Marketing Content Strategy

Are Buyer Personas and Audience Personas the Same?

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The short answer? No.

In analogy terms, a buyer persona is to your product as an audience persona is to your content marketing.

Persona Analogy

In marketing funnel phases, buyer personas are engaged in the conversion phase while audience personas are involved in any phase—awareness, consideration, or conversion—that corresponds to your content marketing goals.

So, how do you differentiate between a buyer persona and an audience persona for your brand? Here’s a four-step guide to get you started:

Step 1: Understand the Difference

To understand the difference between the persona segments, let’s define each based on their role in the purchase process (1), content behaviors (2), and brand mind-set (3).

Persona Definitions

Although distinct by definition, your buyers and audience aren’t mutually exclusive. Your audience can include your buyers, but is not necessarily limited to them. Conversely, it’s possible that your content marketing doesn’t—and shouldn’t—target your buyers.

If your buyer isn’t prone to content consumption, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in content marketing. You just need to focus on reaching the audience personas who are exposed to your content and influence the buyers’ purchase decisions.

Step 2: Create a Persona Journey Map

Similar to a customer journey map, develop a persona journey map to identify each person who is involved in the purchase process. This mapping exercise will prevent you from restricting your analysis to the moment of purchase. Evaluate your entire sales cycle and pinpoint the individuals who influence the final sale.

As an example, this simplified persona journey map outlines the organizational roles involved in purchasing project management software.

Persona Journey Map

To assist your mapping, it can help to craft a story line that references the interactions among the personas to clarify their corresponding actions and tasks in the purchase process. For context, here’s one for the map above:

Analyzing his team’s challenges, the director recognizes the need to invest in project management software to streamline project operations. The information he finds online about the benefits of project management software further solidifies his resolve. The director then asks the manager to identify and recommend the best software solutions.

Tasked to complete hefty research, the manager performs a comprehensive search for the top brands and products. He peruses customer reviews and both branded and unbranded content to assist his research. Once he identifies the best solutions, he delegates the comparative research to his associate.

Using the preliminary research provided by the manager, the associate schedules product demos for firsthand experience and performs even deeper research into each software solution. Confident in his analysis, the associate delivers his research and findings to the manager.

The manager compiles the research and learnings and presents them to the director. The director reviews the results, arrives at his final recommendation, and presents it to the vice president. The vice president accepts the director’s recommendation and approves the purchase. The director then completes the sales cycle by purchasing the software.

Step 3: Classify Each Persona

Using your persona journey map, identify who’s a buyer persona and who’s an audience persona. As noted previously, the same individual can be classified as both a buyer persona and audience persona. In this scenario, it’s the director. While the vice president is the traditional decision maker as an executive-level persona, the director has a larger role in the actual decision and purchase.

Classified Persona Journey Map

Step 4: Prioritize Your Audience Personas

To prioritize your audience personas, consider your content marketing goals. Focus on targeting the personas that correspond to your goals. For the project management software example, the director is involved in both the awareness and conversion phases. Therefore, if the goal is to build awareness and consideration, the director is both a buyer and audience persona. However, your content would focus on solving the director’s problems in the discovery mind-set versus the purchase mind-set. You would also aim to reach the manager and associate personas in the midst of their research.

As a brand marketer, you’re hardwired to focus on the bottom line. This sales-driven mindset typically translates to a buyer-driven strategy. However, your content strategy should by no means exclusively focus on your buyers’ needs. Purchase decisions, both for businesses and consumers, are rarely made by a single individual.

A content strategy that exclusively targets lower-funnel needs will ignore the research process of the buyer and his purchase influencers. Conducting a thorough analysis of your brand’s personas using these four steps will allow you to effectively segment and target the right people.

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