You’ve probably heard about buyer personas and how important they are over and over, but the process of actually creating them can be daunting. Then after you create them, there’s the task of actually implementing them in your marketing. Not to fear – we’ll walk you through the buyer persona creation process, give you practical ways to use them in your marketing automation, and discuss how to utilize Pardot capabilities in conjunction with buyer personas. But first, let’s start with a definition.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. Often a buyer persona is based on market research and real data about your existing customers. For example, you may know that most of your target buyers are in a specific industry, but for your ideal buyer, what is their background? What are their specific needs and interests? How can you address their particular problems?
Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two buyer personas or a couple dozen. But don’t get overwhelmed – start small and focus on just one ideal buyer. You can always develop more personas later on.
By combining customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, pain points and goals you can gain insight into the customer journey. As a result, a good detailed buyer persona can help you determine where to focus your time and allow for alignment across your marketing channels.
Using a Buyer Persona in Marketing
Buyer personas can be used to influence your marketing across a wide variety of channels. At the most basic level, it allows you to focus your content and messaging on a target audience and to personalize your marketing for different segments of your audience.
Instead of sending the same email blast to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging to the interested and pain points of those various personas.
In Pardot, you could use automation rules to sort your contacts into Buyer Personas. You can create a custom dropdown field labeled Buyer Persona with the names of your personas. Once you’ve determined what criteria you’ll use to determine which persona your prospect belongs to, create a Pardot automation rule based on those criteria that have a completion action that changes the Buyer Persona prospect field that you created to the appropriate value.
Using buyer personas in combination with lifecycle stages or qualification stages (marketing qualified, sales qualified, customer, etc.) can help you create highly targeted content.
Developing a Negative Persona
A buyer persona is usually your ideal buyer, while a negative or exclusionary persona is exactly the opposite – someone you don’t want to cater to in your marketing. For example, this could include professionals who are too advanced for your product or service, people who are only engaging with your content for research and have no intention of purchasing your product, job seekers who are reviewing your website and email newsletter to get more information about your company, or even potential customers that are simply too expensive to acquire due to a low average sales price or their unlikeliness to become a repeat customer.
When you create a negative persona, you’ll be able to segment out these prospects from the rest of your leads, leaving you with just the leads in your Pardot database that are most likely to convert to customers. This will help you achieve a lower cost-per-lead and higher sales productivity.
How to Create Buyer Personas
Buyer personas can be created through gathering data from a variety of sources. Research, surveys, interviews with current customers, discussion with your sales team – all of these are vital to creating a detailed and rich buyer persona.
- Consider looking through your contacts database to find trends about how you obtain leads or how customers find and consume your content. Your Pardot database is a great source for identifying how leads convert. If you use Pardot campaigns as your first touch, that would be an easy way to get information about how you obtain leads.
- You can use Pardot forms to gather demographic information that can help you segment your buyer personas. For example, if you sell software you may have enterprise and small business versions available. Using a company size field on your Pardot forms can help you determine who would belong in what buyer persona.
- Your sales team is a great source of information on what kind of leads convert quickly and interact often vs. those that linger and simply don’t convert. This kind of information is perfect for developing your negative persona.
- Interviewing current customers about why they decided to buy and what they like best about your product or service can help you define what pain points your buyer persona is likely to have.
Once you’ve done your research and gathered your data about your current prospects and customers you’ll combine it all into one or more buyer personas. You’ll need to distill all of this information down so that it’s easy for your team to understand. Start by identifying patterns and commonalities and develop at least one primary persona and one negative persona.
If you’re unsure if you need one or more buyer personas, check to see how varied your research is. If you have dramatically different answers to some of your questions, you may be able to segment them into various types of customers that can then be developed into buyer personas.
For example, if you sell HR software you may encounter two very different types of customers.
- Older HR department heads that have been in their profession for a long time and aren’t really open to new ideas. They may struggle to adopt new software and technology.
- Entrepreneurs and start-ups that are looking for a solution to their HR problem as they grow and gain more employees. They wear 13 different hats and HR is just one of them. They need something efficient, easy to use, and future proof.
These two groups will respond to very different marketing approaches and can be developed into two different buyer personas. Taking time to develop two buyer personas instead of one will allow you to tailor your automated marketing campaigns more closely to the needs of each group.
We’ll treat the buyer persona as if it’s a real person, and give them a name that suggests what kind of customer they are, such as Enterprise Emily or Salesman Sam.
Start with basic demographics information. How old is your buyer persona? What is their background and career path? How can you identify them based on their demeanor or communication preferences?
For example, Example Elliott is the head of the HR department at their company and has worked there for 10 years. They are around 30-45 years old and live in a suburban area. They tend to be female. They have an assistant that screens calls and wants to receive printed collateral that they can share with their team.
2. What’s the motivation?
Sum up all the information you gained by asking why. What keeps your persona up at night? Who do they want to be? How can your company help them? What specific pain points are they trying to address?
Example Elliott wants to keep employees happy and turnover low. Their biggest challenge is getting everything done with a small staff. They have changes that they have to roll out to the entire company and are looking for a solution to make it easy to manage employee data. They want to use one system that integrates with their current software instead of hacking together a solution that covers all of their needs.
3. What’s the objection?
Just like every buyer has pain points they need to address, every buyer also has reasons why your particular solution won’t work for them. What are common objections for your buyer persona? How can you address those objections?
Example Elliott doesn’t have time to train employees to use new software and finds it painful to attempt to integrate software with the tools their legal department uses. They also are worried about losing data in the transition to a new system.
4. Craft messaging that appeals to your new persona
Decide the best approach for marketing your product or service to your new persona now that you know what their motivation is, what their objections are, and what their background is.
You can decide what specific phrases and words you should use or reposition your product or service in a new way that appeals to your persona.
For Example Elliott, you may use messaging like: “We give you intuitive HR software that integrates with your existing platform. In addition, we provide lifetime training and support to help new employees get up to speed quickly.”
Practical Ways to Use Your Buyer Personas in Marketing
Now that you’ve spent time in energy creating your buyer personas don’t let them go to waste. Let’s put them to use and start improving your automated marketing campaigns.
1. Identify prospects by persona
You’ve used previous customer experience to create your buyer personas. Now you’ll use those buyer personas to identify new prospects and personalize your Pardot dynamic content. You could identify buyer personas by determining where a lead came from – which blog post converted them? Which ad did the trick? If you use Pardot campaigns as your first-touch record, you could easily segment prospects based on where the lead came from.
You may need to ask prospects clarifying questions to determine which buyer persona group they belong to. These questions could be included as progressive Pardot form questions or a sales rep could ask these kinds of questions on a discovery call. Questions like:
- What’s your biggest problem with your current provider?
- What’s the one thing you’d hope to gain if you became our customer?
- How do you see our solution solving your problem?
- Are you more concerned about Defining Persona Pain Point X or Defining Persona Pain Point Y?
- If I could help you with one thing, what would that be?
Additionally, if you want to automate the identification process rather than adding on form questions or having sales follow up on unqualified leads, you could use Pardot Grading. Grades in Pardot range from A+ to F, and all prospects start off with a grade of D. Grades can be increased or decreased by ⅓, ⅔, or 1 full letter grade.
When you start off with grading, you’ll want to use Pardot automation rules that look at prospect data and automatically mark the prospect as a match or not a match for the grading criteria. You’ll want to look at both prospect data as well as company data – if a prospect has the right job title but the wrong industry, they probably won’t convert. By default, Pardot Grading looks at company size, industry, location, job title, and department. You can add into custom criteria that is relevant to your buyer persona to further develop your grading strategy.
The best classification method will depend on your unique marketing and sales funnel and your target customers. Not all buyers will land squarely in one buyer persona – be open to unexpected answers to your qualifying questions and you may discover an additional buyer persona. In the meantime, classify the prospect based on whatever persona is the best fit.
2. Create a way to track buyer personas in Pardot and Salesforce
Typically you’ll create your buyer personas outside of your CRM. When it’s time to start classifying prospects, you’ll need a way to track your buyer personas inside of Pardot. Create a dropdown Contact Field (or Account Field if you practice account based marketing) called Buyer Persona and add in your buyer personas as values.
Once you’ve segmented your Pardot database based on buyer personas, you’ll be able to run reports and get valuable information such as if you’re acquiring more leads in one buyer persona than another or if one buyer persona is leading to more closed-won opportunities than others.
3. Customize the marketing your prospects see
This is the reason you did all of the buyer persona work in the first place – you are now able to speak to your prospects in a way that is more likely to resonate with them.
Using your buyer personas to segment your database and seed your Pardot Engagement Studio drip campaigns is a great way to ensure that your prospects are receiving personalized emails that appeal to their pain points and interests.
You could also send emails that reference blog posts and other content that was written with the prospects specific buyer persona in mind.
You could use Pardot dynamic content to customize the messaging prospects see on Pardot landing pages, list emails, and more to specifically appeal to each prospect based on their buyer persona.
What is it all for?
Developing and assigning buyer personas is all done to personalize your Pardot dynamic content and marketing messaging to uniquely appeal to each prospect based on their specific needs and interests. Ideally, buyer personas will lead to better leads for your sales team and higher conversion rates.
When implementing your buyer personas in your marketing automation efforts through Pardot, we can help. Contact our Pardot consultants for Pardot support and best practices.