Friday, October 23, 2015

The most neglected concept in marketing

By David Ronald

One of the most overlooked and rarely implemented concepts in marketing is that of the company persona.

No, I’m not talking about buyer personas, which are vital and a key contributor to the efficacy of the outbound marketing of any company—spending time and creativity in the creation of accurate buyer personas is an investment that will yield results (more on this later). Instead, I’m recommending that you craft a vendor persona that describes your company.

Think of it as the foundation of your brand.

One of my former companies, a startup that introduced several game-changing technologies to the cable television industry, selected the persona of a visionary magician. It was a perfect way of encapsulating the innovative spirit of the company. All of the content created by the marketing team from that point onwards adopted a tone-of-voice that reflected the visionary magician persona.

Not only did this approach improve the consistency of our outbound marketing, it also informed the way the sales team pitched the product; and also how we spoke about the company to analysts and media. And a serendipitous side-effect was it hinted about exciting future product developments without requiring the company to commit to roadmap specifics—which is ideal for a business in the early-stages of its life.

Life is hectic and anything that simplifies it is good, and that is where the power of a company persona comes from—it enables both company outsiders and insiders to “get” what you are about faster and more easily.

This is why I recommend that you consider coming up with a personality for your business.
And, while we’re on the topic of personas, let’s consider buyer personas, which are the other side of the same coin. Don’t hesitate to invest in crafting 3-5 buyer personas as this will increase the success of your outbound marketing.

Why do buyer personas matter?

Here’s an example of what can happen if they’re overlooked: when I started working at the cable television infrastructure vendor described earlier in this post, the company used the same messaging foundation across all its content (data sheets, white papers, presentations, press releases and so on). The sales cycle for its process lasted 12-18 months and required approval from multiple teams within a cable television company.

The key influencers involved in buying its product included technical, financial and user personas. Some personas were attracted to the company’s products because they were game-changing but others were intimidated—resulting in meetings being delayed endlessly.

Specifically, adjectives such as “game-changing” and “revolutionary” that resonated with the technically-oriented employees were disconcerting to people in operations and support inherently wary of new and untested technologies.

Consequently, we segmented our messaging according to persona—a new segment for the operations persona focused on ease-of-use and the availability of 24/7 technical support. These attributes were evangelized on the website, in solution briefs and blogs, in the trade press and at tradeshows. And, consequently, half a dozen opportunities that had been stalled were successfully closed.

The creation of buyer personas isn’t onerous and, indeed, can be fun. Start by identifying the 3-5 key issues that your target personas focus on. Next, determine how your solution mitigates these issues (and be creative if you have to). Add credibility to these benefits by mapping specific features of your solution to each benefit.

Ask your most experienced sales person to review this messaging architecture and incorporate changes. You’ll be ready to go once you’ve done that.

Thanks for reading.

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