Effective B2B marketing requires an audience-centric approach from all angles. The better you understand your target audience, the more relevant and valuable your content and messaging will be. Creating buyer personas helps you visually picture your buyers and understand them on a deeper level.
Buyer personas defined
While the term “buyer personas” is fairly common vernacular in modern marketing, the definition is sometimes misunderstood. Tony Zambito’s definition is especially helpful in understanding that a buyer persona is much more than a demographic profile of your target audience, but rather an in-depth look into the buying behaviors and selection triggers of the people that hire your firm:
Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, where they buy, when they decide to buy and why they make buying decisions.
Personas put a human face to your buyers
Buyer personas help B2B marketers understand the human side of their target audience, realizing that buying decisions involve a myriad of factors and involve both rational and emotional influences. Personas essentially help you see prospects and clients as real people—rather than faceless segments of your target audience. They help gain insight into the way your audience thinks and behaves and their wants and needs. By leveraging buyer personas, your marketing messaging, content and sales and marketing efforts can be approached with an understanding of the buyer’s context and perspective.
Buyer personas are built on research, not guesswork
In order to truly see things from the buyer’s context and perspective, personas can’t be developed based solely on the views and opinions of the sales and marketing teams. Instead, they are based on real data obtained from independent industry research, surveys, and most importantly a substantial compilation of one-on-one qualitative interviews. While your business development staff may know a lot about your buyers, the insights that personas highlight can only be obtained through conversations with actual buyers.
For the interviews, it’s best for them to be conducted by a third party to ensure objectivity and precision. You should include a diverse mix, such as long-term and new clients, lapsed or former clients, and prospects that you’ve not been able to do business with. You’ll want to make sure you have a sample of several interviews for each “bucket” of buyer types that are also diverse in your coverage of specific markets and/or service lines. The point is, you want personas to be accurate representations of your buyers and not skewed based on the unique views and perspectives of any one interviewee.
Start by identifying their goals and objectives
A great place to start with getting inside the mind of your buyers is to uncover their goals and objectives as it relates to their job, organization and relationship with firms like yours. These goals ultimately drive their buying behavior, so it’s essential to uncover things such as:
- Key job responsibilities
- Areas of focus, key initiatives, long-term strategies
- How their job performance is measured
- Job-related goals
- Personal goals
- Project/purchase-related goals
- Outcomes or results expected from project/engagement (both tangible and emotional)
Identify challenges and issues
Now that you understand their personal and professional goals, it’s important to also understand what challenges and issues your buyers face in the position. This includes:
- Key challenges faced (related to your services/expertise)
- Key issues that your firm can solve
- Needs that may/may not be identified and/or funded
- What barriers exist to working with your firm
Identify buying behavior and selection triggers
The end goal of buyer personas is to gain insight into buying behaviors, so significant attention is given to understanding their role in the buying process and how they make selection decisions. Knowing the ins and outs of the decision making process in your buyer’s world is imperative to reaching them. This includes:
- Changes/events that trigger a need/search for your services
- Role in the selection process (technical buyer, project manager, procurement officer, influencer, end-user, etc.)
- Key factors in shortlisting and/or selecting a firm/solution
- How they differentiate winning firms from similarly qualified competitors
- Why they do or do not buy
- How they use websites and other content in selection process
- Typical buying process, activities and “journey” timeline
Identify their questions and interests
When it comes to content, it’s important that it speaks to the questions an audience asks and their interests as it relates to your expertise. You have to think about content through the buyer’s lens, which means it needs to align with what your audience wants to read and hear. This includes:
- Most common questions they ask at each stage of the buyer’s journey
- Questions they aren’t asking but should ask
- Educational topics of interest
- Industry-related subject-matter interests
- Gaps in buying information
- How your content could be helpful/useful
Identify their information sources
Once you have identified the kind of information your buyers are interested in, it’s also helpful to understand where they go to get that information and what their preference for consuming that information is. This includes:
- Trusted resources for news, information and insights
- Industry websites, blogs, publications frequented
- Conferences and trade shows attended
- Formats and media used most and preferred
Leverage personas to personalize your content and messaging
Making sure that your messaging and content is relevant to the people you want to reach is critical to the success of your content marketing and business development efforts. By having buyer personas to reference, it helps you understand the roles and responsibilities of your buyers to make content more personalized.
B2B purchasing decisions are typically made with a lot of consideration beforehand—especially for larger purchases. So it’s important for companies to understand how and why a buyer made the decision either to choose your firm, choose a competitor or stay with the status quo. Buyer personas help to model this decision making process so that your company can better know how to persuade them.
Taking the first steps
Buyer personas are not created overnight. While building buyer personas involves a lot of research and dedicated time, they are critical to understanding your target audience and creating content that is relevant and valuable. Understanding your audience will help your company make better strategic marketing decisions and ultimately drive better results in business development.