Let’s talk about buyer personas—why they’re important for marketers and companies in general, but especially for health systems or large healthcare organizations. The key thing to remember in this edition is: your buyer personas must be specific to the people you’re targeting.
In the digital health space, knowing who your health system buyers are, figuring out how to create a buyer persona for each of them, and then how to market to them is going to be critical. Time to dive in!
Why Are Buyer Personas So Important?
As we mentioned in a previous article, buyer personas are a vital part of the foundation on which you build your marketing strategy. You’re painting a semi-fictional picture, but still want to be as specific as possible. Without a buyer persona, you wouldn’t know who you’re selling to—and that would make it very difficult to market effectively.
They Inform Marketing and Sales Strategies
Many organizations are struggling to understand and keep up with today’s constantly changing buying behaviors. Well-researched buyer personas illuminate your buyers—the situations and changes they face and, most importantly, the goals they’re attempting to accomplish. Improve your performance results by updating your buyer personas to reflect the healthcare industry’s ever-evolving digital marketing requirements.
You Can Expect Better Performance Results
B2B companies that have implemented customer- and buyer-focused best practices have consistently outperformed their competitors. Buyer personas were critical in establishing customer-centricity at these highly successful enterprises. As health systems become more consumer-centric, so too must their marketing efforts.
How Have Consumer-Centric Health Systems Affected the Way We Market to Them?
Often marketers create a buyer persona assuming it’s a once and done task. They then put it in their marketing strategy or stick it into a Google Drive folder somewhere and never update it again. It’s imperative to update your personas to reflect changes and trends in your market and in the healthcare marketing industry.
Though you may not notice drastic changes every year, they happen incrementally, so it’s important to stay on top of your personas. As buyers develop new needs and preferences you have to demonstrate that you’re still able to speak directly to them.
Tips You May Want to Note
As your sales team interacts with these personas transformations may occur organically—however, marketers should be constantly testing and documenting the success or failure of each campaign as they tweak their strategies. Lay out each new campaign clearly and concisely, so that all team members—especially new hires—will be on the same page as you define and redefine your personas.
Organizations that are a bit slower to shift to the consumer-centric model may require a little more education or convincing—presenting big opportunities. Determine where they are on the spectrum in their shift to this newer trend so that you know what types of campaigns to craft and how much education to provide. Remember that health systems are likely serving a variety of personas—so target each of them in the appropriate voice, tone, and style.
Of course, before investing in such a robust marketing strategy you’ll need your profit-focused executives to sign on the dotted line. Then you have to consider the purchasing professionals who prioritize vendor relationships and are most concerned with moving product out the door at the best price. Finally, you have the users—medical providers or patients— to address and satisfy. Make sure to consider all these stakeholders when crafting your marketing strategy.
Identifying What’s Right for Your Organization
Before creating buyer personas, we always recommend that digital health companies build an ideal customer profile—which serves as both a sales tool and a marketing tool. The ideal customer profile is based on these considerations:
- What types of organizations are you targeting? What industry are they in?
- What is the target company size that merits a conversation?
- What are the revenue thresholds they need to be meeting?
- What’s the length of the company’s sales cycle—health systems with purchasing agents involved typically have longer sales cycles.
- Which company stakeholders are the buyers final decision-makers?—depending on the size of the organization, these could be executives, purchasing agents, or procurement specialists.
- Who is the evaluator—depending on your product and the organization, the purchasing agent, procurement specialist, manager, or director could play this role.
- Who are the end-users? — this could be customers, patients, doctors, nurses, or other clinicians.
Once you’ve defined the profile of your ideal organization, you start to get more granular, determine who within the organization to target, then learn everything you can about them.
Other Characteristics Health Tech Companies Should Take into Account When Creating a Buyer Persona
When figuring out who your target audience is going to be make sure to fully understand expectations and decision criteria. What is the nature of their problem—their needs or wants? How do they define satisfaction or fulfillment of those needs? What is important to them or what happiness do they seek? What needs are not being met by their current health system?
In terms of decision criteria, look at what might be the strongest reasons for going with your product or service. Do others influence their health tech information gathering or decision process? What is their buying process and how quickly do they take action to seek solutions?
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that health systems need to take into account when making decisions. You should be focusing on why they do things, not how. Be sure to factor in these key components when drawing up your persona plans:
- Goals – What is the patient’s goal? What do they hope to get out of a relationship with your healthcare practice? Which services do they want?
- Demographics – What is the patient’s age, gender, education, marital status, income, and occupation?
- Psychographics – What are their hobbies and interests? Do they enjoy pottery or traveling? Is their free time spent bird watching? Playing video games?
- Challenges and pain points – Does this patient have financial questions? What do they struggle with? What health problems or conditions do they have? What do they dislike? You should also identify pain points and common obstacles they need help working through. Maybe they need help providing more patient-centered services for patients with chronic diseases.
- Sources – What media do they use for entertainment? For information? Are there specific sources they use to find health-related information? (Be at the right place, at the right time, and speak to the right audience.)
Answering these questions will help you lay the foundation for your buyer persona by getting a comprehensive picture of who they are, so you’re able to get through to them.
What Do Health System Decision Makers Need to Help Guide Them Through the Funnel?
Guiding customers through the funnel to their purchase is going to look vastly different for healthcare systems than it does for a B2C company. Keep in mind that marketing to consumers is different from marketing to professionals in organizations, and shift between B2C and B2B marketing models as needed.
Get to Know Your Targets Intimately
No matter the product or service, you are always marketing to people who have emotions, feelings, wishes, and dreams—only in healthcare, they exist in the context of an organization.
Often healthcare systems’ infrastructures are not well integrated or legacy systems create complications for marketers. You should thoroughly educate them as you’re guiding them through the funnel.
In these health organizations, especially, it’s critical that you find the person who is your brand champion—the person that you set out to make successful—and give them the content that they need to pass through their organization. Sometimes this is the evaluator, sometimes it’s the user, sometimes it’s the buyer. Make sure you’re providing the content and information that they need to overcome their system’s complexity.
Stages Matter When Creating Content
Before creating your funnel, it’s critical to determine what stage of the buyer journey your prospects are in. Are they just starting to learn about your brand? If so, they’re going to need different kinds of content than if they’ve been following you for a long time and are ready to make a decision.
They may have an immediate need that requires an immediate decision. That prospect will inspire a completely different conversation than the prospect who’s just curious, maybe searching for a solution on Google or discussing a conference on LinkedIn or FaceBook.
Determining where they are in the funnel will ensure you’re serving them up the right type of content that educates them—and that they can use to educate the other people in their organization.
Once you’ve figured out each step of the journey—and you’ve actually mapped it out—then you start creating that top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and bottom-of funnel content, which you’ll connect via email nurture campaigns and social media retargeting campaigns. You’re making it easy for them to find you, and getting in front of them at the optimal point in their journey to enable their success.
Most Common Issues for Health Systems When Building a Buyer Persona
Let’s cover some of the common issues you may come across while building a health system buyer persona.
When you’re selling to healthcare organizations, here are some of the myths and common mistakes that will be helpful for you to consider as you create the most accurate and successful buyer personas possible. Learning from the mistakes of others helps you gain an edge over your competition.
Mistake #1: Having Too Many Personas
Creating a bunch of buyer personas is appealing, especially when you have a ton of data at your fingertips. And while it may make sense to create a buyer persona for every individual customer you want to target, having too many personas can be harmful.
Marketing that targets too many health system personas can become chaotic and often lacks coherence. If you look closely, you’ll likely find that several of your personas overlap. To avoid this mistake, start by creating a single persona that represents a majority of your customers.
As you analyze the data about your most successful customers, you’ll begin to see where one persona ends and another begins.
Mistake #2: Only Using Buyer Personas in Marketing
We often see buyer personas as a “marketing thing.” But buyer personas should be used by your entire organization—including your sales and customer support teams. Whereas the marketing team uses personas to help attract the right people, your sales team uses them to engage with prospects.
Robust understanding of buyer personas will enable your sales team to deliver value more quickly without wasting a prospect’s time with irrelevant information. Your customer support team also greatly benefits from buyer personas, which help confirm a prospect’s values and communication preferences. Understanding your personas also enables your support team to provide better customer service.
Mistake #3: Thinking of Your Personas as an Individual Person
A buyer persona is a generalization of your ideal buyer, but it’s easy to forget that personas are not individual people (especially when you have specific people in mind when creating them). Rather than identifying the challenges, pain points, goals, and needs of one person, focus on gathering a collection of characteristics about your ideal customers.
For example, it might make sense for you to group multiple titles or job roles into one persona. Here at Uhuru, one of our main personas is Executive Eric, and we know that he’s typically a CEO, CMO, VP of Marketing, or VP Business Development. In the real world, a person can’t hold all job titles—but since Eric is a fictional representation, he could easily occupy any role.
Mistake #4: Relying Too Heavily on Demographics
Demographic information can be helpful for quickly identifying leads that match the profiles of your existing personas. But demographics shouldn’t be your main focus. When you rely too heavily on demographic information, you miss the real insights that help you improve your marketing: the challenges, pain points, and questions your personas have that drive them to make a purchase decision.
You can (and should) include demographics in your buyer persona profiles. Just be sure to consider a wide range of inputs to paint a more comprehensive picture.
Mistake #5: Making Assumptions About Your Buyer Personas
While it’s important to talk to your sales and customer support teams to learn more about your personas, your research shouldn’t stop there. Instead, set up a time to interview your best customers. During the interview, ask questions about their personal background, industry and business, job role, goals, challenges, objections, and information sources, as mentioned earlier.
Base your personas around real conversations you have with real customers. After all, if your personas are too generic, your content will be too.
Mistake #6: Not Creating Negative Personas
A negative buyer persona—also known as an exclusionary persona—allows you to identify anyone that’s not a good fit for your company. It helps you identify the types of prospects that could potentially drain resources or cause huge headaches for your team.
It may seem counterintuitive to spend time getting to know people who will never be your customers and generate revenue. But it will save your team time and money in the long run, as you won’t waste your time marketing and selling to people who aren’t a good fit.
Mistake #7: Not Updating Your Personas
Many marketers think of personas as a “set it and forget it” type of initiative. But people—the challenges they face, the goals they’re trying to accomplish, and the information sources they seek out—will continue change.
As your business grows, your target audience and ideal customer may change as well. Reevaluate your personas at least a couple of times a year to see if they’re still accurate.
Mistake #8: Creating Personas and Not Using Them
Buyer personas are a critical part of inbound marketing for a reason, and they must be at the center of every piece of content you produce—from your web copy and sales collateral to white papers and blogs.
At Uhuru, whenever we create any type of content, we absolutely always note the buyer persona we are speaking to. Our healthcare marketing strategist crafts a detailed content outline to inform the copywriter about the challenges, values, and goals that drive a persona to make a purchase decision.
This process inspires much more robust, valuable content. Aim to create relevant content that speaks to what your prospects need most each and every time—it will demonstrate that you did your homework because you care about them.
Don’t Fall Behind—If You Don’t Yet Have Buyer Personas, It’s Time to Create Some!
Developing accurate buyer personas takes time—time that will pay off tremendously in the long run. By avoiding common buyer persona mistakes, you’ll be able to define yours effectively and set up your inbound marketing efforts for success.
If you want to learn even more about creating buyer personas, we have a great guide that will walk you through some of the key steps that we’ve covered here so you can start documenting those buyer personas.
Our time-tested process will help you craft a successful healthcare marketing strategy. Inside this exclusive FREE resource, we’ll show you how to create buyer personas, how to develop your core marketing message, and how to attract your ideal audience in order to, ultimately, boost your organization’s bottom line.