When marketing teams develop customer personas, it’s helpful to get really specific about things like their role, the industry they work in and the kinds of business problems that might lead them to spend on a particular product or service. It doesn’t end there, though.
The thing about personas is that -- if your goal is to treat customers like actual human beings -- they’re not fixed. They are not just a collection of characteristics or attributes. They will behave in many different ways over the course of their relationship with the brand -- especially in terms how they behave during a visit to the brand’s web site.
When websites are designed, for instance, the marketing personas you’ve created might dig deep into what the brand wants them to think, feel and do when they visit. Whatever those wants are, they are goals or outcomes you’re trying to reach. Before you get there, you have to take into account the different reasons they’re coming to the site in the first place -- something marketers now know as “search intent.”
In an ideal world, all search intent would be related to a purchase, but that’s just not realistic. Instead, you have to align your personas with the different kinds of search intent and develop an experience with the content that will best meet their needs. When you’re successful, the odds of nurturing them towards buying something will go up dramatically, or at least their propensity to influence a buying decision from someone else on their team.
The following four categories are an attempt to illustrate some of the most common search intent behaviours, along with things you may need to add, update or rework on your site. In some organizations this may be a difficult thing to do. If that’s the case, maybe start with one, then use a tool like Marketing Cloud to test how it changes the performance of the content and tactics you’re using to generate demand. If your results get better, making the case for bigger changes may become a little easier.
We may refer to our main window into the Internet a web “browser,” but the rise of search engines has lead many organizations to believe everyone is coming to a site with a particular, defined objective in mind.
Think of all the potential customers, however, who may have heard about your company from a colleague or peer, who read about it in an industry publication or visited via a mention on social media. They might literally be “browsing” -- they’re not at a point where they’re even thinking about a purchase, but they might want to know the following:
That last one might seem off-base, but it reflects the fact that people visit websites for all kinds of reasons.
Content you should focus on: Your company’s purpose, key offerings and contact information should be crystal-clear on your home page. The “About” area should be easy to find, with more comprehensive background on your history, key leadership and location information. Have a strong call-out to sign up for email updates in case they want to learn more or don’t have time to do a deep-dive on their first visit. You’ll get valuable contacts in your database for future inbound and outbound activities.
This may be a buyer, or someone merely doing more research as a business case for a purchase is being developed. Having a stronger sense of who you are, the navigational searcher wants to get the lay of the land in order to access information quickly, even if they don’t need it right away.
Some of the questions this person might be asking:
Content you should focus on: The idea of a site map may have faded somewhat, but you’ll want the sections of your site like “Products” “Contact Us” and “Resources” (where you should have case studies featuring your best customers) should be well-defined. If there are certifications or other qualifying factors, those should all be clear wherever it’s relevant. Think about an FAQ area on the homepage that guides them to the areas that are most commonly sought based on the data you’ve tracked through marketing automation, and make sure you have the SEO keywords on the pages that align with the areas customers might be typing into search engines.
These people are definitely looking for something. You’ll probably see it in the number of visits they make, the number of pages they visit, the number of content marketing assets they download and other ways they engage with your brand. Should they be talking to a sales rep yet? Not always, but they most likely want to know things like:
Content you should focus on: This is a stage where you’ll want to get closer to a real conversation, so think about areas of the site to sign up for a webinar, Twitter chat or even an in-person event where they can ask questions directly. Otherwise, if you’re not seeing a lot of sales conversions from all this online activity, you may want to reorganize or beef up your Resources area to make sure they are confident about moving ahead on their journey with your brand.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just stick a “Buy Now” button on your home page and be done with it? In practice, transactional searchers may need a few other elements. They’re most likely thinking things like:
Content you should focus on: You may not allow site visitors to download buyer’s guides or spec sheets, but you should have landing pages or form fields to request a rep send those materials their way and move the process along. Another option is putting a chatbot on your site -- besides addressing service issues from your regular customers, a chatbot could answer a lot of the transactional questions and even those related to the other three categories above.
The most important thing to remember about search intent is that no one really likes searching -- they like finding. Make the search process shorter, no matter what type of persona they are, and see how much faster they’ll turn from a a mere browser and into a paying customer.