The biggest b2b digital marketing trends in 2020

The biggest B2B marketing trends for 2020

  • The trends for digital marketing in 2020
  • Getting up close with personalisation
  • New tech, new opportunities

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Like all industries, B2B digital marketing is constantly changing. Inbound marketing has become well established and won’t be going anywhere any time soon. But the way we create content, and the ways we aim to deliver better marketing are markedly different than they were even five years ago. Such is the nature of changing B2B marketing trends.

We’re currently in the midst of several important transformations, most of which are grounded in technological developments and changing SEO trends. In this blog, we discuss some of the most important current developments.

1. End-to-end personalisation

As technology gets smarter, so does marketing. Today, both B2B and B2C consumers increasingly expect the marketing material they consume to be personalised. Gone are the days when a simple template email would suffice.

Personalisation means that the content of marketing material is tailored to individual users, customised for their unique interests, activity and interactions with your organisation. You’ll notice we use the term ‘marketing material’ instead of email. As time passes, we’ll start to see personalised user experiences begin to influence a customer’s interaction with your company, at every stage of their journey from awareness to conversion, and the ongoing customer relationship from there onwards.

The most significant transformation in this field, however, comes with the ability to automate data analysis using AI and machine learning. Techniques like clustering and natural language processing (NLP) mean algorithms are getting increasingly sophisticated at analysing consumer data. And by learning more about the customer, we’re also discovering new and innovative ways to tailor marketing material more closely to their needs, tastes and preferences.

2. Long form content is on the up

In the digital world, there’s a long-held mantra that content should be short, immediate and to the point. After many years, this logic is starting to become a little more nuanced – and long form content is becoming more popular for marketers who are looking to achieve more with their SEO efforts. Content getting longer and more detailed is one of the clearest B2B marketing trends that we’re currently seeing.

The main reason for this is that it ranks well. Google has more recently come to favour long form content on the assumption that the information within it is more analytical, useful and valuable than its shorter counterparts.

When you publish long form content, you’ll likely experience very slightly different results to what you’re used to. The sheer length of the content is always likely to put off a certain type of reader – those that want quick answers to easy questions. But as marketers, these readers are generally less useful to us anyway. What you’ll be left with is a smaller, more focused group of readers with a genuine interest in your ideas, who are willing to make a time investment for valuable information.

But it’s not just Google that’s beginning to prefer long form content. Readers who feel buried under the weight of endless content are increasingly finding that long-form content is better researched, more analytic and more informative. Regardless of the time it takes to read, it’s far more likely to have value than something that’s shorter. Google likes it, readers like it – and B2B marketers are loving it.

3. AI drives new levels of customer experience

Powered by artificial intelligence, chatbots can be used to automate basic customer service requests, meaning customers can solve simple queries for themselves without having to speak to the business.

These have recently become quite prolific on B2B websites, but there’s every opportunity for the technology to develop and find new uses in the new year. So far, it’s been used as a tool to aid user experience and optimize customer service. In future, there’s potential for it to develop into a direct marketing tool.

Could artificial intelligence identify what marketing materials to direct the user to, based on their queries? Could it combine this with identity resolution technology, creating an increasingly pesonalised user experience? The possibilities for this new technology to revolutionise B2B marketing are vast.

4. Is gated content out?

Well, probably not quite yet. But steadily, B2B marketers are moving away from the old methods of locking valuable content behind a contact form and hoping customers take the bait.

With gated content, you can only ever see one side of the picture – the amount of people who filled in the form. What you’ll never see is the potential viewers who gave up on seeing the contact form. That’s why it’s so difficult to compare a gated vs purely inbound approach. Recently marketers have begun to realise that the lead form may not be their best friend. After all, how many of the people that even submit their contact details can be relied upon as genuine leads? How many can even be relied upon to give their contact details? When you start to look into it, you begin to realise the evidence in support of lead forms is at best shaky.

It’s a big leap in the dark to get rid of gated content. It’s a big shift in mindset to suddenly decide you’re going to give away valuable content for free now. But if you think about it – is that not the whole point of inbound marketing? Is this not what we’ve been doing with our blogs, social posts and website copy for years now? Our mantra as marketers has always been if we create something valuable then the leads will start to come in. It makes total sense that nowadays this rule is being applied to more content and marketing than ever before.

5. Voice-generated SEO

In the last few years, the rise of Siri, Alexa and Cortana has begun a fundamental revolution in online searches and SEO. More and more people are turning to voice searches as a simple and convenient way of answering their questions. Today, the effects on SEO are limited – but we’re certainly starting to see promising movements that it’ll affect the industry more and more in coming years.

Recently, Google rolled out the Speakable schema markup, which was the first sign that voice searches were beginning to make an impact on the SEO world. In essence, it allowed content creators to mark up or ‘nominate’ sections of their content that would be eligible for a response to a voice search. Typically, that means direct answers to specific queries, in a fairly succinct manner. After that, Google would use its own algorithms to choose how useful the ‘nominees’ were for the voice search. In practice, the whole thing looks and sounds a lot like getting a featured snippet.

Today, marking content up for voice searches is something that marketers can do to give a helpful boost to the right kind of content. It’s very much still in development. But with the direction of travel for voice-based technology, it’s almost certain that it’ll only continue to grow in importance over time.

The future of B2B marketing trends

These trends suggest that exciting prospects are ahead for B2B marketers over the coming years. But it’s only when the strengths of each emerging trend are combined into a broader inbound strategy that the real potential of the future begins to emerge.

Until now, the marketing material different people consume has been largely similar, with personalisation focusing more on the products and services they’re directed towards. The marketing of the future will increasingly use emerging technology to find out more about each potential customer, making the resultant marketing experience more detailed, more personal – and more effective. The question is – will you be making the most of it when it does?

international content marketing association winner

Fifty Five and Five take home Silver at the International Content Marketing Association (CMA) Awards

The International Content Marketing Association Awards are a pretty big deal in the content marketing calendar. Agencies across the world submit their best work from the past year to be judged by some of the top names in the industry.  The event provides a brilliant showcase of expertise, talent and insight for brand marketers, and this year we’re delighted to have won an award for our Microsoft Partner Benchmarking Tool.

With entries from 23 countries and almost 150 individual agencies, we couldn’t be prouder to have won the Silver award for Best Use of Data and Insight. A lot of hard work went into creating our Partner Benchmarking Tool, and to have it recognised at such prestigious awards is a real honour.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Partner Benchmarking Tool was built to provide real-time insights for Microsoft partners, so that they could quickly identify which aspects of their content marketing strategies needed improvement. By simply entering a URL, users can put their website, blog and social through 40 tests that quantify performance and provide results in seconds.

The data pulled in this process allows users to diagnose the health of a whole range of inbound marketing factors. And, as the results are presented in a simple score format, it’s easy to see where improvement is needed.

partner benchmarking tool scores

Following their results, users are given access to a range of informative, how-to videos and tutorials full of actionable advice for getting better scores in the future. Relevant content is tailored to each user, based on the strengths and weaknesses gleaned from the analysis.

Microsoft has made the Partner Benchmarking Tool accessible to all 500,000 partners via the Smart Partner Marketing Portal. As such, marketing teams around the world are being inspired and empowered to achieve more with their content marketing efforts.

Interested in learning more about what our marketing tool can do for your business? This post provides a round up.

Whilst we believe in celebrating our successes here at Fifty Five and Five (and we’ll certainly be raising a toast later today) we don’t plan on stopping here. We’re constantly working to refine our services so that we can provide more value for our fab clients.

There are some exciting projects in the pipeline, including work on a brand new concept for an Insights Report (more on that later…). Alongside Insights, we’re also investing more time into social selling and content marketing research, so that we can keep delivering top quality advice and strategies that help our clients thrive.

Check out our fool-proof guide to content marketing, designed to help B2B marketers put together a killer content strategy.

We’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to the International Content Marketing Association Awards for their recognition. It’s such an awesome time to be a player in the digital marketing landscape, and we can’t wait to share more great tools, content and insights with you.

For now, feel free to check out our library of existing marketing content here.

Illustration four coloured blocks

The 4 biggest B2B marketing challenges (and how to solve them)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that B2B buyers transform into heartless robots the moment they step into the office. That creativity and storytelling are reserved for those lucky guys across the hall firing out “fun” B2C content, leaving us with the boring technical dregs.

This sentiment is incorrect. There are more similarities than you think, but there are a unique set of B2B marketing challenges that are very different from the consumer realm, causing many businesses to struggle with their approach.

In business-to-business you’re expected to acquire qualified leads then hand the reins over to the sales team, whereas in B2C marketing you’re responsible for directly generating the sale. The B2B buying process is way more complicated as you’re tasked with promoting products and services which can be highly technical and complex. When you factor in that you’re likely dealing with a web of stakeholders, locked and loaded with their own experience and google research, you can see its hectic nature.

While B2C is a straightforward jump from advertising to purchasing, this tangled nature of its counterpart leaves marketers and B2B business owners in a muddle. It’s difficult to understand where to invest resources for meaningful ROI.

At Fifty Five and Five, we’ve focused on helping B2B businesses overcome these hurdles. Here are our top four B2B marketing challenges, with a little help on how to solve them.


1. Standing out online

Find any business worth their salt without an online presence and I’ll send you the location of the Philosopher’s stone – and I don’t mean the Harry Potter book. What is difficult, but not quite like turning ordinary metals into gold, is building a strong online presence that puts the megaphone in your hand, helping you rise above the noise in a crowded marketplace.

In this digital age, most people count on the net to supply them with the answers to their problems: whether it’s the recipe to a mean meatloaf, the lyrics to the latest Bieber banger or, more importantly, which service or product best serves their business needs. In marketing lingo, this translates to – get yourself to, or near the top of, the search engine rankings.

As an experiment, google one of the problems your product solves in a question format. For example, let’s say you sell a fantastic cloud-based intranet designed to transform the way businesses collaborate internally. Jeff, the newly promoted CIO of a medium-sized business, tasked with ‘digitally transforming’ the company, fires up Google and types: “How to move your business to the cloud”


B2B marketing challenges


You can see that Google surfaces results filled with businesses that sell products related to the question. But, it doesn’t say “we’ll move you to the cloud with our service!”. Instead, you get engaging and helpful content designed to help people that land on their page.

Businesses with a strong online presence dominate every page number worth checking. I mean, who really gets past page five? The squeakiest wheel gets the grease, as the American proverb goes. However, it’s more than simply shouting the loudest. You need to put together some top-notch content and you need to strategise your way to the top. The good news is that there are steps you can take to climb the ladder on Google and other search engines like Microsoft’s Bing.

Action to take  - When it comes to breaking through the noise and standing out online, SEO is the way to go. Developing an SEO strategy that not only optimises your website, but provides long-term, incremental improvements, can positively boost your lead generation. Luckily for you, our experts here at Fifty Five and Five put together an in-depth “how to” guide to help you climb the Google search results ladder. As we’ve witnessed first-hand, with the help of a consistent strategy you could significantly increase your number of unique visitors per month.


2. Setting your brand apart

Remember when reaching large audiences with marketing campaigns was reserved for big corporations with bigger budgets to burn? Great news: those days are gone.

But staying competitive remains a big challenge for B2B companies. With every yin comes a yang, which in this case, means a wider pool of competitors to contend with. Now, even a budding start-up can launch a dynamic marketing strategy through the power of social media, free events and webinars. This is why you need to set your business and your brand apart from the rest. What makes you different from everyone else?

Start by telling your story and humanising your brand. Creativity and storytelling were traditionally seen as a luxury afforded only to B2C brands, but times have changed. The people that interact with those businesses are the same that will interact with yours. This sentiment is backed up by a LinkedIn-commissioned study undertaken by “The Long and Short of it” authors, Binet and Field. Highlighting the importance of brand building to B2B companies, the research shows that tapping into the business buyers’ emotions can help drive growth. Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean make them cry. Although John Lewis pack a pretty decent punch to the heart when Christmas comes around.

Action to take - Build connections and rapport with your target audience through storytelling by incorporating it into relevant and engaging content. Don’t be scared to share your story, it’s one of the things that differentiate you from your competition. The nature of the B2B world puts you in the ring with fight-ready businesses selling products and services similar to yours. Try to humanise your business and brand. You’re more likely to earn the trust of customers when they understand why you do what you do, not just what you do.

Take a look at our writer Alex’s blog, “How to seduce your audience: Rhetoric in marketing and the art of persuasion”, and learn how you can spruce up your content and hit those emotions using language devices.


3. The changing customer buyer journey

The emphasis on inbound marketing has caused a shift in the way buyers consume content, make informed buying decisions and engage with salespeople. Historically, when people needed a product or service, they’d open up the Yellow Pages, speak to colleagues or call the salesperson who’d popped in and dropped off their card.

Now, people consult the internet and educate themselves, with research showing that 70-90% of the B2B buying process is over before buyers reach out to salespeople. Sellers used to knock on the buyer’s door. These days, the roles have switched. You could have the perfect solution to their problem, but that door will remain knock-less without your content reaching them.

There are so many stakeholders, each armed with their own research and opinions, which changes it from a simple transaction to a convoluted process. As shown by the three-quarters of B2B customers who told Gartner that they found their last purchase difficult or complex. So, how do you win their business?

Action to take - A difficult dynamic, with many stakeholders, creates a struggle for buyers. In this instance, the key to earning their business lies in taking proactive steps to simplify this journey. Research has shown that buyers are more likely to feel like they’ve entered a “high-value, low-regret” agreement when they receive information that helps them advance through the buying process. Ensure that you produce engaging content that aids them through the steps, putting the right information, to the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Check out our brand new eBook “A fool-proof guide to content marketing” to get our latest marketing insights, actionable advice and interactive material. It’s designed to help B2B marketers create content that puts them front and centre in the conversation, so you can put your best foot forward and give prospective clients the help they need.


4. B2B lead generation

We looked at how Binet and Field’s study showed that B2B and B2C marketing are more similar than we thought. But, one of the biggest differences is the short sales cycle of the latter. B2C companies markets directly to the customer, who then goes to buy the product, sometimes with just one-click if shopping online with Amazon. It can be a product the customer needs or simply an impulse buy.

“Oh look, three loofahs for the price of two… It’d be rude not to.”

I’m sure loofahs are loved by all. A world without those spongy delights is a world I’d hate live in. But the B2B buying process is more complex than that. The chances of an impulse buy are slim to none. I doubt anybody looks at cloud migration software and thinks “They look alright, 5,000 of those are going straight in my basket.”

Lead generation in the B2B world requires thought-out marketing campaigns that build personal relationships with prospects over time. The primary method in achieving this, or the starting point at least, usually happens through content, which is why producing relevant and engaging material is so important – which I clearly can’t stress enough.

Action to take - A burgeoning movement that’s gaining traction inside many organisations is the alignment of the sales and marketing teams – aptly given the moniker “smarketing”.

The immediate objectives of these two departments tend to be different, which creates a disconnect, despite both striving to achieve the same big picture goal. Website traffic numbers, email opening targets and marketing leads don’t always convert into sales. But better communication and collaboration can change this and seriously boost business growth.

Sales teams, good ones at least, should know their customers inside and out - and their knowledge should offer valuable insights into customer pain points, challenges and goals. Each of these can contribute to stronger, engaging and relevant content that can aid the curation of successful marketing strategies. It’s mind-blowing that a quarter of businesses describe their sales and marketing teams as either misaligned, especially when you consider this misalignment costs companies 10% or more of their annual revenue.

If you fancy a deep dive into smarketing and what it can do for your business, then check out this blog written by Fifty Five and Five’s smarketing king, our account director Aidan.


The proof is in the platform

Creating engaging content is a sure way to bolster engagement, but the platforms you choose to present your content on is equally important. For instance, thought leadership pieces on LinkedIn help CEOs to establish authority in their field, by sparking community conversations. Over time, regular blogging creates consistency for customers, which in turn can help to establish a brand as reliable and professional. Find out how to amplify your content with effective content marketing.


Cherish your customers

For B2B technology companies, a good reputation is paramount if you want your brand to stand above the rest.

Giving a genuine human element to your company can really help turn a faceless company into a personal, relatable and trustworthy brand, placing your organisation ahead of your competitors.  So, one thing to remember is to always follow up with customers. Send brief emails after phone-calls, summarising the main points that you’ve discussed, and always send ‘thank you’ emails after the deal is complete. Doing this shows customers that you’re in this to build continual business. If you can keep a connection to your customers, then you’re already one step ahead of your competition.

Gated vs un-gated content: which is better?

Unsure whether to gate your content? This is a common issue for many marketers today, who struggle to decide if the perks of gating premium content will outweigh the cons of asking for personal information from users.

In this blog, we’ll assess each side of the coin and offer advice on implementing your own gated content – capable of driving more traffic, leads and revenue to your business.

Want our best tips on how to improve your content marketing? Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

What is gated content?

Gated content, in short, is any content or media that is hidden behind a lead capture form. To access the content, a user must provide personal information, usually in the form of an email address, phone number, job title, industry information or an answer to a survey question.

Gates are highly valuable to marketers because they are powerful tools for lead generation. Typically, users will arrive on your site through a blog or social post. Hopefully, if they are impressed by what they’ve seen, they will be interested in accessing more of your content. And by creating an enticing gated content offering – you then open up the possibility of generating numerous, new and valuable leads.

Importantly – gated content is not content that your audience needs to pay for. Rather, gated content trades access to the content in exchange for an action or information from users.

Ungated content, on the other hand, allows visitors to access content without filling in forms or providing personal information. It often comes in the form of infographics, blogs or videos. Ungated content is a valuable asset for building trust with prospects – as it removes any roadblocks to interesting, useful information.

Of course, while ungated content can increase views – it can also have a negative effect on lead generation, as you are not capturing contacts along the way.

What kind of content should I gate?

eBooks and whitepapers

There are several ways that you can use gated content. Digital assets like eBooks and whitepapers are a great example – as they are ideal for delivering further value (by going in-depth on a topic your audience is interested in), whilst also establishing your business as a thought leader. Thanks to their high-value, users are often happy to part with contact information as an exchange.

Content upgrades

Content upgrades are another popular gated content strategy. This simply involves offering readers bonus content – or an upgrade to the content they are currently viewing – in exchange for their data. This technique is effective as your audience’s interest is pre-determined – you already know that visitors on a specific page or blog have at least some interest in the content that your upgrade provides.


Webinars provide you with a unique opportunity to provide content in a live online setting. They typically have high conversion rates because they are seen as having higher value than other gated content types.

Usually webinars will have their own landing page where lead information is captured. It makes sense to put them behind a subscription wall, rather than giving them away for free, as they generally focus on high-value topics. As such, webinars are a quick and effective way to grow your email list and reach new leads.

When should I use ungated content?

The answer to this question isn’t always straight-forward. Generally speaking, though, it comes down to whether you are trying to increase brand awareness or generate leads.

For instance, during the awareness stage, most prospects will know very little about your brand. They have no reason to trust you and may be unwilling to part with personal information. At this point, removing the gate from content can boost the visibility of your brand and improve your credibility.

Then, as prospects travel along the marketing funnel, their interest in your business should peak. As they become more familiar with your content, they will likely be more willing to fill out a form to access further assets. This is the point where you can begin generating leads.

The great content gate debate

As we’ve seen throughout this article, there are many compelling reasons to gate your content. Equally, there are also several benefits to keeping it ungated. As such, marketers just can’t seem to agree on what strategy is best.

On the one hand, marketers believe that the pros of gaining qualified leads outweigh the cons of turning away potential visitors. On the other hand, it is believed that asking for personal information can cause your business to lose the potential reach of your content and link opportunity.

All we can really say for sure, at this stage, is that there is no steadfast rule. Gating the wrong content at the wrong time during your customer’s journey can discourage potential clients from continued engagement with your brand. Likewise, gating the right content at the right time can do wonders for nurturing leads and building a strong relationship with future clients.

To help you decide on the best content delivery strategy for your business, we’ll leave you with some questions:

1. What are your competitors up to? Are they offering similar content ungated?

If your competitors are providing content without a gate, then it could be worth doing the same. You risk putting your brand at a disadvantage if you add a form at this stage.

2. Is your objective brand awareness or lead generation?

If you’re aiming to improve brand awareness, then it makes sense to keep your content open. If you’re looking to generate leads, then gated content is the right option – as you’ll be able to capture valuable information about your prospects.

3. Is your content of high enough value to warrant a gate?

We touched on the kind of content that should and shouldn’t be gated. Improve your chances of capturing leads by ensuring the content you wish to gate provides enough value to your prospects before you ask them to part with contact information.

Do you need help with your content strategy? As a full-service digital marketing agency, the team here at Fifty Five and Five have the tools to help. Get in contact with us today to learn more about the pros and cons of gated content.

Creating personas for marketing that have impact

  • What are marketing personas and why do we use them?
  • Steps and tips for creating marketing personas

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Fancy a free template to help you craft the perfect persona? Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

Meet Robin. She’s the new head of marketing at Work Squirrel, a small but fast-growing managed-services provider based in Edinburgh. The company has been around for just under 10 years, selling intranet solutions to clients in Scotland and the north of England.

When Robin started at the company three months ago, she didn’t know huge amounts about building intranets, but she does have a post-graduate degree in marketing from the University of Leeds’ business school and a couple of years’ experience as a marketing exec at a sports company in Manchester. She moved to Edinburgh to live with her boyfriend.

During her first couple of months at Work Squirrel, Robin has been settling in, gaining an understanding of the company and reviewing their existing marketing material while trying to build up a strategy to make the business grow. Besides an outdated website and a blog with two posts published in 2014, Work Squirrel really doesn’t have a lot of marketing material to help her.

Getting started

Put yourself in Robin’s shoes for a minute: she’s in a new city at her first major job and is the only marketing person at the firm. That’s quite a lot of pressure. She doesn’t know the company inside out and she’s keen to make a good impression on the CEO. He’s not convinced that the company even needs to do any marketing, since they seem to be growing quite well without it.

What should Robin’s task list look like? What do you think she needs to be doing at this stage to start making an impact on the company and streamlining its marketing?

I believe creating personas for marketing should be the first thing that Robin does. Personas are a useful way of targeting your marketing material to a specific target audience who you think will be interested in buying your company’s wares. Work Squirrel doesn’t currently have any personas, but when Robin creates her own, she’ll be able to produce content which much more effectively reaches her target audience.

In this blog post, I’ll describe how to create personas for marketing – from Robin’s point of view She’s been given a pretty tight deadline to create a new marketing strategy, and wants to create and present her personas to the board in just a few days.

Want to start creating personas for marketing right away? Click here for your free customer persona template download.

How to create personas

What’s an audience persona again?

You might have guessed it already, but Robin is one of the personas we’ve developed for our own marketing at Fifty Five and Five. She works as a marketer at a Microsoft Partner and needs services like ours. If the concept of a created persona attempting to create a persona for her fictional company seems a bit meta, I understand. But, there is a point to this! When we develop our audience personas, we focus on creating characters with realistic back stories, personal lives, pressures, pain points and goals. Without these, our marketing would become too vague, unrelatable and, really, of no use to anyone.

Robin’s a great example of a persona, but to define one a bit more clearly, here’s a definition from HubSpot:

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

HubSpot go on to mention that personas should include demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, goals and more. So, let’s break that definition down a little to work out what exactly a persona really, is and explore how you can create them for marketing with long-term impact.

A “semi-fictional representation”

Robin isn’t a real person. But I’ve designed her based on an amalgamation of similar marketers I’ve met while working with B2B technology providers. Robin’s persona is therefore very detailed; the more detail, the better our content can be targeted to answer her questions, concerns and worries. The fact that her boss isn’t convinced he needs a marketing department at all, for instance, is a common problem with small B2B tech providers that marketers often need to overcome.

“Your ideal customer”

Robin is a figment of our collective imaginations, but we all want to work with people just like her. Of course, it’s best practice to have anywhere between three and five personas to make sure your marketing also answers the needs of different audiences. I currently use four ‘ideal customers’ – some of them are in far more established roles than Robin - while others don’t even work as marketers. You get the idea.

“Market research and real data”

While Robin may be a figment of my imagination, the creation of her personality and traits are taken from real-life people and experiences. Before designing Robin’s persona, I did a lot of research, speaking with existing customers at firms like Robin’s and using examples of similar individuals from LinkedIn.

So, we now know what an audience persona is more generally, how can Robin create one that’s actually useful in her specific company? When she first begins creating personas for marketing, where should she start?

how to create personas

Know your audience – doing the research

Robin needs to write between three and five personas for her upcoming presentation to the board. Less than that, and they won’t be specific enough, more than that and she won’t realistically be able to create enough marketing material to speak to all those people. To begin, let’s imagine the types of people that will be buying Work Squirrel’s intranets.

To get this information, Robin sets up meetings with her sales representatives, and the CEO, to find out more about Work Squirrel’s existing customers. She also reviews a customer list that Work Squirrel has in Excel and does her own research, from sources such as Marketing Land and CMS Wire to get a better idea of the lay of the land. She then creates a list of typical buyers:

Common job titles Common company types Common requests for an intranet Common pain points/issues
CIO: 50%

Head of IT: 40%

Head of communications: 5%

HR manager: 3%

Other: 2%

Media & advertising: 50%

Retail: 25%

Non-profit: 10%

Other: 15%

Better comms

Easier document management

Cloud access

Mobile access

Heard about SharePoint projects going wrong



Robin has already got a better idea of who she should now market to. So far, so obvious. Things need to get a lot more specific before she can really present a serious set of personas to the board.

Picturing your ideal customer

Robin’s next step is to create a detailed picture of Work Squirrel’s ideal customers. This is all about working out the buyer’s wants and needs. Let’s look at how she started developing her persona around the CIO – Work Squirrel’s most common customer profile.

Role title: CIO
Company type and size: Medium sized TV company with HQ in Edinburgh and offices in Salford and London, employing 150 people
Current situation with existing IT: Uses an outdated intranet based on SharePoint server 2007. Lots of employees using shadow IT
What this CIO needs from an intranet: Cloud based tools – either private or public for storing large video files. A modern, fresh looking intranet
What obstacles the CIO might raise: They’ve used SharePoint before. It wasn’t a huge success – aren’t all Microsoft products a bit useless?
What might convince them otherwise? Free trials, demos, facts and visualisations. Marketing targeted specifically at showing how on intranet based in SharePoint 2016 will allow them to use the cloud and that it has a better user interface than earlier versions

As Robin starts creating the persona, she’s already got a much clearer idea of what her marketing needs to look like. She’s starting to picture the kinds of messages that need to be on the website; the kinds of landing pages her company needs to build; the kinds of blog posts she needs published and the kinds of third party magazines she needs to place ads and articles in.

But this still isn’t enough. Robin is creating personas for marketing that will need to be a lot more specific if it’s to really have any impact.

how to create personas

What do your customers look like?

The more detailed your buyer persona, the better. They must be much more than a few words on a page; the audience persona needs to come to life. It should almost be as if you know them yourself.

Let’s see what Robin did with the CIO she began outlining earlier.

Name: Dave Andrews
Demographic details Male, 47 years old, he’s Scottish and lives on the outskirts of Edinburgh. He’s originally from Perth and is married with two teenage kids.
Professional background Dave has worked as a business consultant in IT for most of his career. He joined the media company he works at 2 years ago.
Education Dave began studying computer science at the University of Glasgow before transferring to a business degree, but that was in the 1980s. He’s topped up his education with refresher courses throughout his career.
At work, Dave’s pressures include: He’s expected to bring about business change and use IT to align different departments. At present the intranet is a bit useless and people are using a lot of different tools for sharing files, which means there’s no central repository of important company documents. Dave knows CIOs get fired easily if they fail to affect change or deliver projects.
Dave is looking for: He wants an intranet where all files are stored centrally, and it’s easy to use.
Points of resistance: He thinks SharePoint is no good. He’s worried about starting a new project and watching it fail/go way over budget.
Personal goals and ambitions: Dave wants security. He likes his job. He wants to have a real impact on the company and he wants people to notice that it was down to him that this change happened

By creating such a detailed persona, Robin is now able to create marketing material that’s a lot more focused. When she presents the personas she’s designed to the board, they are sure to be impressed.

Giving those audience personas impact

So, you’ve created a set of believable, accurate and realistic personas. So what? All too often, personas get written in a burst of marketing enthusiasm before being left on a shelf somewhere, never to be used again. But this is a real shame – when used well, personas can have a profound impact on your marketing. So, here’s a checklist to ensure your personas actually get used:

  • Print out your personas, tack them to the wall beside your desk.
  • Define campaigns by who they’re targeted at. Any landing pages, articles, blog posts, SEO research or whatever else will be separated by persona.
  • Orientate all campaigns to specifically target the needs and challenges of specific personas

Creating marketing personas is an essential stage in any marketing activity, and should form the basis of all your campaigns and long term strategy. To get started on creating your very own Robin, download our free customer persona template here. And, if you want any help with your personas, talk to us today.

Illustration man sitting with giant smartphone with shield icon

5 tips for building a solid cybersecurity marketing strategy

The market for cybersecurity products and services is highly competitive. So, to ensure that your expertise and solutions stand out from the crowd, you need an excellent cybersecurity marketing strategy.

The cybersecurity landscape has changed in recent years. In 2019, a slew of data breaches, exploits and backdoor hacks have compromised the data of hundreds of millions of users.

Hackers broke WhatsApp’s defences and installed surveillance technology on people’s phones, travellers licence plates and images were stolen from US Customs and Borders and 11.9 million patients medical and financial data was exposed due to a Quest Diagnostics Breach – just to name a few.

Business owners are beginning to wake up to the reality that their organisations are at risk and are seeking out ways to better protect their IT infrastructure. Cybersecurity is now being regarded as business-critical – a situation which has led to more opportunity for businesses selling cybersecurity solutions, as well as more competition than ever.

At Fifty Five and Five, we work with Microsoft Partners to help market a wide range of cybersecurity services and products. Over the years, we have worked closely with our clients to figure out what works and what doesn’t. In this post, we highlight five ways for Microsoft Partners to develop a cybersecurity marketing strategy which will generate leads and boost profits.


How to build a solid cybersecurity marketing strategy

There are five key tips to developing a cybersecurity marketing strategy. These are:

  1. Understanding your audience
  2. Providing education
  3. Gaining trust/showcasing expertise
  4. Creating a sense of urgency
  5. Take away the fear


1. Understanding your audience

Understanding your audience is essential, and should be the first step for all marketing strategies. To do this well, we recommend creating some marketing personas.

A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Personas not only put a face to your target audience but also provide actionable insights to help you decide which strategies will work best, including how to communicate, which marketing channels to use and what kind of messaging will have the desired impact. You can learn more about creating personas for marketing here.

If you are selling to smaller businesses, you need to resolve problems facing smaller businesses. For instance, writing blogs which focus solely on the high-profile cybersecurity attacks affecting the Deloittes and NHS’s of this world may leave small business owners thinking: “Well, my company of 12 people probably isn’t at risk”. On the other hand, messaging such as: “43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses” will resonate with them more.

You also need to be clear about who your message is targeted at within these organisations. Create at least two or three personas to cover the different roles that you need to speak to. It is likely that you will need to target both the CTO and the CEO. But, at larger organisations, this may also include CISOs, risk managers and CFOs. All of these individuals will have different pain points and will need to be addressed in different ways.

Actions to take - Research your audience and create and use personas


2. Provide education

Every business needs cybersecurity, but few people outside of the tech world know more than what they see in the headlines. Education is therefore essential when it comes to a cybersecurity marketing strategy.

Many business owners read about cyberattacks in the news and are left asking: how does this affect my business? What are the dangers? How do I mitigate against the risks? Where do I start? A cybersecurity marketing strategy needs to answer these questions.

Another problem for marketers is that many businesses are complacent about the cybersecurity threat to their business. Part of the job involves explaining that the risks are huge and the dangers imminent. Content marketing is key here. Create blogs and downloadable content (eBooks, infographics etc.) that seek to educate your target audience.

Actions to take -

  • Create informative digital content – blogs, downloadable content, webinars, video tutorials
  • Use other types of content – flyers and brochures to hand out to customers at events or adverts/advertorial in print publications


3. Gain trust/showcase expertise

When businesses make decisions about cybersecurity solutions, there’s a lot on the line – the average cost of a cyberattack is £20,000. With the EU’s new data protection laws (e.g. the GDPR) coming into play in 2018, there is a further consideration that non-compliance can be punished with huge fines. Aside from this, there’s the risk of reputational damage, which can be just as difficult to come back from as any financial hit.

With so much at stake, business owners are taking care to find solutions they can rely on. Therefore, they need to know that they’re in safe hands.

You need to build trust and showcase your expertise. This doesn’t mean producing text-heavy manuals full of jargon and technical language. It means providing easy-to-digest explainers about how effective your products and services have been in protecting customers from cyber threats in the past. Testimonials from satisfied customers and case studies that showcase success stories are the way to go. Bringing your blogs to life with real examples of your services, product or team in practice can work well.

Making content data-led is a great way to do this. Accurate stats, facts and figures can be effective in communicating your expertise. For instance, use attention-grabbing statistics for headlines and social media content, such as: “we helped 200 organisations stay cyberattack free in 2017”.

Actions to take - 


4. Create a sense of urgency

Unfortunately, many businesses do not see cybersecurity as a priority. One of your challenges is to convince them that they should.

There may be many different reasons why businesses are reluctant to prioritise cybersecurity. It could be down to complacency; it could be because they don’t fully understand the threat; it could be because they believe their core work is more important and want to focus their resources towards that end; it could be simply down to the expense.

Your job is to use your personas to figure out what messaging will convince your target audience that cybersecurity is critical – you need to create a sense of urgency.

But, of course, you must get your messaging right. This shouldn’t be an exercise is scare tactics. You don’t want to create a series of blogs that ends up terrifying potential customers rather than educating them as to the risks.

Actions to take - 

  • Use your personas to find the right messaging
  • Avoid scare-mongering and stick to the facts
  • Use stats to outline the reality of the threat


5. Take away the fear

It’s important that you steer clear of deploying scare tactics to market your solution. It can be easy to slip into the fear-based approach when your product protects businesses from alarming outcomes – especially considering the bleak picture the statistics paint. For example, an estimated two million cyber attacks in 2018 cost more than $45 billion in losses worldwide.

People are emotional creatures and it’s important to know and understand these stats to tailor your content to hit emotional triggers. However, you need to keep customers comfortable throughout the decision-making process. Fear based messaging doesn’t affect behaviour in the way you’d want it to. Yes, you’ll grab the attention of the reader but rather than concentrating on your offering, they’ll concentrate on managing their fear. Then, reassure themselves that “It’ll never happen to them” or “come on, what are the chances?” Consider that their fear controlled and your product forgotten about.

It’s better to put a positive spin on your marketing campaign. You can’t hide from the figures and you’d be remiss to ignore them in your content. But you can offer up reassurance that the fears can be resolved. Your product just happens to be the perfect solution. The only fear you want your potential customers to feel, is the fear that they’re missing out on the best solution out there.

Actions to take - Steer clear of fear tactics in your marketing. The figures are scary, but put a positive spin on your content, painting you as the solution