You’ve seen the Internet decimate industries such as record labels, newspapers, and cable TV—and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s crushing the B2B sales rep’s ability to get in front of qualified prospects. (If you still have your head in the sand about this, it’s time to face reality.)
Sales reps need leads, and it’s marketing’s job to get at least some of them—a majority would be nice.
As much as I hate the term “lead generation,” I don’t know a better one, so let’s start by defining what it is not.
Lead generation is not about buying lists with basic demographic (like titles, industries, and revenue size), which is why it’s so annoying when list vendors position themselves as lead generation companies just because they have contact information.
If it were, then we could buy a list and have our sales people cold call until they got appointments. (How many sales people out there have received a copy of the Book of Lists from their superior and were told to start dialing? I guess this still works, but I’d much rather be given a list of prospects to call that have some indication of interest, wouldn’t you?)
Lead generation through content marketing means attracting people with a problem you can solve (that they can afford to pay for!). To do that effectively, you must think like a publisher.
This requires way more than just knowing the demographic information on your prospects. Your audience must be built over time by generating superior content and putting it where they might see it—and if you’re out of touch, your content will fall on deaf eyeballs.
Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi said: "Buyer profiling is certainly not new, but understanding behaviors that make a real difference in results is surprisingly lacking. Demographic information and other routine data points are not enough to understand how to be heard above the noise.
"The real challenge is to develop a deeper understanding of how buyers think, what they need, and what we need to say to get them to choose us. Who are they? What roles do they play in the buying process? What is important to them individually and collectively as a buying committee? What are their pain points, challenges, and buying triggers?"
Understanding what truly motivates the buyer is by far the most important component in creating a content marketing strategy.”
Easier said than done, I know. But what else are you going to do? Hire more sales people?
The problem for most marketers is that, given their time and resource constraints, coupled with the weekly fire drills, putting together a buyer persona might seem like a giant waste of time.
But do you know what’s an even bigger waste of time?
Generating content and seeing what sticks to the wall—that’s what.
In fact, Sirius Decisions estimates that 60%–70% of the content generated by B2B companies is going unused and unconsumed.
There’s a good reason that all of the seasoned content marketers keep talking about constructing a buyer persona before launching a content marketing initiative: it’s the foundation of every successful initiative. In other words, the more you understand about your buyer’s issues, the more likely they will pay attention when you put out a blog post that speaks to those issues directly.
How to Build a Better Buyer Persona
Many sales trainers talk about pain points and the concept applies perfectly to content development. Pain is exactly the focal point around which your content should be developed.
People simply won’t read your blogs, watch your videos, or download your white papers unless there’s some sort of problem that they’re trying to solve. Buying is almost always emotional (right down to the cup of coffee that I’m about to go buy because I want an excuse to take a break from writing this post).
If you’re not tapping into a buyer’s pain points with your content, anything you create is going to sit there doing nothing.
[Editor’s note] This is why content development can be outsourced, even when you have a complex product. In order to use your content to attract a buyer’s attention, you need only understand the issues and problems that he or she is facing and not the intricacies of how your product works. That’s a bottom of the funnel sales conversation, and it won’t attract very many buyers who are beginning to think they have a problem.
So How Do You Build a Better Buyer Persona? Start by collecting the following information through research, interviews, and investigative journalism—and don’t stop asking questions.
- Consider where your buyers are getting their information from and how you can get it in front of them.
- What information do you need to collect in your CRM that will give you more insight into whether the prospect has a problem that might be worth discussing?
- Conduct regular one-to-one interviews with your clients, prospects, and industry thought leaders.
- Talk regularly to your sales people and ask them what issues and objections regularly come up.
- Consider how much is too much in regards to frequency. If two blog posts a week is enough, then make them interesting and be consistent. Establish an editorial calendar, just like a publisher.