Building buyer personas is a crucial stage in any manufacturing marketing campaign. With 80% of engineering and manufacturing businesses planning on investing in content marketing over the next 12 months, buyer personas should be a primary starting point for ambitious manufacturing businesses (The Marketing In Manufacturing Report).
However, time and time again, we work with manufacturing organisations who either don’t have personas or have ‘bashed out’ a series of personas as a box-ticking exercise – see more on that here.
Marketing personas are pivotal to the success of any industrial marketing campaign. They aren’t a ‘nice to have’. They are crucial.
So, what does a good persona look like and why are they so important to engineering and manufacturing businesses?
According to HubSpot, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
Your personas should be the North Star when it comes to any campaign messaging. Done right, they make you magnetic to your target customer. Done wrong, your messaging will just look like everyone else’s – leaving you lost in a sea of other suppliers just like you.
They should act as a guide for how you approach your target market and as a minimum should outline your target market’s:
This information allows you to answer questions about your target market so you can help influence their purchasing decisions by being present in the right places and using language they understand.
Manufacturers and engineers offer more complex and higher value products and services than most. Often, this means there are multiple decision-makers when it comes to making a purchase.
Each of those decision-makers plays a part in whether or not you get the sale. So, you need to understand each member of the buying team in detail. It’s not enough to make assumptions based on how large or small the business is, what industry they’re in or where they’re based.
For example, the content you need to present to an Engineering Director is likely worlds apart from the content you should offer to a Production Manager. They have different challenges, different needs and different concerns.
That means you need to create content for those challenges, needs and concerns specifically.
One of the most common KPIs manufacturing marketing teams are measured on is new business leads (The Marketing In Manufacturing Report). You need to attract the target audience to your website by writing well optimised content around the issues that they search for. Without buyer personas, you’ll struggle to know what those issues might be, and which terms your audience uses to solve them.
Equally, when you attract new users to your site, you’ll need to present them with information and offers that will make them want to give you their contact information. Thus, turning them into leads. If you don’t understand your personas in detail, you’ll struggle to create content they really want.
Often, in manufacturing businesses, there can be a misalignment of sales and marketing. The sales team thinks a certain way about customers, while marketing thinks another, and customer services view them differently again. When buyer personas have been completed, they provide a common language for all departments to use. Detailed personas break down departmental walls and get everyone “on the same page” for understanding their customers. Then everyone can refocus on delighting them with this new level of insight.
Are you blasting out a monthly newsletter to all your database and hoping that they all find it engaging? That is one approach, but the smarter we get with our marketing, the better the results are. Segmenting your database can be a great place to start. But how do you start to segment? Buyer personas can really help here.
Typically, an engineer wants quick, summarised information – the facts. But maybe a production manager would like more background information and a real business case for the solution you are offering. Messages to these two groups should look and feel different – they should be in different segments.
Several studies have shown that B2B companies who have adopted a customer-centric, ‘Inbound’ approach to sales and marketing have consistently outperformed their competition. The starting point for any Inbound strategy is always buyer personas. Before we can plan what our content strategy is, which blogs we are going to write, which content needs to be on the website and which emails we will send, we need to be clear about who we are sending to and why.
It all starts with buyer personas.
Now you know what buyer personas are and why they’re important, you’re probably wondering where to start when it comes to building them!
A common misconception is that buyer personas are ‘fluffy marketing stuff’. They should be built by the marketing team and used by the marketing team.
This could not be more wrong. And it’s one of the main reasons manufacturing marketing personas simply don’t work, as discussed here.
Your buyer personas should add value to all departments of your business and in particular, sales, marketing and service. It’s crucial to get key stakeholders from all departments involved in the creation of marketing personas and while marketing often drives this activity, it’s important to get as many viewpoints as possible.
The best place to start is by looking at the client database you already have. Unearth which clients you’d like more of and why they are a good fit for you. Map out the typical sales cycle your prospects and customers go through and identify who the key decision-makers are in that process.
Once you’ve done this, develop a list of questions to help guide you through collecting information on those people. For example:
Our persona template is a great place to start when it comes to defining these questions. Download your copy here.
Now it’s time to answer those questions. Of course, workshopping this with key stakeholders is a great way to get answers but there’s nothing quite like actually speaking to real customers.
Conduct telephone interviews to ask your ideal clients what their goals and objectives are, what prompted them to purchase in the first place and what terminology they use to find products and services.
As well as this, qualitative data, you’ll want to collect quantitative data too which should include information on buying patterns and seasonality.
Be sure to document this research and then group people together based on similar interests, job titles, responsibilities and buying triggers. This should come together quite naturally providing you have done enough research.
One common mistake manufacturing marketers make is pinpointing their personas on job titles alone. For example, at Intergage, one of our target personas within a business is usually the Managing Director.
However, there are a number of generations that span this job title. So, we identified William Old (generation baby boomer), Bill the Business Owner (generation X) and Will New who is typically a millennial. Each of these personas has very different needs, triggers and challenges and so need to be communicated with in a different way. We typically find that someone who falls into the category of William Old isn’t great at emails and prefers to do business face to face. However, Will New likes saving time and prefers to meet suppliers virtually and only communicates through the likes of email and LinkedIn.
Having that additional layer of understanding really helps identify how you should approach each persona and which content they might like to receive.
Here’s an example of part of one of our own personas to give you an idea of what you should be left with:
Often it helps to have someone outside of your business support you with persona creation. They can ask you questions you probably wouldn’t think to ask yourself and guide you through persona workshops to get the information you really need. Just like we do for our manufacturing and engineering clients!
Buyer personas are an incredibly important part of any marketing campaign. They allow you to get to know your target audience inside out. Buyers are more willing to pay a premium for products and services if they feel a business truly understands their needs and challenges. Your buyer personas will be the key to unlocking that value.
Want to see how other manufacturing and engineering businesses are using marketing to spark growth? Download your FREE copy of The Marketing In Manufacturing Report here.