What’s the difference between buyers and influencers? And, why is it important?
Let’s say your teenager wants a car. He has a “wish list” for this purchase, which may include a certain make, model, color and, of course, a great sound system. Meanwhile, you have a very different set of criteria, such as mileage, safety, and cost. Who is the buyer and who is the influencer?
In this case, it depends on who’s shelling out the money for the car. If you’re buying the car or helping with the purchase, then you’re the buyer and your son is the influencer. But, sometimes the distinction is not so straightforward.
Determining who your buyers are and developing detailed personas for these people is the first step in an effective content strategy. After all, you can’t provide relevant, useful content unless you know who your audience is. What’s important to them? What are their problems? And, how should you address them?
If only it were that simple.
Develop Separate Personas for Buyers and Influencers
One of the services we provide is helping clients develop detailed buyer personas and identify what’s important to these buyers at each phase of the buyers’ journey. This enables them to target the right people with the right information at the right time. Oftentimes, clients will initially tell us they have a long list of buyer personas. However, once we dive in and take a closer look, we find they only have a few well-defined buyer personas, along with numerous influencers. It’s an important distinction.
Because B2B purchases are typically large and complex, the decision usually involves a buying committee. The more expensive the purchase, the more people who need to weigh in. Studies show that the average buying committee involves at least five people. This makes the sale much more complex, as each of these influencers have different pain points and points of view.
To make matters worse, recent data shows that not only does each professional on a buying committee (both buyers and influencers) come from a different background, they also come from different generations. More than 80% of buying committees include at least one millennial employee. Research shows that one in four millennial buyers don’t reach out to a brand until they know exactly what they want. You need to understand their specific role and what they’re looking for. And, then reach them early in the buying process.
It’s not enough to connect with the actual buyers. You must develop personas for each influencer in the process. Unfortunately, marketers may not be doing a good job at this. According to Cision, 80% of influencers complain about irrelevant pitches.
Get to Know the Influencers
The person making the purchase must convince influencers that your product is the best solution and overcome any objections. So, it’s your job to provide the buyer with all the information he or she needs to make the case. To do this, you need to know who the influencers are and what’s important to them. For example, if you’re selling a new software system and the CFO is involved, focus on added-value, efficiency and future cost savings. On the other hand, feature ease of use and the quality of lead generation to interest the Sales Manager.
How do you get such diverse personalities on board? Start by doing your research. Find out who is involved in the decision-making process and what their specific roles are. If you have names and titles, search for them on Linkedin or other social media. Read their bios and get to know their interests. If you only have general titles, develop personas based on demographic data.
Next, get to know the buying process for that particular organization. At what point in the journey do each of these influencers make decisions?
Give the Buyer the Right Ammunition
Once you know who’s involved and when, along with their pain points, provide the buyer with the information he or she needs to overcome objections, justify costs, and list the benefits of your product/service versus competitors. In other words, put yourself in their shoes and think of how you would address each of the influencers if you had the opportunity to pitch your product or service.
Sometimes this is simply a matter of asking the buyer what he or she needs to persuade influencers. But often, you are developing personas based on limited information and “guessing” as to what information is most important.
Don’t assume that the buyer is the decision maker, and therefore, the only audience that matters. Influencers can make or break a sale, especially one that’s complex.
Develop Diverse Content
Now, back to your son’s request for a car. He’s made his case: “I need a car to get back and forth from work or sports practice; Won’t it be great to not have to drive me anymore?” He’s probably already identified what type of car he’d prefer. So, how does the seller market a used car to him – and you?
As the parent, you might be the ultimate decision-maker (buyer), but let’s face it, your son has some influence (e.g., “I can’t be seen in that!”). A smart car seller would probably target your son via social media and highlight the sportiness of the vehicle, along with features such as Bluetooth capability. Meanwhile, the seller also needs to reach you on a reliable source with details that affect your decision. Perhaps an article on the “Top Ten Most Reliable Used Cars” or “What to Look for When Buying a Used Car.”
The same is true in B2B companies. There’s an individual or group who has a need and wants to make a purchase, but there’s another group who influences the decision. While it’s the buyer’s responsibility to get approval for the purchase, the more you can help him or her with the task, the better your chances of being selected as the supplier.
To do this, offer up a variety of content that reaches buyers and influencers.
- Reach potential buyers and influencers at the awareness stage with blogs on different topics related to their needs/problems/interests. Include research reports or white papers that cover high-level information on available solutions to common challenges or industry trends.
- At the consideration phase, provide case studies, product literature, webinars, trial downloads and more in-depth research on topics. While some influencers may become involved in this stage of the journey, most don’t become engaged in the process until the decision phase.
- Offer vendor comparisons, case studies, virtual trade shows, product demos or free downloads in the decision phase.
Be a Thought Leader
Build trust, establish your company as an authority, and provide value to your audience along the buyers’ journey. Though you’re targeting different personas at each phase, don’t assume that influencers aren’t reading your content. Sometimes the process works in reverse.
Imagine that a CEO of a manufacturing company reads a blog or white paper on the benefits of updating facilities with LED lighting. It makes sense, so he or she passes this information on to the Operations Manager, who then assigns the Purchaser to further research the idea and find a supplier. When it comes time to choose that supplier, wouldn’t it be nice to have the CEO remember your company’s name as the thought leader on this topic?
Accept the Challenge
It may seem overwhelming to connect with such diverse audiences at multiple stages. But, today’s digital tools can help. Identify prospects, learn what type of content they’re engaging with, and tailor personalized messages at each stage in the buying process with marketing automation platforms.
Of course, some of the work still needs to be done the old-fashioned way. Listen and observe to see what buyers and influencers are interested in. What type of posts are they publishing or commenting on? What concerns are they expressing on public forums?
Decision by committee makes content marketing more challenging, but smart marketers will accept the challenge by broadening their efforts to develop personas for both buyers and influencers, and create content that satisfies this diverse audience.
Need help developing buyer and influencers personas, and creating a content strategy for both? Contact Jeremy Sterling, Director of Marketing for Spry Ideas, at 734-546-5434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.