Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes courtesy of Tony Yang, Director of Demand Generation at Mintigo. As a data-driven marketer with deep experience in the B2B, SaaS, and enterprise 2.0 space, Tony’s career includes marketing leadership roles at several early stage SaaS startups as well as at large enterprises such as IBM. Tony holds an MBA from the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California and BA degrees in both Economics and Chinese Studies from the University of California, San Diego. His interests include all things related to inbound marketing, growth hacking, and USC Trojans Football. Follow Tony on Twitter @tones810.
I recently watched a live webinar hosted by inbound marketing agency IMPACT called “Website Throwdown” and another by Unbounce called “Page Fights”, which are regularly occurring series where inbound marketing pros and website conversion experts are invited to critique real company web pages.
In these sessions, these specialists (which include highly regarded luminaries such as Jay Baer, Doug Kessler, Noah Kagan and Rand Fishkin) tear apart websites and landing pages that were submitted by brave and thick-skinned marketers looking for suggestions to improve the user experience for visitors as well as to optimize for conversion.
While the experts dug into specifics such as page layout and why you shouldn’t use carousels on the home page, an overall theme that I noticed from these sessions is that the best websites are more customer-centric and addresses the needs of the buyer. This is opposed to the sites that got ripped apart because they tend to be more company-centric and peddling what they sell.
Talk to any B2B marketer today and she’ll probably agree that being more customer-centric leads to more effective marketing. But this is easier said than done because in order to become customer-centric you need to truly understand your ideal customer profile.
The typical exercise for zeroing in on your target audience is to develop buyer personas, which are representations or archetypes of the ideal buyers – usually expressed as fictitious characters blending the most common attributes. It’s helpful to document personas because it can guide all strategy and messaging, especially content and even page layout and user experience on a website.
However, many marketers struggle to get a well-defined persona. Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at MIT Sloan, wrote a post that was published on Harvard Business Review, in which he said, “…the stories we tell ourselves are very often wrong, and we have a host of biases and other glitches in our mental wiring that keep us from sizing up a situation correctly.” I think this is especially true when we B2B marketers develop personas.
It’s common to hear talk of segments, usually defined by data points such as job title, industry, geography, and company size. Since this demographic and “firmographic” data has been widely available from contact data companies like Dun & Bradstreet/Hoover’s, Avention, and Data.com, it’s not surprising to see marketers continue with this line of thinking with persona development. Unfortunately, demographic and firmographic data alone yields overly-simplified personas that shed little light on insights that demonstrate your true target audience and potential buyer intent.
It’s not that marketers aren’t analytical – many are. We pore over reports and dashboards, and it feels like we’re using data. Even if we believe that our personas were drawn from data-driven analyses, oftentimes they’re simply based on our own intuition taken from cursory observations of the limited amount of data that’s available within our marketing automation or CRM systems.
So how do we develop effective personas for B2B marketing? There are plenty of great resources available to get you started, including those from Buyer Persona Institute, buyer persona guru Tony Zambito, and even this handy guide from Oracle called “How To Create Personas For Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy”. I’ll be discussing how predictive analytics and big data can help uncover the true insights to focus on when understanding your ideal customer profile, and how this can drive your web personalization strategy in an upcoming webinar on April 9th.
Regardless, the first step to effective marketing is understanding your target audience – once you figure this out then you’ll be able to transition from a company-centric website that is essentially a online product “selfie” to a customer-centric asset that your future buyers turn to as a trusted resource to solve their challenges.
To learn more on how to use data to identify your ideal customer profile and inform your website personalization strategy, join our upcoming webinar, “Driving The Ultimate Customer Experience With Predictive Marketing & Personalization” on Thursday April 9th at 10am PST.