High-performance inbound marketing teams utilize buyer personas, understand buying journeys, and closely monitor their sales funnels. I'm helping deploy a training lesson on digital marketing campaigns and buyer personas with an international company right now and someone asked for clarification on the three so I think it's worth discussing.
Targeting Who: Buyer Personas
I recently wrote on buyer personas and how critical they are to your digital marketing efforts. They help segment and target your communications based on geography, industry, firmagraphic (B2B) characteristics, or demographics (B2C) characteristics. Firmagraphic targets may include both the business and job position traits.
Buyer Personas help your prospects or customers better relate with your product or service based on their needs and values.
Targeting When: Buying Journeys
Buying Journeys is an analysis of what stage of the journey the consumer or business is in and whether or not you have those stages covered in your marketing efforts.
Consumer buying journeys are pretty simple:
- The buyer has a problem they're researching.
- The buyer researches different solutions for their problem.
- The buyer constructs a list of requirements that the solution must meet.
- The buyer researches the businesses and/or their product or service.
Business buying journeys may add a couple more steps as purchase decisions are typically made in a team environment where the researcher is required to pool the information and bring it internal for review from other impacted team leaders and decision-makers:
- Validation of the problem, solution, and requirements.
- The consensus of the purchase decision is made across impacted teams and decision-makers.
Those two can also spill over in consumer decisions as well… think about a married couple purchasing their next car. The spouse may gather all the information, discuss it with their family, and come to a consensus.
The relationship between buyer personas and buyer journeys is that it's the matrix with which your marketing department should be producing your content, promotion, and targeting strategies.
Do you have inbound and outbound strategies that are targeting each persona at each stage of the journey? Can you be found where buyers are researching each stage of the journey? It's incredibly helpful to literally build out this matrix. For advertising, it's the campaigns you're producing. For search and content marketing strategies, it's your content library.
Predicting Revenue: Sales Funnels
The buying journey is the stage at which your buyer is… the sales funnel is a measurement of the buyer with respect to how close they are in relationship to the purchase. This visualization is critical beause it provides marketers and sales people with a look at their sales and marketing pipeline… that is the total number of prospects and how far they are away from a purchase.
Sales funnels are a visualization looking from the organization backward through the buying process from the perspective of the likelihood to produce revenue. Buying journeys are a visualization looking forward to the purchase from the perspective of the buyer and their likelihood to make purchase.
Because of the different perspectives of each, there's not necessarily concise alignment between the two. Some examples:
- A buyer is researching a problem that they have (Buyer Journey Stage 1) and you have a comprehensive white paper on the topic that fully educates them, provides solutions, and makes an incredible impact on them about your company's expertise. They intend (Sales Funnel Stage D) to purchase your product as long as the evaluation goes well.
- A buyer may become aware (Sales Funnel Stage A) of your product or service at the solutions phase (Buyer Journey Stage 4). Perhaps they have identified the problem, built requirements, and then found analyst reports or articles that speak to solutions available on the market.
- A team-member may evaluate your solution (Stage Funnel Stage E) and then return to the team and disqualify your solution (Buyer's Journey Stage 6) for missing specific features or functionality.
- A search-engine buyer has the intent to purchase (Sales Funnel Stage D), validates your product's ratings, reviews, and prices (Buyer Journey Stage 5) adds the product to their cart but abandons. You send them abandoned cart emails and when they have budget, they make the purchase.
Timing is another way that there's a misalignment between the two. Some buyers may take 2 weeks to decide to make a purchase. Others may wait for a year before they decide to make a purchase. Everyone is moving through the buyer's journey and your sales funnel at different speeds.
As a result, your marketing team may pay a lot of attention to impacting each stage of the buyer's journey to advance the person (at their own pace) from one stage to the next stage. This doesn't always happen linearly… a buyer may move back and forth between buyer journey stages over time.
However, your sales team is paying close attention to time-to-close and pulling the prospect through the sales funnel so they can predict their revenue growth (and commission potential). Your marketing team got the prospects within range of scoring… now they're applying the pressure and providing the resources to get the deal in the end-zone.
Do you see how the two don't line up?
Visualizing and measuring your sales funnel is critical to project your downstream revenue and the overall performance of your marketing and sales efforts. Overall, you want to make sure that you're moving each qualified lead from one stage of the sales funnel to the next.
This will provide your sales and marketing departments with confidence that the opportunities for driving revenue are increasing.
If you need assistance with analyzing your content library and auditing against your personas and stages, then implementing a sales funnel to accurately measure your marketing efforts, let me know! If you'd like to speak to me about building a custom program for your organization to get trained, please contact me. For most clients, I actually do both – consulting and assisting them in building the framework as well as educating their staff on how to execute, measure, and optimize your marketing strategies.