National Ag Day: stand up for U.S. agriculture

2019 National Ag Day
2019 National Ag Day

National Ag Day: stand up for U.S. agriculture

This year, March 14 marks the 46th anniversary of National Ag Day by the Agriculture Council of America. It’s an important day for those of us involved in agriculture. It’s an opportunity to share the great story of American agriculture with the rest of nation. Nowadays, too few people truly understand the role U.S. agriculture has on our daily lives.

From providing safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber products to its contributions to a strong economy, U.S. agriculture is working harder than ever to meet the needs of Americans and a growing global population. In fact, each American farmer feeds about 165 people. And with today’s emerging technologies, farmers are poised to produce even more and in a more environmentally friendly manner.

But U.S. agriculture is more than just farming. About 22 million Americans work in agriculture-related fields. Today’s agriculture industry offers more than 200 rewarding and challenging careers like communications. That’s why we strongly encourage young people to consider a career in agriculture, even if they did not grow up on a farm or in a rural area.

As a marketing communications agency with strong ties to agriculture, we at Rhea + Kaiser embrace our role as a storyteller for agriculture. And on National Ag Day, we join with producers, associations, companies, colleges and universities, government agencies and all those associated with this great industry to recognize and celebrate agriculture in our country.


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Experiencing WVC through multiple lenses

Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC).
Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC).

Experiencing WVC through multiple lenses

Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC)

When the Pathfinders, our team of marketing professionals at R+K who help clients achieve their brand visions, attend industry conferences and trade shows, such as the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC), we approach the show through multiple lenses. These lenses deepen our understanding of the market and the mindsets of our clients’ customers. Following are some of the lenses we used at WVC.

Journalist. Through the journalist lens, we ask questions and are curious about everything. We try to see what’s new, who’s new in the industry and what are the trending topics in the sessions and aisle-way conversations.

Customer. We use the customer lens because, at R+K, we hold to the mantra Think Customer First.

When using this lens, we try to see, hear and experience the conference as if we are the customer. In the case of WVC, we wore our veterinarian, vet tech and practice manager lenses. Admittedly, mine were a little foggy, as I had missed the last two years. But in the course of the day, my veterinary lenses cleared up. And I was eagerly learning about prescription fulfillment services from Vet Source, the role of hydrolyzed soy in a Royal Canin formulation, and the diagnosis and treatment options for chronic pain and itch in cats.

Ethnographer. The ethnographer in us comes to the conference, too. We observe how the attendees and exhibitors interact at the trade show. We listen and watch practice managers engage during sessions on improving staff communications and enhancing their website through customer empathy.

This is most often the lens that our Brand Strategist wears at shows and conferences. She pays attention to how exhibitors engage with veterinarians, noting their body language and facial reactions, as well as how they move through each booth and the duration of the visit. It gives her a sense of how veterinary customers respond to various stimuli – both messaging and human.

The ethnography lens is another dimension of our Think Customer First mantra, to ensure that we have a broad and deep understanding of the customers of our clients. and prospective clients.

Prospector. Speaking of prospective clients, the R+K business development lens is ever-present. Shows and conferences are an ideal opportunity to reconnect with former clients, prospects and friends and to make new ones along the way. It’s a challenge at times to curb our enthusiasm when in a conversation. We could go on asking questions to learn about their brands, business and show experience. Yet, we always want to be respectful of the fact that exhibitors are there to connect with their customers and prospects, not with agency folks. So, we are quick to excuse ourselves when others approach with questions.

Marketer. As marketers, we cannot sit through a presentation without art directing slides or admiring a presentation style. We cannot walk through a trade show without noting trends in booth designs and activities. And we take lots of pictures on our smartphones for show and tell of our observations back at the office.

One of the stand-outs for me this year was what I would call the speed-detailing I experienced in the Royal Canin booth. Like most booths, there were several stations where veterinarians and technical staff were analyzing products and the science behind them. The cool thing of the experience: Speed detailing, where each of these mini presentations were no more than two minutes, if even that. They were on-point and informative, yet inviting. This is a technique I plan to share with our clients.

As for our clients and prospects, when we attend conferences and trade shows, our minds and bodies are in a constant conflict of energy and exhaustion. This year, as we experienced WVC through the multiple lenses of journalist, ethnographer, customer, prospector and marketer, we also went home with aching feet, shin splints and a need for deep slumber. However, we left the show almost too excited to rest, as we are even more excited about where the veterinary and pet industry is headed and how our team of Pathfinders can help brands Think Customer First.

Rhea + Kaiser President/CEO Diane Martin welcomes the opportunity to talk about branding, website development or breaking through the clutter at trade shows.

For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials or contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

Evolution of a rural lifestyle Persona

Evolution of a rural lifestyle Persona
Evolution of a rural lifestyle Persona

Evolution of a rural lifestyle Persona

A first-hand example of how customers may shift Personas

Customer Personas are a way for marketers to segment and prioritize an audience according to behaviors and mindsets. We use them to educate and guide communications strategies and to focus messaging and media touchpoints that will engage and support target segments, such as rural lifestylers, through their customer journeys.

As a rural lifestyler whose lifestyle recently changed address, this prompted me to ponder my own Persona.

For the past 27 years, my husband and I lived on old farmsteads in the country. Just recently, we sold our 133-year-old home on three acres in a rural community of 1,300 people. We moved seven miles west into a charming house in a rural subdivision on the far edge of a town, population 9,000.

The decision to move was easy – even as we prepared to say goodbye to a home and property that we loved and restored over the years. It was time to do something with our weekends besides maintain the lawn, gardens, fruit trees and farm buildings. It was also time to have a little more living space and walk-in closets.

The move, on the other hand, was a bit more complicated. What would we do with the tools and equipment we’d accumulated over the past 27 years? Has our identity changed? Are we still rural lifestylers or are we now townies?

Which rural lifestyle Persona will we be?

As we sorted, pitched and packed, it dawned on me that, while our address is no longer officially rural, we’re still rural lifestylers. We’re just shifting in our rural lifestyle Persona, again which began as Born in the Country nearly 27 years ago. My husband and I are both farm kids, and we’ve both worked in or with agriculture throughout our lives.

Enter the Split Personalities.

Somewhere along the line – perhaps as my career in advertising took me into new categories like turf and ornamental, pet care and healthcare – we became Split Personalities. We were (and still are) connected to the land and spent a great amount of time tending to it. But we are also comfortable with adventures in the city – whether Chicago, New York or Indianapolis.

As Split Personalities, we collected toys. A Kubota tractor and UTV, generators, Husqvarna chain saw, self-propelled mower and roto-tiller, gardening tools, guns, fishing boats and gear, power tools, free standing tool chests filled with a myriad of hand tools. But with a smaller piece of property in town, it’s likely we won’t use these too frequently, if at all.

With only a quarter of an acre to maintain, we will have more time to garden, bike, hike and fish. We can also disappear into the city for the weekend or discover new lakes for exploring, without worrying about the work ahead of us when we get home. Though we’re still primarily Split Personalities, we’re becoming Outdoor Enthusiasts, minus the everyday and dress camo.

A Persona is not forever, but the value of marketing Personas is.

As we’ve evolved throughout the rural lifestyler spectrum, it made me reconsider how we as marketers use Personas. We use them to bucket current and prospective customers by their behaviors and mindsets, and then craft personalized messages to appeal to each of those Personas who best align with our brands.

The caveat is that as humans change, so do their Personas.  And marketing has to evolve with them.

A variety of factors influence the changing personal profile. Among them are: emerging technologies that influence how we live, learn, play and alter behaviors and attitudes; environmental issues that affect our lifestyles, our awareness of products and how we use them; and the impact of the economy on our total well-being.

And coming back to the original point of this post, will a customer be the same Persona she is next year as she is now or was last year?

My personal transformation suggests not. Of course, there are hazards of relying on a focus group of one. Yet, from friends to business acquaintances, there is a community of us who have shifted in their rural lifestyle or farmer Persona. And common sense tells us that our circumstances and experiences continue to shape and define who we are.

The evolution of Personas, and potential shifting from one Persona to another, means that we as marketers need to remain vigilant in how we define our Personas. More important, we need to ensure we have a steady flow of customer data to not only inform and validate Personas, but also that the insights we use to engage customers on an individual level are up-to-date.

Personas are valuable sales and marketing tools whether we’re targeting rural lifestylers, farmers and ranchers or construction contractors. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we build, maintain and use Personas to help our clients move their brands forward.

As President/CEO of Rhea + Kaiser, Diane Martin will always believe in the power of the Persona. And she will always be a rural lifestyler. Whether as a Born in the Country, Split Personality, Outdoor Enthusiast or some other Persona will always be prone to evolution.

To learn more about how we create and use Personas, please contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

Check out other Personas content from R+K:
Decision maker? End user? Deal killer? Who’s who in the crowd of equipment purchasers

9 out of 10 veterinarians or 3 out of 5 stars

news pet customer reviews
news pet customer reviews

9 out of 10 veterinarians or 3 out of 5 stars

Gaining consumer confidence through peer evaluation

Online reviews and recommendations on social media can have an important and growing influence on buying decisions. And though this makes for an excellent marketing opportunity, it challenges the value of opinions based on expertise.

Pet medical supplies companies, for example, focus their marketing on veterinary recommendations and expert testimonials. If we explore their online reviews from pet parents and third-party vendors, who are their most frequent customers, we then consider the following questions:

  • How much do consumers care about the voice of an authority?
  • How important are consumer reviews?
  • How can businesses attract and leverage positive reviews?

How much do consumers care about the voice of an authority?

Expert opinion is and will always be an important influence for a consumer. However, both research and common sense tells us that the recommendations of fellow consumers are becoming more important than ever. The 2017-18 APPA National Pet Owners Survey (Figure 1) found that the internet was the most common information source for fish, bird and reptile owners and was a close second to veterinarians for dog, cat and horse owners. For all six groups, the internet’s importance as a source of information has been growing rapidly in the previous decade, particularly for finding available pets, learning about pet products and product reviews.

news pet customer reviews APPA chart
news pet customer reviews APPA chart

Figure 1

How important are consumer reviews?

Consumer reviews matter, whether they are from pet parents seeking a medical product for their dog or a vendor looking to connect with a company. The APPA survey notes that product company websites and social media are the most popular online channels for consumers to review and recommend pet products, with product review sites used by over 40 percent of all current pet owners. This means that as online shopping continues to expand, consumers are looking at and using online reviews and social media, whether it’s to get the opinion of an authority or to connect with others who have used a particular product.

How can business attract and leverage positive reviews?

Many pet care companies have a solid a history of expert recommendations, but how do they translate that to positive consumer reviews?

The goal is to generate responses, but the execution of that is so much more complex. According to a study from BrightLocal (Figure 2), asking consumers to leave reviews is one of the most difficult parts of review management. Writing a review is time-consuming, and the bulk of online reviews tend to come from the extreme ends of satisfaction. By simply encouraging more consumers to give feedback, the average rating can level out and be more representative of the product’s quality.

news pet customer reviews - managing reputation

Figure 2

We also recommend that businesses treat product and service reviews as a consumer conversation. A study by Uberall (Figure 3) found that 65 percent of consumers thought that retailers should respond to every online review, while only 10 percent thought that they should never respond.

news pet customer reviews - do users believe reviews

Figure 3

Responding to online reviews offers two clear benefits. First, by addressing a consumer’s concern, there is a real opportunity to change a negative review into a positive experience. The second benefit is that by becoming part of the conversation, the business can shape how customers discuss the product or service online. In our example, our pet medical supply company should respond to all inquiries, complaints and customer service issues, as well as ensure that medical questions are filtered to and answered by our veterinarians. This primes our products and services for more positive reviews by industry and consumer reviewers.

Inspiring engagement through constructive conversation is a great opportunity to build consumer confidence. This takes initiative and investment to encourage feedback through all channels and to respond to it when it’s given.  

Standing out in the crowd: distinction in the pet supplements market

distinction in the pet supplements market
distinction in the pet supplements market

Standing out in the crowd: distinction in the pet supplements market

Creating a brand strategy for today’s pet parent

Brand distinction is challenging in any product category and the pet supplements market is no different. It’s a large, cluttered category and expected to become even more so, as the broader pet care industry continues to surge. Packaged FactsPet Supplements in the U.S., 6th Edition reports that growth in the $580 million U.S. pet supplements market has kept pace through 2016. Similarly, research firm Technavio notes a more than 5 percent global compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2018-2022, with gains specifically in dog and cat supplements.

Why are we seeing such explosive growth in pet supplements?

  • Greater consumer awareness of and interest in pet wellness and health
  • More attention to age- and obesity-related health problems for pets
  • An increase in anthropomorphism, whereby pet owners define themselves as pet parents and treat their pets with the same care as they would provide a human child
  • Consumers seeking more natural pet products
  • An increase in supplements for preventative care to help avoid costly vet visits
  • A rise in patents for ingredients, as manufacturers strive to formulate better products

These trends have led to more products and an increase in the variety of pet supplements. For instance, although pet owners continue to buy products made with glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM for their dogs and cats, they are also exploring newer products made with novel ingredients, such as turmeric/curcumin and cannabidiol. As a result, stores and websites selling pet supplements have a seemingly endless stream of options.

With so much growth, how does a pet supplement brand stand out?

There’s always room for more brands, even in the most crowded space. But for a brand to truly thrive in a competitive atmosphere, there are a few must-haves:

  1. Meet the Parents. Dog and cat parents, that is. Millennial pet parents, who are more likely to be single and without children, may dote on their fur babies with lavish birthday parties. And Baby Boomers, who generally have more disposable income, may take their pet babies with them on fancy vacations. With pet parents as varied as human parents, this influences how marketers seek to understand their needs and motivations. Getting to know the pet parent helps understand how pet supplement brands play a role in their lives.
  2. Define the brand, both head and heart. All successful brands organize their approach to market by defining their foundational building blocks, which help the audience understand the brand’s purpose and get very specific about what the brand is. However, to truly connect with the intended audience, a brand must go further and identify its promise or the heart of its offering. Only then can it differentiate itself from other products with a similar purpose. Consider the difference between a chewable joint supplement and a brand claim, such as, the most palatable joint supplement available for dogs under 10 pounds. Almost any pet supplement brand could claim to aide digestion, but the brand that offers a meaningful and emotionally compelling promise is what sets that brand apart.
  3. Stay true to the brand in all decisions. Defining the brand’s purpose helps with all marketing decision-making and guides the messaging that creates and supports it, as well as where and how those messages can reach the desired audience. For example, for a supplement that targets Millennial cat owners who love social media and rarely read magazines, it’s more effective to build a digital marketing campaign over print. For every marketing decision, we need to ask if it fits what we know about the brand.

Brands that are easily understood, operate according to expectation and strike a true emotional connection with their target audience have the best chance of creating meaningful relationships with their audience. For any brand in the growing pet supplements category, those relationships can lead to significant success.

R+K invests in business development director

Gino Tomaro - Business Development Director
Gino Tomaro - Business Development Director

R+K invests in business development director

Position primed to boost account growth

Rhea + Kaiser welcomes Gino Tomaro as Business Development Director. 

Gino will manage R+K’s new business process and efforts from end-to-end to secure new accounts, while also working collaboratively across the agency to help our current clients move their business forward.

“Gino brings strategy, integrated marketing and a solid understanding of metrics orientation, which align nicely with R+K’s strengths,” said R+K President and CEO Diane Martin. “But we’re possibly even more excited about his energy, collaborative approach, proactive nature and his we-win-together attitude.”

Gino joins R+K from previous business development roles at LKH&S Advertising, Tribal Knowledge Marketing and SCHAWK!. He also brings a solid account management background from his roles at Maddock Douglas, MARC USA, Campbell Mithun and Italia Advertising. He has worked with brands such as Carrier/Bryant HVAC, Case New Holland, Kmart, GE Lighting, Moen and Sears.

What Do Pet Parents Want? Trends and the Wearable Pet Tech Market

Pet Technology
Pet Technology

What Do Pet Parents Want?

Trends and the Wearable Pet Tech Market

Whether pets fill an empty nest or are the “first child” in a starter home, pets are part of the family that we just can’t help but spoil. And technology is becoming a preferred means for pampering.

In a recent survey with 2,000 adults, the Consumer Technology Association determined there are approximately 84.6 million pet-owning households in the U.S., the majority of which are those of Millennials and Baby Boomers. These pet owners consider their pets as their children, as they take their pets with them everywhere they go. In the process of humanizing them, they walk them in baby strollers, comfort them with television, send them to spas and throw them lavish birthday parties. These fur babies and four-legged children with a tail are no longer confined to the home when they happily tag along to mom or dad’s work, are dressed in matching holiday costumes and have custom-built furniture, not to mention that nearly half of their “parents” have purchased interactive toys for them.

As technology grows in importance in caring for pets, marketers need to better understand who is buying it and why.

Pet Tech Purchasing Power

It’s not really a contest of who loves their pet more, but perhaps who can afford to spend the most on their pet. Pawsible Marketing’s Top Pet Industry Trends for 2018 explored how different generations invest in their pets, with specific attention to the Millennial and Baby Boomer markets.

In the Millennial market, which accounts for 35 percent of the pet-owning population, these pet parents are social media darlings and online shoppers, and their need for instant gratification increases their willingness to spend. The caveat is they have limited financial resources and minimal brand loyalty.  However, their lifetime of technological savviness gives them an edge in understanding and embracing the next generation of pet products, many of which come from and rely on technology. This makes Millennials the target pet tech consumer, particularly as the market moves forward.

In many ways, Baby Boomers are traditionalists when it comes to pet rearing. This generation, which is currently the “primary pet product and service purchaser,” represents 32 percent of the pet-owning population. They prefer to sample the goods and do business face-to-face. Currently the wealthiest generation, their pet is likely a grandpuppy or grandkitten, and they have the financial power to devote to them. That said, Baby Boomers are slower to embrace technology and see less of a need for it.

Top Trends – Caregiving Through Technology

Whether it’s Baby Boomers, GenZ or every generation in between, these populations genuinely love their pets. As we enter 2019, the top pet trends reflect just how much we adore our pets and treat them like members of the family.

Through modern veterinary medicine, pets are living longer, healthier lives. Therefore, consumers are purchasing products, tools and services to monitor and deliver a better quality of life to their pets. This includes geriatric and hospice pet care; home food delivery programs; treats and supplements; preventative medications for diabetes, cancer and joint problems; and both wearable and non-wearable pet technology, more commonly known as “pet tech.” This also includes the ability for consumers to participate in the veterinary and self-care of pets through apps and wearable technology.

Are we mirroring ourselves in our pets?

With apps, microchips, activity trackers, monitoring cameras and electric fences, we have constructed a digital environment for our pets much like we have created for ourselves. We are concerned about our health, safety and well-being, and we are willing to invest in technology that can calculate, digitize and monitor some, if not all of that for us. If we can do it for ourselves, why not do it for our pets?

Here lies the roadblock. Pet consumer research indicates that safety and security are the top problems that pet owners hope technology will solve. The APPA 2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey estimates that 43 percent of dog owners and 27 percent of cat owners already use electronic tracking devices on their pet. However, movement and fitness trackers, pet GPS, and training, calming and electric fence collars are just a sample of other more advanced wearable technologies that are available but come at a higher cost. The greatest barriers of adoption to pet tech are expense, followed by perceived lack of need and ease of use.

Marketers must first ascertain the importance of a pet’s safety, security and well-being, and then follow up with recognizing the necessity and accessibility of wearable pet tech. In the pet tech space, these are the key points and the most straightforward ways to approach consumers to this market. The long-term investment in a pet’s life is worth a short-term investment in cost to protect a pet and keep him or her safe, secure, and healthy.


Pet Technology: Ownership, Use and Perceptions, April 2018, Consumer Technology Association

Top Pet Industry Trends for 2018, Pawsible Marketing

2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey, APPA

R+K Media Team Advances in Media Buying and Planning

Debbie Cozzi - Media Buyer and Sarah Sikorski - Digital Media Planner/Buyer
Debbie Cozzi - Media Buyer and Sarah Sikorski - Digital Media Planner/Buyer

R+K Media Team Advances in Media Buying and Planning

Agency continues to advance digital development for clients through tech expertise

Rhea + Kaiser has added Debbie Cozzi to its Media team as a Media Buyer and promoted Sarah Sikorski to Digital Media Planner/Buyer. 

Debbie Cozzi - Media Buyer

Cozzi is a veteran media planner and buyer who has spent parts of the past two years as a freelance media buyer for the agency. Prior to joining R+K full-time, Cozzi was a long-time media planner/buyer for Brian Keith Advertising.
“Debbie is a seasoned media professional and a real asset to our media team and the R+K family,” said R+K Media Activation Director Michael Hurt.

Sarah Sikorski - Digital Media Planner/Buyer

Rhea + Kaiser also congratulates Sarah Sikorski on her promotion to Digital Media Planner/Buyer. Sarah began at R+K in April 2017 as a Digital Media Coordinator. Since then, she has grown the digital media department to own R+K’s in-house expertise and knowledge around digital ad specs, capabilities and available formats for clients. She will be responsible for assisting the agency’s planners and analytics team with client campaign analysis and recommendations, as well as supporting plan strategy and recommendations.

“This promotion results from a clear need to recognize Sarah’s great work, obvious smarts, amazing productivity and the very high value we place on all she’s done for the agency,” said Associate Media Director, Grant Cassiday.

R+K Welcomes three to growing roster

Three new hires at Rhea + Kaiser
Three new hires at Rhea + Kaiser

R+K Welcomes three to growing roster

Agency talent continues to develop

Rhea + Kaiser welcomes Account Supervisor Cheryl Winkelman, Senior Copywriter Ryann Flynn and Public Relations Assistant Account Manager Erica Ballmer.

Cheryl Winkelman

Agency veteran Cheryl Winkelman has returned to R+K as an Account Supervisor, Account Management + Planning. Cheryl Winkelman will oversee the agency’s Indiana Soybean Association and Indiana Corn Marketing Council accounts and select brands of the Bayer CropScience business. Cheryl began her career with both R+K and Bayer shortly after graduating from the University of Missouri. After four years here, she transitioned to positions with Leo Burnett and Gyro, before returning to Missouri. She has been in agricultural sales for the last several years with Timac Agro, gaining additional experience in the seed treatment market. Cheryl will be based remotely in Alexandria, Missouri.

Ryann Flynn

Ryann Flynn joins R+K as a Senior Copywriter. An award-winning creative with a background in ag marketing, Ryann was previously a copywriter with Bader Rutter and Jacobson Rost. She has worked with clients including Comcast Sports Net, MillerCoors, Pfizer Animal Health and Dow AgroSciences. Ryann has a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and is a certified art director from the Chicago Portfolio School.

Erica Ballmer

Erica Ballmer joins R+K as an Assistant Account Manager, Public Relations. Erica is responsible for coordinating projects, managing timelines, creating content and communicating with clients. She is working with Bayer CropScience, the Indiana Soybean Association and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. Prior to joining R+K, Erica was a graduate research assistant with the Purdue University Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication. She completed internships with the Office of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Representative Amy Loundenbeck, CNH Industrial, and the University of Wisconsin Extension: Wisconsin Dairy Youth Program. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a master’s degree from Purdue University.

Decision maker? End user? Deal killer? Who’s who in the crowd of equipment purchasers

how to reach equipment purchasers
how to reach equipment purchasers

Decision maker? End user? Deal killer? Who’s who in the crowd of equipment purchasers

How to use Personas to organize and prioritize segments within a large buying group

I recently stumbled upon a startling statistic. According to the CEB webinar, Rethinking Customer Understanding, the typical B2B purchase decision involves an average of 6.8 people. Let’s just round that up to seven and say, holy cow! In the age of customer lifecycle marketing, that’s a lot of folks to attract, educate, convert and retain. Especially in categories like heavy equipment where the needs of audience segments vary greatly.

Consider the potential players in the purchase of a front loader for a construction company. From the corporate office to the field to the repair shop, you’re sure to find different brand loyalties and purchase motivations. How do you know what buttons to push and with whom, to start the conversation, let alone to make the sale? More importantly, how do you know who’s ultimately making the decision versus who’s just weighing in?

You can find the answers through the creation of Personas.

Who’s who in the crowd, and more

A carefully crafted Persona is your guide to who’s who in the buying process. Who initiates the purchase? Who signs the check? Who has the potential to kill the entire deal? The answers are clear when you invest time and effort in organizing, analyzing and understanding all parties involved. But roles and responsibilities are just the beginning.

Because Personas are also built around buying behaviors and mindsets, they provide a snapshot of the journey taken to make a decision, including the category biases and beliefs that influence along the way. All of this rich information makes Personas an incredibly valuable, strategic tool for crafting multiple narratives for both marketing and sales.

Beyond demographics and data

According to Tony Zambito, the father of buyer persona methodology, understanding what motivates customers is crucial to establishing rich brand-customer connections, now more than ever before. In his post, Human-Centric Insights: A Matter of Survival in 2020, he states, “Living in a data-driven world day in and day out can make it easy to lose sight of the importance of understanding human elements that do not show up in data alone.”

He goes on to stress the importance of understanding individual decision-making when many stakeholders are involved. All the more reason to really dig into each audience segment and learn the why’s that drive their decisions.

Start smart, dig deep

So, how do you dig into the CEO’s omni-operational POV on cost versus the fleet manager’s focus on efficiency? Well, first you have to have the right questions to guide you through your research. At R+K, we use our own B2B Persona Questionnaire as a framework.

Next, get your hands on as much information as possible about each audience segment. For this, there are many formal options, including primary and secondary research. Of course, there are other paths to learning that require less budget. If a full-blown segmentation study isn’t in your current plan, here are a few ways to spark conversations, gather feedback and gain customer insights.

Customer Surveys
Mail Chimp, Emma and SharpSpring are great email platforms for probing buyer behavior, especially immediately after a purchase

Customer or Dealer Interviews
One-on-one engagement between sales reps and current customers or dealers can reveal valuable insights while also helping to strengthen relationships

Customer Advisory Board
Loyal customers are usually pretty candid with their feedback and can provide you with plenty of category, brand and product insights

Sales Rep Feedback
Who better to provide input on the anatomy of a sale, and its many players, than those who live it every day?

Social Media Listening
LinkedIn groups are a great way to track who’s talking about what, while Cision, Buzzsumo, SEM Rush and Google trends can also provide insight into trending topics and search terms

Creating strong Personas is a process that requires curiosity, rigor and a good amount of critical thinking. When done well, they are an invaluable tool for OEM marketers facing the challenges of engaging multiple purchase stakeholders.

Martha Porter Fiszer, SVP Executive Creative Director at Rhea + Kaiser, upholds that great ideas start with rich customer insights