B2B Marketers, Here’s How to Create Effective Buyer Personas
What Are Buyer Personas?
You can think of buyer personas as fictional characters that embody the characteristics of your “ideal” B2B customer. These traits should be based on your marketing research, and by the end of it you should be able to identify the character’s name, age, occupation, and his/her interests, motivations and fears. You can even use a stock photo to represent what this person looks like. The more life you breathe into this character, the more helpful it will be for you as a B2B marketer.
Why Should I Use It?
The decision-making process in B2B relationships is often longer and more complex than it is in B2C relationships. It involves factors including but not limited to:
The buyer’s personal biases and habits;
His or her role in the company;
His or her motivations and fears;
Risk-tolerance level of top level executives;
The company’s budget;
Its customers’ demands
And changes in the political, technological, social and economical landscape of the world--which can affect all of the above.
For example, pretend you are a bulldozer manufacturer and your typical customers are construction companies. But in fact, the “real”customer is a living person with a personality and role. This person could be an intern who needs to get different levels of approval before putting down an order, or he/she could be the CEO of the construction company who can decide immediately.
As you can see, “real” customers could have very different traits. That is why it is not effective to use only demographics, geographics, psychographics and behavioral segmentation in B2B marketing. Buyer personas include much deeper analysis of the customer and can help you save time and money in crafting the right marketing strategy.
The Process of Digging into Personas
To start: Use in-person interviews! We would like to get as much qualitative data as possible. We want to know who they are, not just some generalized profile that can be reduced to Excel sheets.
Who should you interview? There are four main groups:
Your current customers
Customers who end up choosing your competitors
Potential buyers that you have had a relationship with, but they just never bought
Those who never considered you
Having insights from each group can help you hone in on your SWOT. Perhaps the most helpful is the customers who end up choosing your competitors. From them, you can see your business without pink glasses and that is when you can improve.
And how many? Getting interviews is hard so you won’t like this answer… but it depends. Generally speaking, any number between five and ten can give you ample information. But if you are lucky enough to find three customers who can give you a lot of insight, then you are set. In fact you will know when you have reached the optimal amount of interviews.
Remember, the number isn’t what is important. It is the quality of information—which is dependent on your interview questions. Below are some useful ones:
Where is the “itch”? What is bugging your customers that motivate them look for your solution? Is it a boss’s request? A shift in their budget or human resources?
What do they risk in picking your solution? What do they expect from you? What are they worrying about? You can get the most accurate insights from your salespeople, as they are the frontliners of your business who have most interactions with them.
List down the obstacles: These may be real or perceived. What or who is it that prevents your target from reaching a decision? Is it the government? Their manager? Their own fears?
What is their “inflection” or turning point? Let’s face it. Many factors can influence a buying decision and often it’s based on “feel.” For example, a new skincare line can evaluate bottle manufacturers based on price, variety of bottle designs, and perhaps even other customer reviews. So what is that KEY factor that makes them “take it or leave it”?
What attributes do they use to compare you against your competitors or other alternatives? As a marketer, you have to not only know your company’s strengths and what differentiates you from competition, you have to know how to talk about your advantage and emphasize that to your potential buyers.
Time to Create a Persona
After you have gathered all the insights, you are ready to create your buyer personas!
Group the characteristics into a few “persons” with similar traits. Like the number of interviews, the number of buyer personas depends on your insights, but ideally it should be limited to three which can usually give you enough variety. Just think of all the attributes you can list for three of your closest friends!
Top Mistakes to Avoid:
Getting too detailed and end up creating too many personas. If you divide your customers into too many groups, you risk becoming so niche that you will find it not only hard, but also very expensive to reach each profile. A profile should be targeted enough to define and reach them, and large enough for you to scale.
Letting your customers’ insights dictate your strategy. There are many factors that affect your customers’ decisions, like intrinsic or external values and motivations. And buyers do not even know it! That is why it is important to stand your ground and advocate for what makes your business unique.
Creating buyer personas will help you save time and money, especially as a B2B marketer.
But whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, remember that more often than not, customers do not buy based on the awesome features of your product or service. Fierce competition gives customers so many choices that they don’t even know where to begin. What drives them to buy in the end is how well you understand them and how effective you are in using that information to make them trust their business to you.
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