Industrial Content Marketing 101: Customer Personas

Posted on Apr 11, 2018 by Kerry O'Malley

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a few years, you’re probably aware that industrial content marketing has exploded. The good news is that as a marketer, you finally have a way to speak directly to your target audience. The bad news? Everybody’s doing it. Your content is competing with a tidal wave of content from your competitors, the trade media, industry thought leaders, and lots of mediocre bloggers. That means that good content, every so often, isn’t enough anymore. You need to have GREAT, consistent content that moves prospects through your sales funnel and ultimately ends up inciting action. You’ll have a much greater chance of accomplishing that if you take the time to think about what you’re trying to do with your content, and who you’re trying to reach.

Today’s industrial buyers are much more educated than the buyers of 10 years ago. Before they even make the decision to reach out to a vendor, they will have gathered information in a number of ways, which could include; downloading a few technical papers; asking questions on an industry forum; joining in a conversation in a LinkedIn group; watching several YouTube videos; reading case studies from a few competitors; reading the blogs on websites of the companies they’re considering, and checking out their social media pages. The common thread: all of this was content the buyer found online.

The new marketing paradigm requires the right content to address your buyer’s decision points throughout the buying cycle. Marketers who document their content strategy are 3 times as likely to say it was effective as those who had a verbal content strategy. So play the odds, and plan for success by writing down your content marketing strategy. The format you use to document isn’t important – If you like things short and to the point, use Excel. If you like words (which, if you’re a content marketer, you probably do) – use Word. Do you just want the strategy to present to management? Use PowerPoint. What’s important is that you document it so everyone can see exactly what the strategy is and there’s no guesswork.

An easy framework for developing your strategy includes these steps:

  • Create customer personas.
  • Define the types of content you’ll need for the stages of the buying cycle.
  • Define goals and how they will be measured.
  • Define your brand voice.

In this blog series, we will go into more detail about each of the strategy components, beginning today with creating customer personas.

Creating customer personas

Let me be clear: when I talk about creating customer personas, I am not suggesting you try to create a backstory for an actor preparing for a movie role. Where your prospects live, how many children they have and where they like to dine out are totally irrelevant to a complex, B2B sale. What I am talking about is pinpointing specific information on the individuals in a potential client company that have purchasing authority – and what drives them in their job.

Customer personas will be more accurate if you talk to your sales and customer service people about the customers and prospects they talk to on a daily basis. I’m sure they will have a keen perspective on the answers to some key questions. Here’s an example of a typical industrial buyer persona:

Maintenance Engineer

Job function: Monitoring, repairing, servicing and replacing equipment and systems in their plant in order to ensure the plant runs as smoothly, reliably, and efficiently as possible.

Decision making focus: Wants lots of facts and recommendations

Behaviors: Likes known brands, wants to feel confident about products/ services they recommend, strong input to decision

Job Personality: Can’t get enough data, like CAD renderings, specs, performance charts, case studies, LinkedIn group discussions, etc. – would generally rather “find” information on their own than talk to people

Key job concerns: Ultimately, optimum equipment reliability and efficiency. They are relied on to solve all equipment problems, so if they can’t find a solution, projects stall and revenue is lost.

Where they go online for information: industry specific trade journal websites; maintenance and reliability focused LinkedIn groups; trade associations they belong to, such as AFPM or ASME; YouTube; if younger, occasionally Facebook or Twitter

If you’re trying to attract buyers who will have to switch from a current vendor, you may want to consider additional things like:

  • What do they need to know to be willing to change from their current vendor?
  • What is their company’s vendor approval process like?
  • Who else has a say in the purchase?

For some companies, there may only be one customer persona, but it is more likely that there will be more than one even if you only sell to one type of business. For instance, if you sell a type of capital equipment to refineries, you will want to create personas for each person involved in the purchase which could include someone in engineering; someone in procurement; operations management; and perhaps the CFO or someone else in executive management. Answer the same questions for each of these individuals and you will come up with four uniquely different personas.

Your job as a content marketer is to anticipate the questions that have to be answered for a prospect to buy your product or service. Then you need to create specific content that answers each of those questions for each customer persona.

Stay tuned for our next blog, which will cover defining the types of content you need for each stage of your buyers’ purchasing journey! And if you need help right away developing an industrial content marketing strategy, give us a call. We can either assist and guide you as you develop your own strategy, or we can do the heavy lifting for you.

Author: Kerry O'Malley

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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