.  Be sure you are engaging these validators (influencers) to create advocacy so buyers find gain trust in your brand.
  • Trusted Sources of Influence – these represent the media and influencer sources that buyers turn to research and evaluate their selection options.  They also reveal the marketing tactics that should constitute the core of your lead generation efforts. It is important during your buyer persona research to dig deep beyond categories (online search, advertising, influencers etc.) to find out which search terms buyers are using, what specific types of ads are being viewed, which specific social sites are visited, etc.

When using the buyer persona insights to create your marketing strategy, it is important to identify the specific marketing tactics and messages to be delivered at each stage.  For instance, after a buying trigger event has occurred the first step in the journey is Awareness and this is typically accomplished via advertising and PR.  So what specific advertising and/or PR channels did the buyer reveal as trusted and influential during their buying cycle?  It is these tactics that should be mapped and funded to create awareness within this buyer audience.

Moving to step two of the CDJ, what information sources did the buyer reveal as trusted and influential as they began their Active Evaluation of products and brands?  In what sequence did the buyer interact with these touch points? Often this where search (organic, PPC), social media, events and content have heavy impact.  The use of email for lead nurturing is a supporting campaign tactic to build the lead score. So without buyer persona insights, you’re left guessing where to focus your marketing staff and budget.

Statistics show that buyers typically contact brands when they are 70% through the buying cycle.  This is the stage where sales enablement materials are critical.  This might include industry reports (e.g. Gartner, Forrester), case studies, “kill” sheets, and live customer testimonials. Because you won’t have enough time and budget to create everything, knowing which sales enablement tools buyers find more useful when talking to a sales channel will help focus your efforts.

There are more data insights that can be extracted from buyer personas to apply to other aspects of marketing strategy, but the benefits of buyer personas and the ongoing benchmarking of those personas (annually or bi-annually) will help you improve your marketing ROI.

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