Mapping Buyer Personas: How to Consider Your Audience in Multiple Dimensions
April 6, 2017 | Melissa Nazar
The idea of creating and using buyer personas is not new – it’s become part of B2B marketing 101. Developing them is a natural step in creating a marketing strategy.
Afterall, you can’t really effectively market to your audience if you’re not sure what drives them, what they’re interested in, and what makes them tick. Without personas, you’re really just guessing at what your audience cares about, and end up in situations where you’re an example of a bad #marketingfail.
Seeing Beyond the Persona
The problem is that personas as they exist today are static. They are profiles that we create, albeit with significant research and justification, but they aren’t dynamic. Sure, best practice is to update personas on a regular basis, but even in ideal world, we’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.
Personas are not actual buyers. B2B buyers are real people, whose needs and interests may be aligned with a specific persona. But they are living the same battles we do: running to meetings, checking items off their to-do lists, dealing with whatever the day’s fire drill is, etc.
The benefit of personas – having a go-to profile of your buyer you can reference – has a built in flaw. They are static, living on paper and not in the real world.
To effectively market to personas, you need to consider another element: time. It’s not just about providing the right message to the right person, but also providing that message to them at the right time. You need to provide content to your audience not only based on their specific persona, but also based on funnel stage.
Considering Funnel Stages
Most marketers are good at thinking about content by persona, or at connecting content against a specific funnel stage. However, we are not so great at looking at both of those together.
Why is this important? Because a buyer, regardless of persona, may want something different based on where they are in the funnel. And if you’re not considering this, you may end up giving your audience something irrelevant.
For example, just because your IT stakeholder persona typically likes content that’s heavy on tech specs, they may only care about that information at a later funnel stage, vs. early on in the process.
We should be combining both dimensions together to consider both persona, and that persona’s role in the funnel stage and then develop content to address what they need to hear from us, at that stage in the buying cycle, based on their involvement in the stage.
Multi-dimensional Persona Maps: An Example
So how does it actually work? What does this multidimensional approach look like?
This is an example of a persona map, layered across different funnel stages. You can see here that content it mapped for every persona by stage. In this view, you can quickly see where there are gaps in your content, making it easier for you to effectively plan what to create next.
You’ll notice that not every persona has content at every stage, and that’s completely acceptable, assuming that persona doesn’t need a new message or piece of content. It’s easy to fall into the trap of requiring content for each persona at every stage.
For example, in this map, Phil Finance is actually not really part of the buying process until Stage 2, so there’s no need to create content to engage him there.
Instead, this team should focus on developing content for him where it matters, later in the process at Stages 3 & 4.
Trying It Out Yourself
Want to try your hand at creating your own multidimensional persona map? Use this grid as an example to get started.
- List out the names of your persona along the left side. Then list your different buyer funnel stages across the top.
- Assess the content you have and plot it out according to the appropriate persona and stage.
- Put an “X” in any boxes that reflect personas that do not need content at a specific stage.
- Highlight the remaining spaces – the gaps – to prioritize.
- Review your existing content and consider opportunities to optimize and amplify content through new ways.
With this map, you’ll have a guideline for where to begin your content planning so that you are creating assets that consider your funnel holistically. Focus first on where there are critical gaps against key personas at each buying stage.