Tuesday 2 ¢: Personas, Roles, Hopes and Fears

When thinking about the buyer of your B2B solution, it’s easy to get caught up in job titles and roles, often a poor indicator of buyer behavior. In this week’s Tuesday 2 cents I suggest we look beyond that.


A couple of questions:

If you are making a business buying decision do make the same decision as every other person in your role across all companies?

If you like a piece of content on LinkedIn, does everyone in the world with the same job title like that content?

If you feel secure about making bold decisions, does everyone who has the same job title as you, in every other company, feel the same way you do about risk?

Is the most urgent task you have to worry about today keeping everyone else with the same role, in every other company your size, awake at night?

You probably answered no to a few of these questions and here is the challenge with content marketing using personas based solely on role; at some point a job title is not a great predictor of our behavior or a particularly good indicator of our needs.

I say “at some point” because clearly people with the same job title need to do broadly the same things, achieve similar goals, have similar tools and are plagued by the same broad industry irks of their peers.

If you are in marketing, like me, you can be fairly confident that we would both be aware of the work of Seth Godin, are interested in the latest hot marketing topics, changes to the Google algorithm, have similar metrics and challenges in showing the C suite attribution.. etc.. We would have sufficient in common to keep the conversation going at a business dinner and then onto drinks.

But, if everyone in the same role made the same buying decision, driven by the same things, Scott Brinker would not have built on a career on Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic showing the thousands of marketing technology products available today, we would all buy the same things.

You can think of industry and role based content as the air cover content that builds introductory relevance for your product or service, but going beyond that, you’ll beed a bit more.

Let’s imagine you are trying to reach the hearts and minds of CMO’s; how would you talk to the ones that are scared of losing their jobs, or those that like to work with smaller companies, or those that like a REALLY good deal, or those that value data over creative, or those that are in their first 90 days, or those that are bold risk takers, or those that are technology laggards.

These would all be very different conversations.

As we try to get more intimate with our content and suggest to someone that they risk their status or job by buying our solution or introducing our company to their boss, talking about broad industry topics and generic content targeted at business units and roles is not going to cut it.

An insecure CMO, unsure of their job needs content that builds reassurance in your product or services, that it’s good value and would be a safe bet. A completely different content need for a bold newly hired CMO at a well-funded startup that are on a crest of a wave and looking for something cutting edge.

Our risk averse CMO probably has more in common with their CIO colleague who feels she’s in the same boat. Their pressing, common feeling of risk would make them a better target segment than their roles.

Plus, if you are talking about a broad industry trend, pitched at the same generic audience, in the same way as everyone else, how do you differentiate? How do you show that you are like them, relevant to their world view, not like the sea of others?

We need to appeal to something deeper.

When we create personas, write our brand story and plan our content marketing, we need to think about other attributes that would impact the buying decision – the values and motivations of the person we are trying to help.

The wonderful thing about this, is that these hopes, fears, insecurities and basic needs are things that we all share and appealing to these will not only help you differentiate and humanize your brand story, but really connect with the buyer.