How to build a better buyer persona
- 22 January 2016
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Understand the difference between B2B and B2C buyer personas if you want to build them better.
Creating buyer personas – outlines of your typical customers – is an essential step in segmenting a market. Personas help marketers identify the needs, characteristics and desires of different groups of prospects, and can be invaluable in creating marketing materials and ad campaigns for developing products and cold-calling customers.
But it is vital to understand the differences between buyer personas for consumer marketing and those in B2B. For B2C brands, buyer personas are constructed by identifying a typical consumer, giving them a name and describing their habits, likes, income, family relationships and interests. This helps marketers understand what motivates these customers and what will trigger a purchase.
But the process is more challenging for B2B marketers, as personas must be created for types of company rather than types of people.
Simon Harvey, managing director of B2B prospecting agency Demodia, offers this checklist for creating a B2B buyer persona:
- Use information about the persona’s industry, a prospective company’s place in that industry, its size, revenue and other business data.
- Outline the corporate objectives of the persona, and the obstacles and threats to achieving them.
- Examine the pain points the business faces and how they will be relieved.
- Think about how they make decisions, what they value and the type of information they are receptive to.
- Look at the information they need to push them into buying your product.
There may be a case for creating a further persona for the executive who makes the buying decisions – identifying, for example, whether they are in finance, marketing or sales. But the important thing for a B2B persona is to uncover the motivations of target companies and show how they can be turned into customers.
Harvey believes personas are critical to creating paid advertising. The persona can help the marketer decide which keywords and messages to use for Google AdWords or refining targeting categories in LinkedIn advertising. The personas could be used to develop the message of a banner ad or suggest the style of an ad, whether it should light-hearted or serious. For instance, if the persona is for businesses in a heavily-regulated industry such as banking or pharmaceuticals, a more serious tone should be used.
But he warns: “If they are pinned up on the wall and not being used, they are just an academic exercise. So they should evolve.” The personas need to be updated and iterated over time, adding in new information that is gleaned from data about buyers.
It is important to get the right number of buyer personas. Too many will create narrow segments and too few will lead to general outlines. Naturally, this depends on the nature of your product, but marketers typically create between four and six buyer personas for their product.
Not all B2B companies want to go through the expense and time of creating personas. The research and effort involved can cost anywhere from a few thousand pounds to many tens of thousands. In-depth research may require hiring a market research company, but salespeople and marketers should be able to contribute to updating personas at no extra cost as they get to know customers and prospects better.
In the long run, companies that hold a clear picture of their customers, and can sketch them out in a few words, will always have the edge over those that don’t.
Interested in B2B marketing and how to engage with today’s business customer? Sign up to our course on The Modern B2B Customer, and discover the different buyer types and how to influence them.