If you do online marketing, chances are you’ve created a buyer persona. 

Creating a buyer persona allows marketers to create messaging that resonates. But without the right information, you’ll create inaccurate buyer personas and messaging that flops.

This post explains the changing demographics of online buyers and why your B2B marketing persona needs updating

The Real Buyer Persona Is The Online Researcher

It was just a matter of time before millenials went from interns to influential managers in the B2B marketing space.

In early 2015, Google and Millward Brown released a study evaluating the state of B2B marketing. 

Google analyzed 13 months of clickstream data from Millward Brown Digital's desktop panel. The study mirrors research from 2012, which allows us to see the shift of B2B marketing over the past few years.

Approximately 3,000 B2B researchers were surveyed about their research and purchase habits, as well as their use of digital technologies like search, mobile, and video.

The B2B researcher demographic shifted dramatically over the past two years. Back in 2012, there was a pretty even mix across all age groups.

In 2014, however, 18 to 34 year-olds dominated almost half of all research, an increase of a whopping 70%. 

It’s not all about the c-suite or end-user.  And this has significant implications for online marketers in B2B. 

The ecosystem of influence around B2B research has changed dramatically. While 64% of the C-suite do have final sign off before making a purchase decision, so do almost 24% of the non-C-suite. And non-C-suite have more influence because 81% have a say in purchase decisions.

Additionally, content marketing is a tactic that will continue growing in popularity because 71% of B2B research starts with an unbranded search. 

These researchers are looking for broad, fact based information, or how-to’s. This happens before they perform an action on a brand’s website, such as submitting lead information.

Research shows those involved in the B2B buying process are already 57% of the way down the purchase path before they'll actually perform an action on a brand’s web site. This is why top of the funnel content is so important, it drives web traffic and builds brand awareness and trust.

Obviously, search is important to consider as it’s the B2B buyer's #1 resource while conducting research; 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research various technologies, use cases, white papers, customer testimonials, etc.

These numbers are consistent with data from 2012 but the way they're searching has changed. On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand's site.

Mobile continues to dominate in B2B marketing. According to the study, 42% of researchers use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process. 

Of those, there has been an impressive 91% growth in use over the past two years throughout the entire purchase path (instead of just at the initial stages of research).

What’s even more interesting is that 49% of B2B researchers who use their mobile devices for product and technology research do so while at work. They're comparing prices, reading about products, comparing feature sets, and contacting retailers. 

They're purchasing, too. Purchase rates on mobile are up 22% in the past two years.

Buyer Persona Dictates Content Marketing Strategy

B2B research involves watching video. 70% of B2B researchers are watching videos throughout their journey. 

That's a 52% jump in only two years. And it's not just light viewing.

According to YouTube data, over 895K hours of some of the top B2B videos from brands were watched in 2014. Nearly half of these researchers are viewing 30 minutes or more of B2B-related videos during their research process, and almost one in five watch over an hour of content.

This data shouldn’t be surprising. Millennials grew up learning and research everything online.  Millennials were behind the growth in online video and mobile usage. Think Vines and Snapchat.

Today they are taking those routines with them into the workplace.

Time To Revisit The Buyer Persona To Reach Your B2B Customers

Here's what you should do to understand and reach your B2B customers:

  • First, you need to understand who is driving the conversation about your industry. Identify and document the top 1% of influencers who are creating and distributing content. Learn what these influencers are saying. It's not difficult to find these people - they leave digital breadcrumbs all across the internet. The data is there. Find it, emulate, and establish the relationship.

  • Second, you need to determine if the language and content your audience (and influencers) are using matches the that which you are using across your digital channels. Are there any gaps or opportunities? These insights should help you craft an editorial strategy that makes an impact.

  • Dissect the customer journey. What are your customers searching for online at each phase of the purchase funnel? What are their content consumption habits and behaviors? Where do they spend their time online? We know they use Google but what keywords are they using, what online communities do they read and share content from?

  • Finally, build a converged media strategy. The analytics and insights from the above bullets should help you craft a strategy that reaches your customers with the right content in the right channel. It involves having a consistent and integrated brand story across PESO - paid, earned, shared and owned media.

Your buyer persona must reflect the shift in the B2B researcher demographic. If your persona only includes the needs, interests and demographic factors of mid-to high-level managers than you’re not optimizing your marketing strategy for maximum discoverability. Nor are you creating content that resonates and helps you generate revenue.

It’s time for you to revisit your buyer persona.

Michael Brito is head of social strategy at WCG, a W2O Company. Brito is responsible for helping clients think through their content, social media channels, and paid media strategy. Previously Brito was Senior Vice President of Social Strategy at Edelman Digital, consulting for Fortune 500 companies implement integrated content and global digital marketing strategies.