By Marie Wiese
Most companies see the world with a product bias. They see everything in terms of their product and what it does. That means that when they start to write copy for a website or look at ways to attract potential customers, they are talking about themselves and not about their customers.
Creating a buyer persona before you embark on any marketing activity is a powerful way to remove the product bias and see the world through the eyes of the customer. In this way, we can create better and more powerful content and conversion strategies to help people get into the sales cycle faster.
A buyer persona helps us achieve three important things needed for any marketing activity to get results:
- Trust. By identifying content and language that customers, in their search process, understand, we build trust by making it easier for them to interact with our company.
- Clarity. Removing content from our web presence that is not helping or is confusing the customer in the buying process creates clarity for the prospect. Do uneducated potential buyers understand your products or services, the difference between each, and why they might want them? Unless we orient them, in language they might use, about where they are and what they do next, we lose their trust.
- A guided path. Many times, a website becomes the dumping ground for all content about a product or service. Instead, it should be seen as a guided path we want to take a prospect down in order to gauge their level of understanding and where they are in the buying process. We can direct people based on content they need during the buying process.
Developing a buyer persona means figuring out what is most important to your prospective customer. If you skip this step and continue to create content anyway, all you’re really doing is throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. But when you determine your buyer persona, you create a strategy where, more often than not, the content you make is going to stick.
How the Buyer Journey Works
We recently worked on a buyer persona for a group of distributors in Canada that deal with safety gear (think goggles, gloves, helmets, vests, etc.) and that had worked with a cooperative to create a private-label brand of products.
So we needed to figure out what the buyer journey looked like for this group’s customers and what needed to happen in order for someone to make a purchase. Ultimately, what it came down to—what was the most important thing to a potential buyer—was whether the product was superior to the product the buyer was already using.
Let’s take a step back and go through the buyer journey. There’s a construction worker (let’s call him Bob) who wears work gloves every day on the job site, but the gloves his company gave him and his co-workers just aren’t cutting it. His company is looking into upgrading its standard-issue work gloves, but because it needs to buy upward of a thousand pairs, it’s keen on getting a good price and making sure the cost-effectiveness of the new gloves makes sense. It wants the best quality for the best price. So, with all this in mind, Bob, on behalf of his company, sets out looking for new gloves.
While doing glove research, Bob comes across a new private-label product. He’s intrigued but unfamiliar with the company that makes them—this lack of brand identity is a potential barrier to purchase—and he’s not sure if he and the company can trust this manufacturer. Other reasons the purchase may not be made include availability of the product, where it’s made, and, of course, price.
After a bit more research, Bob determines that the new gloves match up with his company’s criteria; they’re a better-quality product at better value than the current gloves. So what happens now? Because these gloves aren’t available in stores, his company plans to ask the distributor for a sample and a quote. But at this point, Bob is still comparing products, visiting company websites to see how competing products stack up, and reading testimonials and reviews. Only once the company believes it has all the information it needs and has settled on the best option for employees will it be ready to make a purchase.
This is the important first step in the buyer journey. Keep in mind that the supplier of the gloves has not heard from Bob’s company yet and doesn’t even know it exists and is looking for gloves. Something similar is likely happening right this minute with your own business.
This was an epiphany for the guys selling the safety gear. When they first brought us in, it was simply because they wanted help with their website. But as we asked questions, we determined that the reason people would go to their website is to ask for a sample. This was not what the guys originally thought the website would be used for—to merely display product. But the truth was, most people don’t even know that these new products existed, and once they do, they will have to go through the distributor to get information about pricing before they could buy anyway.
By going through this process and identifying the buying persona, we identified that the first thing a customer would do is ask for a sample. Now, knowing this, the website can become a useful tool. At this point, customers are aware of the distributor’s name, so they go online to the manufacturer’s website, find the product they’re interested in, and write a message on the contact form that will go straight to the distributor. This now gives the distributor the opportunity to deliver what the customer needs—the sample and the pricing—and, hopefully, close the deal. This is more powerful than using product-centric pay-per-click advertising.
Getting Started with a Buyer Persona
Make a list of your customer’s priorities. Is it the return policy or guarantee? Is it delivery of the product or service? Is it that they need to touch or feel something first before they commit? All of these priorities will lead you to create conversion points you can test against. For example, if the customer needs to touch or feel something, send a sample and build the cost to do this into the sale. At the very least, you have someone committed to giving you their contact information, and with the right nurturing campaign, you can get to know them in the meantime, until they are ready to buy. Perceived barriers become your best marketing tools.
You could build a website with all your products listed on it and spend $2,000 a month on pay-per-click advertising to drive traffic to the site, but it would do nothing for your company from a sales or lead-generation perspective. Taking yourself through the buyer journey shifts the paradigm. Taking the time to do this work is how you become customer-centric in your thinking and powerful in your marketing.
Marie Wiese is the founder of Marketing CoPilot, a leading Canadian digital marketing agency that helps companies increase leads and sales using digital marketing. She is an Executive-in-Residence at the Innovation Factory, an Adjunct Professor of Mentis Academy, and the author of You Can’t Be Everywhere: A Common Sense Approach to Digital Marketing for Any Business, from which this article was adapted.