Personas, Automation and Other Strategies Most Marketers Get Wrong
It seems like marketers these days have heard, ad nauseam, about how they need to have a buyer persona, that they should be using marketing automation, and why they need to be posting on social media. While it’s true that personas, automation, and a stand out social media presence are definitely necessary in the age of the digital native—they only get results if they’re done right.
Here's what you need to know to turn these ideas from marketing buzzwords into real performers that will boost your bottom line.
You probably already know that it takes a lot of work to put together these semi-fictional representations of your best customers. You need to have deep insight into who your customers are, what they do, how they communicate, and more in order to sketch out a realistic persona with a name, face, job title, personal life, and a handful of daily stresses that you aim to relieve.
In exchange for this creation, your marketing will be more focused, product development more successful, and aligning sales and marketing much easier. But here's the rub: It’s not enough to just have a buyer persona, you have to use it, too.
As you develop marketing strategies, always consider the following:
- Communication Style. How does your persona communicate? What are their preferred channels? Which types of media do they prefer? Your strategy should not simply include some of your persona's favorites; it should be built entirely around them.
- Favorite Networks. Where does your persona go for information? Aside from a simple Google search, are there common industry resources? Where does your persona go for networking? LinkedIn is probably an easy answer, but what about meetups and conferences? Trade shows and associations? Forums? You need to be where your persona is hanging out.
- Challenges. Part of creating a buyer persona is defining some challenges they will face in their job. When developing marketing strategies, it's essential that you are addressing these challenges and offering solutions. It is in these pain points that your real prospects will find the most value in your marketing.
Automation is so very easy to get wrong—especially if you’re more focused on how it can make your life easier as a marketer and not how you’re offering value to leads. Remember, every successful marketing strategy must start with the consumer.
When marketing automation is done right, it is:
This doesn't mean just using software to stick someone's first name into an email; consumers have been over that bit of technology since 1999. Instead, personalization means doing your homework, segmenting your audience so the right messages get to the right people at the right time.
Your audience should always be segmented by your specific goals, then divided into groups of similar readers. Location, for example, should be a primary division as the timing of message delivery can crucial to open rates and interaction. Targeting groups by life-cycle stage is another essential segmentation path as fresh leads need a different nurturing path than an enthusiastic subscriber.
Helpful to the reader, that is. Stay away from automated messaging that's heavy on the hard sell. Today's consumers have more than enough of that in their lives and digital natives are quite adept at tuning out obvious advertisements. Instead, focus on providing something of value to your readers.
"Value" can take many forms, of course, including how-tos and recommendations, support, timely reminders, and discounts. What you offer depends on your buyer persona's needs and at which point in the buying process he's in. If you are asking prospects to consider a major purchase, then long-form content that addresses many issues might be appropriate. If you're looking for quick sales conversions, a “save now” offer might fit the bill. The key, as always, is to focus on the reader.
Of course, delivering messages to people is necessarily obtrusive. The idea, however, is to make the reader feel that you’re not interrupting their activities, but adding value to them. Along with good segmentation and useful content, you can achieve the illusion of unobtrusive marketing by keeping your messaging within the context of the consumer's needs. For example, an automated drip campaign that's initiated by the consumer's activity will feel responsive, not interruptive.
Unless you have a dedicated social media team, social marketing is often an afterthought, but it can be a valuable tool for both B2B and B2C businesses. These days, most people expect a business to be on social media, so it would be a mistake to not give social marketing its due.
Setting Social Media Goals
If the thought of going social is making you twitchy, start by thinking about some of the unique goals that social media can help you meet: When it comes to building your brand, social media is one of the most cost-effective ways to build real, lasting relationships with current and potential consumers, receive direct, no-holds-barred feedback directly from consumers (for better or for worse), and stay in the loop about what people want from a business like yours.
Social media is also a prime avenue for promoting your website, blog, or other online assets. You can use social media to directly influence sales and conversions by promoting products and services, or you can be more circumspect by directing people to the top of your sales funnel.
The Growing Pay-to-Play Landscape
Before you embark on a social media strategy, it's important to consider the balance between paid, earned, and owned social media. As more and more social outlets make it difficult for marketers to succeed without shelling out at least a little bit of cash, getting this balance right is essential to keeping your social campaigns on track and on budget.
- Paid social media refers to any ads and posts that are boosted with cash to either get the post in front of a greater percentage of your followers or to extend your reach beyond those who already follow you.
- Earned social are those interactions that grow naturally out of your efforts to build relationships with consumers—direct messages or mentions from users or other consumer-generated content like reviews.
- Owned social media is everything else you generate including shared blog posts, original social content, links to your website, and other assets.
It can be tempting to head straight to paid models on social media to get your posts in front of the right people, and this can be effective in the short term—especially if you’re attempting to build your traffic from scratch. But, as time goes on, paid campaigns tend to have a diminishing return.
To achieve the best balance—and to keep your budget in check—it's important to make sure that you’re not weighing your strategy too much in favor of either one of these three.
Getting it Right Means Getting Results
When you approach marketing buzzwords thinking about how each new concept or tool can be used to reach a tangible goal and effect real consumer behavior, they begin to look less like jargon and more like avenues to success. This change in perspective makes your visitors happy, and that makes everyone else successful.