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Without context in strategy planning for the new social buyer persona, we are left with a factual approach to identifying target social buyers. We will attain indications on what social buyers are doing. Good evidence of this is the recent spate of infographics we’ve seen on social media and buyers. For example, we could survey buyers and find, as in this Mashable infographic, that 86% B2B buyers use social media and that 32% engage with social media on a daily basis. We may get even more specific - such as 48% downloaded a specific whitepaper while only 5% shared this whitepaper in a recent survey. This factual approach leaves us with a sense of what but lacks the contextual references to how and why.
In my previous article, Importance of Context to Understanding the Social Buyer Persona, I mentioned that there is a resurgence of contextually researched-based persona development. We’ve seen buyer personas become popularized over the past few years for marketing and sales. When buyer personas are created without context – what marketers and sellers have been experiencing is a very factual and characteristics focused outcome. Evidence of this is the number of buyer persona “templates” that are offered. Such data-driven templates are very characteristics-based and reminiscent of the older sales “blue sheets” approach. They amount to, still prominently, as an inside-out approach.
Context provides the avenue for organizations to obtain an outside-in perspective. This valuable and illuminating perspective allows for effective social buyer persona strategy planning. There are several areas that contextually-based insight into the social buyer can help guide strategy:
User and Buyer Engagement
Understanding both user and buyer engagement with social technologies today is paramount to formulating social business strategies. While we may know that 32% of B2B buyers engage in social media, we don’t know at a deep insight level how they engage and why they are engaging. Specifically, gaining granular insight into how and why they may be engaging with a company’s own social marketing efforts can make an enormous difference in the success or failures of such efforts.
Work and play environments continually are altered by new technologies each year. A good example of this is the introduction of the Apple iPad and now iPad 2. Although introduced originally as a consumer product, more and more industries are employing the use of the tablet in their work environments. This is changing buyer behaviors and expectations on the fly. Additionally, we are seeing more and more work performed in a “free-agent” fashion. This has resulted in more virtual organizational structures and no fixed adherence to the formal 9-5 working hours. The social buyer persona environmentally blurs the lines between work and play.
As mentioned in my previous article, social buyers today are significantly more knowledgeable than ever. We can only understand contextually what this means to how information gathering is conducted, how learning is acquired, how knowledge is assimilated, and how content is used for knowledge sharing. Two recent articles I wrote, The Design of Content Marketing and Informing Content Strategy with Buyer Persona Development, cover the profound impact the aspect of knowledge has on content strategy. Without understanding contextually how and why content is consumed and processed by buyers, then formulating content strategies and content marketing tactics will be very difficult.
Contextual-based insight used to develop strategies for the social buyer persona is essential for distinguishing between tasks, needs, and wants of buyers from that of their goals. Identifying goals is a process of interpretation and translation from context. One of the limitations of surveys and focus groups for example are that context is missing. Thus, you may get a list of needs and wants but truly arriving at goals will be problematic unless researched contextually. It is through goals also that we uncover personalization insight for social and web marketing. What is critical to assess and gain contextual insight on is how social technologies are not only changing the needs and wants of buyers but also how their goals are continually reassessed and realigned.
A focus on these four areas of contextual insights will lead to a robust understanding of the social buyer persona specific to your organization. Gaining insight into how buyer behaviors have changed and what it means to formulating social marketing strategies. Context helps you to go to the deeper layers underneath such facts as 86% of B2B buyers use social media and 32% engage daily to find out what goals social buyer personas are attempting to accomplish. Learning the most important thing of all – how is it that you are going to help your specific social buyer persona accomplish their goals.