How Social Data Can Help You Develop Buyer Personas
I speak daily with product, marketing, and sales professionals about the impact that social media can have on developing buyer personas, launching a product, building a brand, or even on individuals standing in their respective marketplace.
Over the past 30 years, I have been helping companies build and operate high performing go-to-market functions across the globe. In 1999, I moved from 11 years in financial services to my first role in fintech and my first role in product management and product marketing.
With all this considered, I would like to share with you some of the ways that I have seen social being used to help product marketers deliver their best.
Developing Your Buyer Personas
As a product marketer, you aim to guide your product from the cradle to the grave, from development to launch, through all stages of the product lifecycle. We take into account product positioning, pricing, competition, and we typically start off by looking to understand the target market and the target addressable market.
It starts with a problem statement and quickly moves into understanding if the problem is pervasive and solvable, and if the market is prepared to pay to solve it. That’s Product Marketing 101.
I bet my bottom dollar that you are using buyer personas to aid in some or even all of these tasks.
I have always found that the personas that product marketers create are living and breathing things. They start off supporting your problem statement, they move on to help inform the go-to-market and launch strategies.
In some instances, they make their way into the product demonstrations used by sales executives and sales engineers. Our colleagues in digital marketing pick them up and utilize them to help inform and direct content. The use of the persona profiles that you create can and should touch and involve colleagues across the business.
Through persona profiles, you are looking to build a caricature of the end user, of those involved in your ecosystem.
You look at their goals and objectives, why solving the problem that you have identified is important to them. You look at their job titles, you identify the industry they work in, the country where they are domiciled, maybe their age, their academic credentials, maybe their gender, or how long they have been in the role.
This is simple stuff and relatively easy to build a hypothesis on, given that you can look at your existing customer base.
But what has this got to do with social media? Everything!
Social comes into play when we want to know the watering holes these personas go to get their information. After all, we live in a world of hyper connectivity, one where up to 67% of B2B buyers are already halfway through the buying journey before they speak with an actual salesperson.
We are all familiar with such statistics from people much smarter than I am, the likes of CEB, Forrester and Gartner.
In fact, Gartner tells us that B2B buyers will, on average, only spend 17% of the buying cycle meeting with potential suppliers.
Some more interesting statistics: of the 7.81 billion people that make up the world’s population, 67% of these are unique mobile phone users, 60% are internet users, and 53%, or 4.14 billion, are active social media users.
According to research from Global Web Index, the typical internet user spent almost 7 hours per day using connected devices between April and June 2020, with social media platforms consuming more than one third of our connected time. That is around 2.5 hours per day spent on social media platforms.We spend so much of our time online, we put so much of our lives on social, we leave a huge digital footprint. Click To Tweet
Working within B2B organizations, we can all attest to the role that social media also plays in our engagement with clients, prospects, employees, and even prospective employees.
Statistically, social media is the third largest engagement channel outside of the corporate website and email. But it’s relatively new for B2B organizations. With many only just dip their toes in from a branding or customer service perspective. Organizations in regulated industries are probably the biggest laggards that I come across.The question we should be asking is, as product marketers, how do we utilize the wealth of social data and glean insights to better understand people’s interests and patterns. Click To Tweet
Social gives us access to all sorts of invaluable information about our audience: age, location, gender, job title, connected devices. From their interests to the keywords and hashtags they use or follow. This is great information to bring back into the persona profiles, if only we could get access to it.
Putting your customer or prospective customer at the heart of everything you do is the difference between a good product marketer and a great one.
You could have the best product in the world… but if you don’t know who you are targeting, what their problems are, and if they are willing to pay for what you have, I would argue that product marketing has failed. Wouldn’t you?
The Role of Social in Your Go-to-Market Strategy
The buyer persona provides tremendous structure and insight, allowing us to focus and guide product development and obtain alignment across the enterprise.
Or putting this another way, we use the buyer personas that we create to help us place bets and make investments that will see our products grow and succeed or wither and die.
Dramatic? Maybe but…
Buyer personas help ensure that all activities involved in the customer lifecycle, from acquisition to customer service, are tailored and targeted to the customer’s needs.
Go and look at your company website, look at your product and marketing collateral – I bet that most of us will see ourselves taking great pride in talking about what we do, not what the customer needs, putting us at odds with our buyers.
When making purchasing decisions people naturally gravitate towards brands they know and companies they trust. There is no better way to successfully go-to-market and build trust than to be able to demonstrate that you understand and are genuinely concerned about your customer’s needs.
Social data can and should be used to influence your go-to-market strategy. Social media is no longer just a place to connect with family, friends, and colleagues, it's the most prominent steppingstone on the path to purchase in every industry, including the B2B SaaS space. Click To Tweet
The companies for whom we work, probably have some form of corporate social strategy, we are probably publishing content through corporate social media channels. Either natively on social networks or using third party vendor platforms, such as Oktopost.
Additionally, the company’s employees, our colleagues, might be sharing or engaging with some of this corporate content across their personal social profiles – be that through a formal or informal employee advocacy program.
It stands to reason, that when content is shared through both routes, people are going to engage with it. Be it a retweet, a Facebook like, or a comment on LinkedIn, for example. A
s a product marketer, if you are able to garner access to how customers and prospects engage with your brand on social – via the company’s marketing automation platform or the CRM system – you can take the relevant bits of this data and integrate them back into your GTM strategy.
What’s in a Product Content Strategy?
A content strategy should be designed with engagement in mind. For me, it boils down to figuring out what content will help our target audience and inspire them to take actions that ultimately lead to a conversion and closed-won business.
Doing this successfully requires us to bring together several moving parts including researching our audience and mapping out how our buyers are engaging and interacting with our content.
The content strategies that we create as product marketers, in conjunction with other colleagues across the organization, are unique to each of our respective situations. The is no magic solution or model that we can all cookie cutter to quadruple our revenue.
This being said, there are a few things we can put in place to set us on the right path:
- Study your audience
- Look at what content is being consumed and by who
- Snoop, I mean research your competitors
- Map the buyer’s journey
- Conduct a gap analysis
- Develop a distribution strategy
- Build a content calendar
A huge mistake marketers often make when building their strategy is an over-reliance on intuition. Don’t get me wrong, a gut instinct has a role to play but… it can not go unchecked.Being a data-led organization and building strategies based upon fact rather than instinct has a higher likelihood of driving success. Click To Tweet
We spend huge amounts of time and money creating content: our content marketing colleagues develop content faster than our customers and prospects can consume it. Did you know that, according to research by the American Marketing Association, 90% of all marketing content goes unused by sales.
This is a huge chunk of your marketing budget that could be put to better use, driving more revenue-focused activities.
Mind the Gap
Before you spend a penny on a new piece of content, lay out what your audience wants against what you are already providing them with. Understanding this gap really is your sweet spot for content creation.
The issue we have is that our traditional data sources have many blind spots.
By integrating social media into your content strategy, product marketers can shine a light on these data blind spots, surfacing insights to better inform their product content strategy.
Any product marketer worth their salt has to create with the entire sales and marketing funnel in mind. After all, our role is to increase shareholder value by driving interest in the products and services that we sell. We have to be focused on revenue.
Brand awareness occupies the top layer of the funnel where we are looking to establish trust but eventually we need to move through the middle of the funnel and focus on the bottom of the funnel content.
Content that influences the purchasing decisions our buyer makes. It can’t be all at the sacrifice of the others, it is a blend and balancing act.
Measuring how your product content is performing on social, exploring how many engagements, clicks, and conversions it is generating provides intelligence that can inform your content strategy and help understand the gaps.
Additionally, social data allows companies to personalize their customer journey including what content we should get in front of them, what channel and device they want to consume it on, and what day and time is it best to put it in front of them.
Providing B2B customers with a personalized experience has been shown to be more effective than impersonal, brand-owned content. Today’s B2B buyers are prioritizing companies that they view as authentic and trustworthy.
You can also take cues from the customer research that your competitors have already conducted by leveraging social listening to find the most relevant hashtags, websites and influencers in your industry.
There are many other ways to leverage social data in product marketing.
It’s time for product marketers to explore how through the use of social data and social tech we can build better customer experiences, get insights into the buyer’s journey, enhance ROI and bridge the data gap across marketing silos.