Why Pet Healthcare Marketers Still Need Personas
Audience personas. Buyer personas. Content personas. Customer personas. Marketing personas. Social media personas. User personas. Website personas.
Who knew there were so many types of personas that a pet healthcare marketer could create? And in today’s increasingly personalized marketing world, which ones — if any — do you really need?
We’ll address the various types of personas and their value in this post. Future posts will offer suggestions on how you can use personas to tailor your messaging and content, and how to use personas and message maps to build effective editorial calendars.
REPORTS OF PERSONA DEATH ARE SOMEWHAT EXAGGERATED
The rise of account-based marketing and personalization has led some marketers to question whether the use of personas is still worthwhile. Some marketing professionals firmly believe in the value of personas; others dismiss their development and use as “old-school marketing” and a waste of time.
The truth is that personas, especially those used in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, have evolved. Used appropriately, personas are a valuable tool that helps you determine your company’s main target audiences. They help humanize customer-related statistics and facts. Personas also help keep your marketing team centered on what’s best for your target audiences — and ultimately your company — by pinpointing their pain points, identifying topics of interest to them and answering their questions so that you help them become customers.
Although this may be obvious, it’s still worth stating: When you create and use personas, you get everyone in the company — or at least the sales and marketing teams — on the same page. Without definition, your ideal target customer will be defined differently by each team member, which dilutes your marketing efforts.
Personas vary tremendously — from one industry vertical to another, from B2B to business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing and from country to country. Some types of personas overlap. Different persona types will be appropriate for different aspects of your business. And you’ll hear a lot of different names used. But no matter which personas you choose to create or what you call them, their purpose is the same — to help you and your company better understand and empathize with your customers and prospects.
If you’ve skipped the persona creation step because you and/or your team don’t see the value of personas, who are you creating content for? What are you using to align the messaging and execution of your content marketing with your audiences’, customers’ and prospects’ needs and wants? Even those companies that no longer use personas use something — social intelligence, content intelligence, predictive analytics and other new technologies — to identify and speak to their various audiences’ pain points.
That’s why we believe personas won’t be going completely away as a marketing tool.
Maybe, as Ann Gynn, editor of the Content Marketing Institute’s blog posits, the notion of marketing to a static buyer persona is dead. Maybe today’s hyper-detailed personas aren’t as useful as we would like to believe. Certainly they require substantial amounts of time and budget to continuously update. Maybe we need to rethink our approach to buyer personas. Personas have their place, even if that place is only a starting point. Instead of focusing on details that may or may not matter, maybe we need to focus on understanding what causes someone to engage with and buy from our company. Then we can use marketing automation to continuously test, learn and refine marketing and sales activities using relevant information.
WHAT PERSONA TYPES DO PET HEALTHCARE MARKETERS REALLY NEED?
The products and services that you’re marketing and the data that you have available determine the personas you want to develop. As a B2B marketer, you’ll want to consider at least two persona types: buyer personas and user personas.
There’s an important caveat: This assumes you still identify and segment your audiences, with a goal of having no more than three or four main audiences and between two and five segments per audience. Your audiences include people who influence a purchase decision, who actively seek interest-based content and who are thinking about buying a product or service. Audiences also include your buyers and users, but aren’t limited to them.
Let’s say your company is introducing a new prescription heartworm and intestinal parasite control medication that’s approved for use in dogs as flavored chewable tablets. The main external audiences for your content-marketing program could include all veterinarians who treat dogs, veterinary hospital practice managers, dog owners and members of the veterinary industry media. You could also further segment your key audiences using a variety of demographic, geographic and psychographic factors. For example, the “all-veterinarians-who-treat-dogs” audience could be segmented by type of practice (e.g., companion animal exclusive, mixed animal, corporate- or group-owned, and referral/specialty/teaching hospital), geography (e.g., Southeast, South, Midwest, Northeast, etc.) and parasite infection risk (e.g., heartworm, tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm and whipworm).
Once your audiences are identified and segmented, it’s time to create personas for the core audiences or segments you really want to target. You don’t need to create a persona for every target audience segment. Studies show that most of a company’s business (up to 90 percent) comes from just two to four personas. Those are the ones to concentrate on.
Most people, when they think of personas, tend to think of buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional, yet realistic and data-based, portraits of your target or ideal customers. These are the people who make purchase decisions and who actively seek branded content. Because they often have the clearest tie to your company’s sales revenue, buyer personas play the biggest role in driving your marketing strategies and messaging.
But depending on the product or service, your buyer personas may not necessarily represent the people who use your products. That’s where user personas become important.
User personas represent those individuals who actually use your product, regardless of their influence on the buying decision. These personas may be used to guide product design as well as messaging about product benefits. They may be completely different from your buyers or they may be the same person.
Returning to our hypothetical new prescription parasite control product, you might want to create buyer personas for owners of companion animal exclusive veterinary practices, veterinary associates employed by companion animal exclusive practices and veterinary practice managers. These audience segments also represent potential users of your new medication. Most veterinary practices carry more than one heartworm and intestinal parasite control product, and chances are, if your company offers a staff trial or product discount program, many dog-owning veterinary professionals will take advantage of the offer.
A veterinary practice’s dog-owning clients would be considered the primary product users in this scenario. However, dog owners could also be considered buyers, depending on how you segment the dog owner audience, a practice’s approach to product recommendations and your company’s philosophy on direct-to-consumer marketing of veterinary prescription products.
Regardless of the degree of overlap between your buyer personas and user personas, your product messaging must address both. We’ll address how you can use personas to drive messaging in a future post.
Creating personas isn’t an easy or one-time task. But they can serve as the backbone of your company’s marketing and sales communications. Along with message mapping, personas can help ensure you’re consistently delivering the right message to the right audience. For more information about buyer (audience/customer) personas, a list of detailed questions for developing them and examples, check out Getting to Know Your Customers: Audience Personas. And if you want help with creating buyer and/or user personas, give us a call or send us a note. We’d be happy to help.