Customers’ concerns vary, sometimes dramatically, across regions and cultures. Because these variations present business opportunities, you might expect global companies’ buyer personas to reflect those variations. In fact, many organizations miss this opportunity, applying one set of personas everywhere.
Even organizations that have regional or cultural personas may lack the insights they need to succeed across markets.
Sometimes, even small differences between regional and cultural personas affect the bottom line, according to Cassio Politi. In his talk at 2016 Content Marketing World, he delivered a message for multinational brands:
Often, headquarters comes up with universal personas and tells everyone, ‘Go create content based on these personas.’ This approach may fail.
Cassio knows what works. The winner of the Digitalks’ Brazilian Content Marketer of the Year award in 2015, he wrote the first Portuguese book on content marketing. He also founded Tracto, a consultancy that develops content strategy for big brands, including U.S. companies with operations in South America and Central America – companies like Eli Lilly, Thomson Reuters, and Scup.
Cassio provided three examples of persona lessons his clients have learned the hard way. As you review them, consider what kind of opportunities your company might create by developing regional personas of your own.
Example 1: Tax-software users in Brazil
A Brazilian sales team for a global tax-software company worked with enterprise buyer personas and discovered that customers in their country had unique motivations. Like customers elsewhere, they wanted to be more productive using technology – the primary selling point in the company’s original strategy – but that wasn’t the main thing Brazilian customers were looking for in tax software.
As Cassio explains, Brazil has a complicated economy with over 300 tax changes every year. Brazilian buyers are concerned about complying with these frequent tax changes.
“Imagine a company like Coca-Cola or Visa. They’re everywhere. Suddenly a remote city far away in Amazonia makes a change in a tax detail. The company has to follow every tax change,” Cassio says. “That capability is what people are looking for in tax software for that region.”
If the U.S. strategy was applied in Brazil, it’s probably going to fail, Cassio says. In a case like this – where customer needs, pain points, and behaviors vary enough to affect the way a company should present its products or services – a regional buyer persona is needed.
Example 2: Dairy farmers in Colombia
A pharmaceutical company makes a product that when injected stimulates milk production in cows by an extra gallon every day. The company had two personas for dairy farmers. One persona runs a farm with thousands of cows, and one runs a farm with hundreds of cows. Both personas want their cows to produce as much milk as possible.
Eventually, the marketing manager noticed that the content strategy based on these two personas wasn’t working in Colombia. Upon further investigation, the company discovered that the Colombian government sets limits on milk production and farmers have to pour any excess down the drain. What Colombian farmers care about is keeping their costs down because it’s expensive to feed the animals in a country without much space to produce food for the cows. Discovering that local “particularity” (Cassio’s term) led the company to create a Colombia persona to guide the strategy for the content they distribute in that region.
Example 3: Dog owners in Colombia and Panama
The marketing team at Comfortis, which makes flea-control products for dogs, learned that the content it was creating for its global buyer persona was less effective in Colombia and Panama than elsewhere.
In Colombia and Panama, the global message, “We’re dog lovers, too! Buy our product,” wasn’t convincing people to buy. When the marketers looked more closely at Panama and Colombia, they discovered that owners often spend time with their dogs on farms or in the countryside. When they see a flea on their dog, they wonder if the dog also has ticks?
That question matters to them because, while fleas bother dogs, ticks can kill them.
Comfortis’ competitor, Bravecto, has a product that controls both fleas and ticks. To earn the business of customers in Colombia and Panama, where tick concerns are common, Comfortis needed to create more educational content.
Here’s how Cassio sums up the message needed in this region: “Don’t solve problems you don’t have. If you don’t find ticks with the fleas, don’t buy the competitor’s product that gets rid of fleas and ticks. It could be bad for the dog.”
Until Comfortis discovered it needed a content strategy built around a regional dog-owner persona, it was missing out on business opportunities in Colombia and Panama.
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If buyers everywhere cared about the same things, you could get away with using the same personas everywhere. In this world, though, global companies must seize sales opportunities by better understanding regional and cultural variations and creating buyer personas that reflect business-critical differences.
How about you? What lessons has your company learned about the need for regional buyer personas? Please share your insights in a comment.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute