Inbound marketing is a lot like an omelette. It’s made up of several ingredients that have to be combined in just the right way to get the desired results. You cannot make an omelette by simply throwing cheese, mushrooms, and bacon bits into a pan with some eggs, and you’re not going to create a cohesive inbound campaign by combining its various elements in a haphazard manner. One only has to take a look at the ingredients in each to understand why proper preparation is so important.
With the omelette, it’s the eggy mix that brings everything together. If you don’t give the eggs and milk a good beating, you’ll have no solidifying substance to hold the other ingredients together. In Inbound marketing, it’s your buyer personas that bring the other elements – content, social media, and email marketing – together. Like its culinary counterpart, a persona has to be developed properly if it’s going to act as a binding agent.
Personas should be at the center of everything you do
Unfortunately, many marketers still get this wrong. They know that their marketing activities need to be aligned with their buyer personas, but they lack a philosophy that puts their personas at the centre of all they do. Without a commitment to persona alignment, it’s impossible to ensure the kind of message relevancy that results in higher engagement rates and improved ROI.
To ensure that your inbound efforts are guided by your personas, there are three crucial steps you have to get right:
- persona development
- the buyer’s journey
- strategy-persona alignment
But, before you begin work on these, consider the important difference between these two incompatible approaches: traditional marketing, which is based on the premise that you have to create a demand for a product before you can sell it; and inbound marketing, which guides a buyer to a purchase decision by appealing to their interests and concerns. Unlike the traditional approach, inbound marketing is not product centered; it’s buyer centered. And your approach to personas and their buyer journeys should be buyer-centred too.
Treat your personas like real people
The awareness stage of the buyer journey does not refer to a buyer’s awareness of your product but to their awareness of a problem. When your customers go to Google for the solutions to their challenges, they are not looking for your product. They are looking for answers. Your task is to figure out what the questions are.
Here, it helps to think of your personas as real people – that is real human beings with dreams, desires, concerns and challenges. They are wandering around out there in a maelstrom of marketing messages with their hands over their ears, and if you want to cut through the clutter your messages will have to speak directly to their concerns.
Ask the right questions
Before you can develop your buyer personas, you need to understand your customers, and I mean really understand them. In addition to their professional roles, skills, and channel preference, you need to know their attitudes, beliefs, and motivations. To gain such an in-depth understanding of your audience, you can use social media, website forms and customer interviews.
Interviews are particularly useful when it comes to determining a customer’s goals, behaviour, and motivation. Just bear in mind that people are not always aware of the reasons for their behaviour. Learn to ask “why?” to get at what it is that really drives them. And when you use social media like LinkedIn for research keep these questions in mind. Good strategy relies as much on a knowledge of motivation as it does on the identification of the behaviour itself.
Consider the level of the funnel and buyer journey stage
Once you have a fully fleshed out persona and buyer journey, you can start to develop a strategy that will deliver the right messages, at the right times, through the right channels. To do this make sure that content, social, and email strategies take into account the different stages of a buyer journey.
The goal of your overall messaging strategy should be to anticipate what a persona will want to know next, and then put that information where they can easily find it. This give consumers a digital thread that they can follow all the way to a purchase decision.
To learn more about how personas can be used to deliver greater marketing ROI, download our Guide on How to use Buyer Personas to Define your Target Market.