Supercharge your SEO and inbound marketing with buyer personas

 

Research and Experience are the Foundation of Understanding Needs of the Customer

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If you’re working on an internet marketing plan, having a clear picture of your business goals is the first step. Along with articulating your business goals, you can measure your progress by assigning KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to your plan.

Goals are important, but in support of those goals you need to have an understanding of your “buyer personas” in order to implement a comprehensive SEO and inbound marketing strategy that reaches your actual targets.

Why Personas Are Important

Buyer personas are a fictitious representation of your ideal customer. Developing personas is critical to reach your business goals. They’re based on research, and interviews with existing and potential customers. The general idea is to gain an understanding of their needs, wants, pain points, and how your product or service addresses those issues. You’ll want to build content around your findings that keys to your customers & potential customer’s input.

It would be fabulous if you could just use Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines to find the answers. But you need to personally connect with these individuals.

Larger organizations usually find it fairly easy to gather research. They can afford to hand the project off to a dedicated research company, and get their persona findings delivered in a complete package.

Small to medium-sized companies generally choose to handle the research process themselves, and the difficulty lies in finding a sample of an “ideal customer” who is not yet doing business with you.

Here are a few tips on sourcing people for the interview process:

1. Start with friends

One of the most effective strategies is to source interviewees through your networks of contacts. Many of these individuals are likely to have a connection with an “ideal customer” you are hoping to attract through inbound or other internet marketing activities.

Keep in mind that most people with a strong network of contacts don’t readily hand them over, even if you have a good relationship with them. You need to reassure your contact that your interest is purely research-oriented. It’s important not to “pitch” your product or service to the referral because you are only looking for information about your buyer persona. You want your interview to be open and candid. If you raise concerns in the interviewees mind that you are selling, you won’t get the valuable input you need.

You may also suggest that the person who facilitated the introduction be on the call or attend the appointment with you. In addition to being able to observe, they may find value in seeing the contact with you. If you approach the task of finding customers to interview, your contacts will be more likely to help you make the connections. More often than not, they will opt-out, but giving them the choice is what’s important.

2. Consider Using Incentives

When doing research, sometimes it is necessary to provide a token reward to encourage participation. The idea of the reward is not to “pay” for favorable answers, it should serve as a gesture of thanks and appreciation for your interviewee making the time and effort. A coupon, or gift card of a nominal amount should be sufficient. Using incentives is not a requirement, but it can be helpful.

3. Leverage Your Business and Personal Circles of Contacts

You’ve heard of six degrees of separation. It’s the same with your networks of friends and business associates. For example, if you had 100 contacts, and each of your contacts have that many or more, you have a network of literally thousands to choose from. Make a point of reviewing your lists of contacts to see who is likely to be connected or crossing paths with your “ideal customer”.

4. Connect Through a Local or Regional Business Organization

If you’re not already involved with your local chamber of commerce, or business networking group, now is the time to start. Getting involved can be a great way to make connections with potential customers. Participating in events, joining committees will help you to quickly build awareness of your brand’s products and services and give others a chance to see how you think and work.

Most Chambers have a variety of membership levels to make joining attractive and practical. Business networking groups usually have rules and codes of behavior that lend themselves to giving and getting referrals. Like any relationship-building activity, you need to attend events, introduce yourself, and make a point of being helpful to others. When you help others, they will tend to return the gesture. As with your own contacts, you will discover the “ideal customer” you seek to interview through participation with these groups.

5. Connect Through Social Media

If you’re not already using social media, this can be a great way to identify people and companies who are likely to use your brand’s services. All of the most popular services have very powerful search functions to make your search for persona information easier. Some of the platforms offer groups that you can join to make it easier to connect with the people you are seeking. If you already have a network of social media connections, you can leverage them in the same way you would a traditional contact.

If you are new to social media, you’ll have to build your network and then reach out for the introductions or suggestions. It’s best to treat your connections in the same way you would an existing personal or business contact. As with most things in life, you get more by giving first.  No one on social media likes a new connection to start to mine contacts or information without getting to know you first.

Some of the most well-known broad interest social media platforms are:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Facebook
  3. Instagram
  4. YouTube
  5. Google +
  6. Pinterest
  7. Twitter
  8. Meetup

6. Connect Through Alumni Organizations

A high school or college alumni group can be a great way to source interviewees. Most entities now have online alumnis directories, and you usually have to be registered and approved before you will get access. Reaching out to past connections can help pave the way to new introductions. Every relationship takes nurturing and respect of other people’s time and responsibilities.

7. Connect Through Local Institutions and Events

Local cultural institutions are a magnet for individuals from all backgrounds. If you find an institution you have an interest in supporting or participating with, this is a great way to meet others who you would not necessarily run into or meet in another venue. While it might require more time than some of the other avenues mentioned above, you will likely find more diversity in the audience. Depending on your goals, consider a sponsorship can lead to exclusive access or more engagement in your research process.

  1. Art, Theater, Museum, Music & Dance Groups
  2. Environmental and Nature groups
  3. Community and Religious organizations
  4. Business meetings, presentations and industry associations
  5. Athletics

8. Don’t Skip the Interview Process. Persona Development Will lead to Improved SEO and Inbound Marketing Results

Research suggests that not having well-developed Personas is the biggest cause of failed inbound marketing programs.

Guessing at and assuming you know your audience without conducting some form of research can result in a content and marketing plan that is flawed. Once your buyer personas are developed, they should be reviewed and/or expanded on an annual basis.

Creating buyer personas will help ensure that your design and messaging responds to the needs of the marketplace and will ultimately help you achieve your business goals. You can learn more about buyer personas by downloading the guide below.
About the author: Tom Weinkle is a founder and partner of Vortex Communications, a graphic and website design firm who offers graphic and WordPress web design, build, troubleshooting and training services along with search optimization, social media and inbound marketing services. Based in Miami, Florida, Tom has over 25 years of experience in visual communications for the healthcare, medical, law, accounting, software, financial services and banking industries.

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