Putting the person in persona

The phrase “know your audience” is fundamental to all sales and marketing. The principle spawned a whole industry within an industry. Organisations around the world use companies like Nielsen, Kantar, and GFK to understand as much as they can about their potential customers. At a more granular level, Account Based Marketing (ABM) campaigns often start with a deep dive into who’s who at a target company.

With all this data at marketer’s fingertips, a key part in developing a go-to-market strategy is the development of a buyer persona. A pen portrait of a character created to represent a company’s typical prospect. These personas can group together a segment of the audience. Those with similar pain points, goals and objectives, teams, organisational structures, and so on.

Until March 2020, these buyer personas stood as a blueprint for knowing your audience. In B2B marketing, an audience segment’s whole professional world was distilled onto a single page. But for large numbers of B2B marketers globally, the personas they were targeting were only 9-5 caricatures of real people. They only took an individual’s professional life into account. They were cartoon illustrations in smart suits. A half-completed sketch of a person, surrounded by their work colleagues, at their desktops, in the office.

And then everyone stayed home. Commuting stopped. People were no longer working most of the time in a traditional office space. The office was now the kitchen table, the spare bedroom, the garage.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, most people could draw a geographical distinction between their personal and professional lives. They existed in different places. In B2B marketing, buyer personas went into great detail about one, but ignored the other.

2020 has forced these aspects of people’s lives together under one roof. As B2B marketers, we are no longer reaching our audience as their LinkedIn profile portrays them. We are talking to them as real people, many of whom haven’t been to an office in months. And that has a tremendous impact on how organisations can “know your audience”.

Here are three things to think about when evaluating or creating your brand’s buyer personas:

Know their life stage

Social distancing and working from home can affect people in completely different ways. For working parents – with young children home from school and nursery all spring and summer – the constant juggling of work and family tasks has likely come with its benefits and difficulties. Executives who often spent long evenings at the office have been able to spend more time with children. But they have also been tasked with the job of teaching them and supporting in their academic development with varying degrees of support from schools.

Meanwhile, younger, urban-based professionals have lost out on the culture, entertainment, and other benefits that city life usually provides. For those with vulnerable elderly relatives, this time has been full of different concerns. With daily check-ins, and errands needing to take priority over team bonding via Zoom. It’s true – a buyer persona is only designed to be a high-level view of an audience segment, but without key information like this, you won’t see the complete picture.

Know their set-up

Working from home has changed the way in which we interact with media. For example: Millennials don’t own printers. Before lock-down, all printing was done at the office. Long-form downloadable content is more likely to be read on a laptop or mobile screen than it was last year. Which means that it should be designed with this format in mind, rather than a traditional paper medium.

The daily commute used to be a key window for content marketing. Now commuting is more limited – often just from one room to another! Podcast listener numbers are down due to people not travelling to and from the office. However, commercial radio numbers are up, as the medium has enjoyed more active listeners during working hours. If your marketing relied on reaching buyers while they were travelling, you will need to consider a different media mix, potentially investigating channels and platforms that were previously seen as being too consumer in nature.

Know their preferences

For all of us, adjusting to life during the coronavirus pandemic has been full of learnings. For many, there have been changes to all aspects of life. These changes have and will continue to provoke people to think about how they choose to live their lives. This could be anything from moving out of a big city, to reducing the number of working days in their week, to undertaking a mass clearance on which emails they subscribe to.

In a time of constant change and uncertainty, the only way of knowing your audience with any clarity at all is to regularly measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing. Not only by analysing campaign results, but also by asking your audience directly about how they want to be reached, and with what content. It may uncover some surprising findings.

What now?

In short, businesses need to consider the context into which they are projecting their messages. This means revisiting any previous insights or research you have about your audience segments or buyer personas. Reinforce the elements that remain valuable, but supplement them with more current data which paints a picture of their lives outside of work. Speak to your customers and prospects to get a clear understanding of how their lives have changed this year and how your business can support them through these changes.

In the meantime, talk to us about how we can help create new buyer personas for you. Get in touch via the contact us button below and we’d be happy to talk to you.

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