People hate market research. As a result, marketers, business owners, hell, even bloggers, hate creating their buyer personas. If you don’t properly develop your B2B buyer personas, then your entire marketing strategy could be off track. Just to be clear though, let’s go over what a buyer persona is first.
This post was updated on March 5, 2020.
What Is a Buyer Persona?
“A marketing buyer persona is a detailed profile of a person who could represent a large percentage of your potential customer audience. These are used to humanize the customer and help them understand how to reach out on a personal level.” via What is a Marketing Buyer Persona?
Why does this matter? When you personalize and target your content, you generate better quality leads for your business. Despite years of saying otherwise, website owners now realize that traffic numbers aren’t the metric of success.
For years, the goal was to get as much traffic as possible. Now, at the risk of sounding trite, we realize that it’s “quality over quantity”. Better to have 1,000 site visitors that could go in your pipeline than 1 million who will never spend a dime.
Possibly More Than One Persona in an Organization
When you work with businesses, you typically have to create two personas with two different types of demographics. Initially, you have an organization profile that you create, which answers a lot of the questions below. Secondly, you’ll need to create a persona(s) for the person within that organization that you’d like to typically connect with.
Different People Require Different Angles
In my case, I prefer to connect with CEOs/Presidents or Chief Marketing Officers. These are usually the people who have the power to say yes and no. I understand both types of people because there are some key differences between the CEO and the CMO.
One difference would be in the way you speak to them. The organization has its goals, but communicating in the language of your persona helps you connect with your prospect.
The CEO may care to hear more about how your services impact the key performance indicators (KPIs), but with the CMO you could refer more directly to marketing KPIs which are their measure of success.
If you’re offering your training services to an HR director, then they may like to hear how they can prove ROI to the C-suite if they hire you.
If you work with an enterprise-sized organization, you may have multiple clients across the organization. If they span industries and positions, then that information becomes relevant to you as you build your buyer personas.
How to Build a B2B Buyer Persona
You can use one of the myriad online drag-and-drop tools for persona creation. We even have a buyer persona template in our Blogging for Business Toolkit. But those tools don’t matter if you don’t have actionable intelligence to work from.
Here are the top questions to ask in order to build a strong B2B buyer persona:
1. What Are Your Customers’ Personal Demographics?
You’ll find this to be the easiest information to gather as you prepare your persona. You’ll want to collect as much of this information as you can. Yes, it’s pretty low hanging fruit, but don’t underestimate its value. Especially when you’re just beginning the persona creation process.
2. In What Industries Do Your Customers Work? Who Do They Serve?
When you target businesses, you must know the industries they serve in. Will your services help them achieve business success? You’ll be able to communicate your value more effectively. Clients feel more confident if you can demonstrate industry expertise. Additionally, knowing the industries will help you answer question 5.
3. What is the Size of Their Company?
The answer to this question will shape how you market your solution. Are you targeting an ambitious take-on-the-world startup? Or a time-tested family-owned business? The size of the company also relates to question 4.
How, you ask? It relates because the larger the company, the longer the decision-making process usually is. This figures into how long this prospective customer hangs out in your pipeline.
4. What Job Titles Do They Hold? Who Do They Typically Report To?
Are you talking to the CEO? Someone in the Sales department? Their job title may reveal their stake in the decision to buy your service or product. That job title may also reveal their role in the decision-making process.
For example, as a professional content strategist and creator, if I’m speaking to the Chief Marketing Officer of a small company, I know that the decision-making process shouldn’t take too long. I’m speaking with the person I would report to, and the CEO will likely take their input very seriously.
If I’m speaking to the CEO, the decision-making process is likely even shorter. But you try to go through the HR department, you may never get a decision.
If you aren’t speaking to a decision-maker with approval authority, you need to consider that your buyer persona collection just grew by one. At a minimum, you need to provide your target persona with the information they need to be your champion within their organization.
5. What Are Their Biggest Challenges?
Your product or service solves your prospective customer’s problem or fills a need. But so does someone else’s product or service. Your marketing needs to show your target audience why they should pick you over your competitors.
This is where we start to get into psychographics. This goes beyond what position your customer holds or where they live (which are demographics). Psychographics refers to the methodology of analyzing a target market’s aspirations, personalities, tendencies and more.
The identified pain points may not refer directly to your service offerings, but they may help you understand how to approach your prospects. Understanding their challenges means your messaging can focus more on what these prospects care about. Especially since that isn’t your consulting services, it’s solving their own problems.
6. What Are Their Goals?
Your typical client has certain goals they’re trying to cross off their list. This could be something organizational, like a revenue number, or something more unique to them, like higher team performance ratings. Whatever it is, knowing the goals your prospects are moving towards can help you frame your solution as something that helps them achieve their targets.
7. How Is Their Success Measured?
When you know how your prospects measure their success, you can speak to their ideal end goal. When you can intentionally create content that illustrates a prospects problem AND their successful outcome in their own language….. Wow, that is some effective marketing!
Don’t confuse your primary customers and secondary customers. Learn the difference in our article “Secondary Customers: Are You Taking Care of Them?“
Gathering B2B Buyer Persona Data
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s important to note that persona documents should always evolve. You’re never going to have ALL of the data. Your understanding of your clients will change over time. What you consider to be an ideal client will change as well.
Data gathering may help you realize new things about your audience, so keep your eyes open. Be careful that you aren’t stereotyping your audience. This could lead to gross mistakes in your marketing.
Ask Your Team
Ask your sales and customer service teams for their input. It’s very possible that their customer-facing positions have some information that you need to create great marketing material.
For example, when creating case studies, it’s always a good idea to confer with the account lead for that client. The “wooing” period (before they become a customer) is often ideal, and everyone is on their best behavior. After a client has been with you for any amount of time though, more needs may become present.
If your sales team can handle it, then it may never come to your attention. By asking them about common issues, you may be able to address it in marketing content. That could make things easier for your prospect and sales team alike.
If you’re a mighty team of one, then you have to ask yourself these questions. Really give thought to common questions or issues that arise during your sales process. Are their common questions or objections that could be addressed earlier in the sales cycle, saving everyone time?
Check Out Your Clients and Prospects on Social Media
If your client list is active, then review their social media activity. What they post is important, but be sure to pay attention to the posts they choose to comment on as well.
This could give you some insights into the issues they care about, or problems they share with the original poster. People will often comment on something even if they wouldn’t create a whole post around it.
In B2B, LinkedIn should be your first stop. More B2B leaders use LinkedIn when compared to other platforms. But if you’re going through your top client list, it’s worth reviewing all of their social media profiles.
Mine Your Google Analytics Treasure Trove
Did you connect your Google Analytics account and then forget about it? Did you not connect it at all? No worries, it’s not super difficult. If you need a primer, check out the video below:
The Audience section will give you a lot of the demographic information you’re likely looking for. You have to be careful here though, because if your site traffic isn’t converting, then these may not be good site views! But it’s certainly a place to start.
Next, you’ll want to check out how they behave on your site. How they normally find you can tell you where to emphasize content distribution in your content marketing strategy and plan. Do they often click around and view more than one page?
Only 42% of B2B marketers actually engage with their audience when building buyer personas. So they’re just writing down an amalgam of information and committing budget dollars to marketing activities based on that info without actually confirming it WITH THE TARGET AUDIENCE!
Just a terrible plan. Once you’ve got some solid data and hypothetical positions, it’s time to interview your top clients or even some prospects. Never take your opinions for granted when you have the ability to actually confirm your suppositions.
Signs Your Buyer Persona Isn’t Quite Right
As you publish content, you generate a significant volume of engagement and conversion data. If you’re thoughtful about this information, you’ll be able to pick up on signs that you aren’t meeting the needs of all possible audiences with your content, including:
- Regularly getting the same questions posed to your sales or customer service teams
- A high churn or low engagement with content (as measured by bounce rate and average time on page)
- Onboarding or survey results that aren’t in alignment with your buyer personas
- Evidence that new (sometimes unexpected) types of customers are finding value in your product or service
How much effort have you put into creating your buyer personas? What is the one part about developing buyer personas that you find most difficult? Let me know in the comments!