As marketing technology and information access continues to evolve, B2B buying behavior changes as well. For example, recent research suggests that marketers may want to shift to shorter pieces of content to reel in B2B buyers.
DemandGen’s “2017 Content Preferences Survey Report” discovered that 46 percent of B2B buyers have moved towards shorter formats of content in the past year.
This insight supports the notion that B2B marketers need to continually re-evaluate the B2B buyer journey, in an effort to understand the impact digital marketing tactics have in sales and business development.
A couple months ago I outlined 14 visualizations meant to aid B2B marketers in understanding the buying journey. But does your B2B marketing team know enough about the decision makers themselves to align search, social, and content marketing strategy with these outlines?
B2B buyer personas become critical in connecting the dots of this process.
What Are Buyer Personas?
As outlined a few years back for Search Engine Land, a “buyer persona” is a representative profile of a particular target audience segment. Several more experienced B2B marketing professionals have paved the way for the understanding I have in B2B buyer personas as well. Here are some of their definitions:
- Ardath Albee & MLT Creative: “A buyer persona is a composite of different factors that affect your buyer and motivate him/her to buy. Your prospect’s buying cycle and buying decisions are situated within a larger context that must be understood in order to motivate his/her buyer behavior.” (source)
- Tony Zambito: “We define buyer personas as the process of not only developing archetypal representations of buyers, but also the process of gathering insights, developing buyer scenarios, tapping into mental models, and mapping to the buying process.” (source)
- Adele Revella: “A buyer persona as an archetype; a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you market, based on what you’ve learned in direct interviews with real buyers.” (source)
As Albee indicated in an interview with the Content Marketing Institute, what makes B2B buyer personas different than general user personas is the complex sales cycle of B2B solutions. There are usually multiple decision makers involved in the process.
B2B marketers need to think about SEO, social media, and content marketing efforts meant to satisfy a more diverse set of requirements across multiple personas.
B2B Buyer Personas & SEO Lead Generation
It is no secret that SEO plays an important part in lead generation for B2B marketers. According to findings from Demandwave, B2B marketers reported that organic search (70 percent) drives the second most leads for their company (trailing email at 73 percent).
But the 2017 Marketing Leadership Survey from TrackMaven revealed that just 27.6 percent of marketers say they are “very effective” at demonstrating the value of their marketing efforts to their peers. The majority (69 percent) say that they are only “somewhat effective” at it.
Two considerations come to mind when reviewing the disparity between search engine traffic and lead volume, and challenges generating high quality leads from search.
- Traffic / Lead Potential: A mature B2B website should receive a fair percentage of traffic from search engines, and lead opportunities as a result, because Google in particular represents such an influential platform for traffic acquisition.
- Disconnect in B2B SEO Objectives: The lag in quality conversions could mean that SEO discovery needs to be more integrated with broader B2B marketing efforts. How effectively are we tying keyword efforts to content development associated with B2B Buyer intent?
Nine SEO-Related Buyer Persona Questions
Here are nine questions search marketing professionals should ask (or get answered) when integrating B2B buyer personas into their SEO (and PPC) programs.
“What keywords would the buyer use to search for a problems related to solutions our organization provides?”
An (hopefully) obvious starting point for uncovering an initial list of terms and phrases to begin keyword research.
“What type of content would the prospective buyer want to see and use to learn more about a solution like ours?”
This question uncovers opportunities for content development to be used for link acquisition, keyword strategy, and lead generation.
“What keywords align with top of funnel content marketing assets (IE, informational queries) and more sales-oriented material (IE, transactional queries?”
This question should lead to further refinement of keyword research and the assessment of user objectives in search results, in coordination with defined keyword targets.
“Where would the buyer look for information on a solution like ours?”
This question helps uncovers possible link opportunities and social media destinations for outreach strategies.
“What influencers and thought leaders is the buyer familiar with in the industry?”
Similar to the last question, this helps define social media and third party site focus, which in turn impacts link acquisition and referral traffic.
“What other companies is the prospect aware of that offer a solution like ours?”
This helps uncover competitive websites to review for SEO, social media, and content marketing strategies.
“What trends does the buyer see in the industry?”
Not only does the answer to this question help keyword research, but it might assist link building and competitive research.
“What are the typical titles and roles of the prospective buyer?”
The answers to this question can lead to LinkedIn exploration for industry groups, organizations, and important publishing websites; in turn generating link building and social media opportunities.
“What is a problem in the industry that our business can solve?”
The answers to this question help spearhead keyword research and enable a more refined search for third party sites and social media conversations to investigate for link outreach and social networking.
This is a short list of direct and indirect opportunities. The reality is that all of the information gleaned from a comprehensive buyer persona report could improve the effectiveness of B2B SEO and PPC programs.
I would also recommend being involved in buyer persona creation from the start. The information realized will help search marketing professionals make more informed decisions without duplicating processes. Buyer personas provide a great starting point for keyword research, competitive review, and link building / social media exploration.
Is your organization leveraging the information found in buyer persona development?
I would love to read your thoughts and perspective via comments below.