How to activate your buyer personas

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Don’t let your buyer personas languish in a slide deck somewhere. “Mary Marketer” and “Clark COO” aren’t doing any good just sitting in the shared folder. Research by Bain & Company found 81% of executives said customer segmentation was a critical tool for growing profits, but fewer than 25% believed their companies used it effectively. Once you’ve put in the work to determine your segments and which segment is the most valuable, now it’s time to activate these findings in the market. How do you do that?

Build a marketing plan that begins with buyer personas

“Right person, right product, right time” is a marketing manifesto, but it’s much easier said than done. There are a million martech platforms that promise to make it easy. But empathizing with your customers isn’t the job for software: it’s for actual human marketers.

If you’ve segmented your customers to create buyer personas, determined your high-value segment, and created segment-specific value propositions, now it’s time to put it together into an omni-channel marketing plan.

First, layout your marketing plan components:

  1. Buyer Personas: a “good, better, best” framework here helps make planning (and budgeting) straightforward. Here’s our guide to how to find your best customer segment.
  2. Value Proposition: segment-specific value propositions should directly address your target segment’s pain points and key psychographics. It’s useful to come up with short- and long-form versions of your value proposition.
  3. Channels: it’s critical to match your customer segment to the right-for-them channel. In your segmentation research, try to identify channel preferences by segment. So often our clients ask us about various channels independent of any kind of strategic targeting: should we start a podcast? Spend more time on TikTok? Create subscriber-only newsletters? We always reframe the question to begin with segmentation: to reach Segment X, we need to use Channel Y. For example, if your “best segment” prefers email and is active on LinkedIn but never touches TikTok…stay away from TikTok. Resist the temptation; you’ll just waste your resources. Write a blog post, include it in an email, promote it on LinkedIn, make your best customers happy.
  4. Customer Journey Stage: let’s be honest, prospects rarely move through the customer journey in the linear fashion that marketers imagine. Never-the-less, it’s a useful exercise to make sure you’re not overly focused on one type of content or stage of the buyer journey. We’ve found that last-click attribution models tend to create a bottom-of-the-funnel bias. Don’t forget the awareness and consideration phases.

Now build your plan, starting with your buyer personas:

Buyer Persona Value Proposition Channel Customer Journey Stage Learning Agenda
"Best" High Value Segment Short, segment-specific Paid Social Awareness Hypothesis 1
"Better" Segment Long Email Newsletter Consideration Hypothesis 2
“Best” High Value Segment Long Content: White Paper Consideration Hypothesis 1

Always test your assumptions: Create a learning agenda

The bevy of a/b testing tools out there, plus the ubiquitousness of “test and learn” in marketing jargon, means that most marketers are running experiments. Conducting tests that will actually be meaningful to your marketing strategy is trickier. The key to a testing plan that moves the needle beyond different button colors is to be hypothesis-driven. So dust off your 6th grade notes on the scientific method, and start formulating hypotheses. By linking your hypotheses directly to a segment, you’ll be constantly validating and refining your buyer personas. This will also help you spot market trends early.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that we’ve identified our high value segment as sales and marketing leaders at middle-market companies who are struggling to hit their revenue projections. Our hypothesis: that messaging focused on increasing efficiency will resonate more than a straightforward “increase revenues” message. We run two ads on LinkedIn (or your channel of choice), and let the data guide our messaging. If you don’t want to spend your precious ad budget, you can run landing page tests or use a dedicated message testing tool.

Pick the right KPI: What will you measure?

Digital marketing campaigns offer a deluge of data. To avoid being completely overwhelmed, pick your Key Performance Indicators — the metrics that will actually matter to the business– before you launch the campaign. Sometimes this might seem like stating the obvious: a lead gen campaign should be measured in number and quality of leads. But presumably your plan will be shared outside of the marketing department. Be straightforward about what counts as success to build alignment within your organization.

Don’t be afraid to change the channel: Let your learning agenda guide your marketing plan

Of course, marketing plans should be adaptable. Sudden changes in the market will mean sudden changes in your marketing plan. But starting with a plan that itself starts with your buyer personas keeps your strategy and team customer-focused. By baking in a learning agenda, you ensure that you are always learning and can course-correct. And finally, by stating your metrics for success at the outset, you will stay data-driven and results-oriented.