Your buyer personas are “living documents.” They shouldn’t be forgotten somewhere on the shared drive; they’re important when it comes to planning your marketing strategy.
Since 80% of your business will probably come from 20% of your customers, one of your first priorities is to figure out … everything you should know about that 20%. —Don Doman, author of Market Research Made Easy
And, everything you find out about your customer has to be 100% up to date for it to be truly effective when it comes to strategy planning.
What value do buyer personas create?
Do you know the specific steps your prospects follow when they’re looking for a solution like yours? What prevents them from making a decision? Do you know their trusted sources of information?
You need to.
Related: Build Buyer Personas Before Content
Adele Revella, CEO and founder of the Buyer Persona Institute, tells us that buyer personas are much more than a simple outline of your target customer. They reveal specific attitudes, concerns and criteria that drive your customer to choose you, or your competitor. Personas help you align marketing decisions with buyer expectations. (Source).
Why invest the time and effort to update them?
Empathize with customers for better sales results
Ardath Albee, B2B marketing expert, encourages companies to avoid developing “unsuitable buyer personas.”
What does this mean?
All too often, buyer personas are produced without involving current customers. They may lack real actionable insight or be based on completely outdated business objectives.
Another common mistake is to include irrelevant assumptions. Do you really need to know that Marie, CIO, enjoys a glass of wine at night when you’re trying to convince her to invest in virtual machine backup tools?
This type of creative detail concocted for the purpose of storytelling is one of the main reasons salespeople distrust personas and end up not using them. Instead, focus on gathering ONLY the specific details you need to empathize with your ideal customer.
When you truly understand your customer’s deepest needs, you can help them envision how your solution will solve their problem.
As Zig Ziglar famously said: “Stop selling. Start helping.”
Open up new growth opportunities
Everyone these days is talking about digital disruption.
But Thales S. Teixeira argues that it is unhappy customers who are driving the disruption, not technology.
His research indicates that the reason start-ups like Dollar Shave Club, State Farm or Mint manage to disrupt incumbents is not because they have better technology, but because they relentlessly focus on what customers are not happy with.
In this view, regularly updating your buyer personas is a great way to unlock growth opportunities, because they help you spot what frustrates customers.
Besides, Norman Group’s 2015 survey showed that there is a direct correlation between the frequency of persona updates and the perceived quality of the user experience. Companies that update their personas quarterly report better results than those who let them sit untouched for five years, even when the updates consist of small tweaks rather than entire overhauls (Source).
How to update them
There is no one right way to update personas. More than the method itself, what matters is precisely to agree on an easy-to-follow process.
In any case, you should be clear about the value you expect from refreshing them, the periodicity and extent of updates, and most importantly how they’ll be used.
Phase1: Set your objectives
Before you begin revising personas, be very clear why you’re doing it.
Do you want to…
- Refresh your website content to improve your conversion rates?
- Ensure your marketing strategy is still focused on the most profitable customer segment?
- Launch a new product or service?
Phase 2: Know when it’s time to update them
As noted, businesses that receive the most value update their personas quarterly.
However, there is often a triggering event that precipitates the need to take action. Here are a few examples:
- You’re missing sales targets.
- You’re planning to launch a new product line or service.
- You’re expecting a major change in your industry (new regulation, new technology, etc.).
Phase 3: Research and synthesize
At this stage, you should have a better idea of the amount of work required and the kind of insights you’re looking for.
Should you need to simply tweak them, you may be able to gather additional information internally.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Hold quarterly sales and marketing team meetings to share any changes your team has noticed in customer behaviours. Anecdotal insights (when backed up with data) can be especially helpful in updating “a day in the life of” your target customer.
- For each sales meeting, note the most frequent objections or reasons why customers don’t buy.
- Use audience insight tools, such as Google Analytics, LinkedIn’s Ad platform, Twitter Audience Insights, and comments in industry specific forums, to ensure you’re still using relevant keywords and the right tone of voice.
In the case of thorough reviews, nothing is better than feedback that comes right from the client’s mouth. You can use surveys, small focus groups and unscripted face-to-face interviews.
If you’re looking at a very small group of clients or if you’re targeting a significantly new group, you should also consider interviewing prospects and even lost opportunities.
Remember that the goal of updating personas is not just to better understand the needs of customers as of today, but also how they’re likely to evolve in the near future.
Phase 4: Form a hypothesis and test
Unfortunately, survey responses are not entirely reliable and the context of the interview may affect the responses.
Similarly, salespeople often add their own bias when they capture customer insights, and interviewees aren’t always 100% honest.
Data is also subject to interpretation. That’s why you may want to validate your findings with a simple A/B test.
Phase 5: Share and govern
Present your new buyer persona to your teams and highlight the most relevant findings while reminding everyone of your initial objective.
This is an ideal time to communicate how you’ll measure the impact of persona updates to illustrate their effectiveness.
If necessary, retrain team members on how best to utilize these living documents.
And while you’re at it, why not try to make this a fun exercise?
Marketing automation software provider Pardot took to creating life-sized cut-outs of their ideal buyer personas to “live” in the office as constant reminders. They’re impossible to ignore! (Source)
The work doesn’t stop there. You have to prepare the next update. Make sure you outline the procedures and responsibilities for updating your personas going forwards.
Investing in regular buyer persona updates (however small) eliminates any guesswork, myths and assumptions.
This process lays the foundation for developing a marketing strategy that will generate more quality leads from the right customers.
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