Company websites are central to a brand’s online presence, even with the profusion of other digital touch points on social media and elsewhere. Even if it’s not where you first contact a prospect, it is where most B2B and many B2C prospective buyers end up at some point.
As a result, the website is where it’s critical that your brand demonstrates to each of your prospect audiences that you understand them. While building brand affinity is patently important in the B2C world, it is surprisingly even more important in B2B where clients don’t just buy products, they form long-term, high-stakes, vendor relationships. Who you are is at least as important as what you’re selling. My vantage point have is B2B, but most points will apply universally.
That’s why applying prospect (or buyer) personas to guide website structure, functionality, and content is so important. And it’s where so many brands fail to do it well. So here is a six-pack of ideas to keep in mind about using personas to improve your impact when revamping your company website.
A website six-pack of ideas
Let’s start by clarifying three ways personas should NOT be used to improve website performance.
- It’s not (just) about the website. While you’re creating personas to use on your website, the personas are representations of your prospects and the way they solve their problems, not just how (or if) they use your website. These should not be “website personas” — they personas who happen to visit your website.
- It’s not (just) about you. It’s not just about YOUR website. It would be helpful to understand what your prospects most value about your website — and especially your competitors. Identifying what others are doing well is the fastest way of improving yours.
- It’s not (just) about your customers. Unless you already have all the customers you want, don’t include just your existing customers in your persona research. The ones most helpful are the prospects you failed to win and the prospects you really want but have not even met. Compare and contrast their behaviors to uncover clues about why you win and don’t.
Beyond those 3 points to avoid, here are 3 things to DO with personas to improve website performance:
- It’s all about all the info. Use all the information sources at your disposal to learn about your prospects, starting with your sales team, but also including your internal data points, funnel metrics, and observations from industry thought leaders. But most of all you absolutely must conduct individual interviews with external prospects focused on learning who they are, how they experience their problem, how they explore what to do, what they think of the alternatives (including doing nothing or something unconventional) and how they select vendors.
- It’s all about the journey. It’s not just about the prospect persona, it’s about the prospect journey. Seek to understand the role that looking at your website – and any other information source – has in the steps of their solving their problem. Vendor websites don’t usually come into play until later in the consideration process. Find what exactly your prospects are looking to achieve, not just what they look at.
- It’s all about winning. Finally, keep in mind that you’re trying to learn how best to win more of your prospects by serving them better. As a result, you want to uncover insights about your prospects that will make your personas a competitive marketing advantage.
Most marketers are satisfied just finding out “how prospects act”. This helps them create websites that don’t suck. That’s nice. But it doesn’t make them win. Coming in second is very, very expensive. Only winning pays off. Create personas so powerful they equip you to win.
6 steps to get your website in shape
Now that you’re ready for the digital gym, here’s 6 things you need to do:
- Benchmark your website performance to identify where it is falling short the most. We can help you identify measures. This will guide your attention in your prospect research.
- Conduct in-depth persona research to create powerful personas that can guide your website content and layout. Make sure your personas deliver a competitive marketing advantage. Explore reaction to competitive and other industry websites in addition to yours.
- Revise your website content and navigation to better guide each of your personas on their journeys. Organize your content so each distinct persona audience can easily find content designed for them. Consider employing personalization technology such as Optimize.ly or Personyze.
- Integrate your website with your blog, social media, email campaigns, events, and other touch points as part of their overall online experience with your brand.
- Measure the added lift. Benchmark and compare key metrics after your persona-fication. We can help you start with Google Analytics. Then broadcast wins and celebrate the work.
- Repeat the whole process as needed, at least every other year. Tweak as necessary. I guarantee that your prospects or competitors or issues or buying process – or all four – have changed. Or as we say at the gym, continue the reps as needed until you resemble this picture of the author as a young liar.
To find more ways B2B marketers are and are not creating and using personas, download results from the latest State of the Persona survey.