How to Create an Actionable, Goal-Directed B2B Buyer’s Persona
By Richard – November 17, 2017 113303
B2B buyer personas can give you tremendous structure and insight into your company’s sales and marketing.
When done right, it allows you to evaluate your approach based on your prospect’s terms–building a bond of trust your competitors won’t be able to match.
And today I have a guide that’ll teach you how to do just that.
You’re going to learn how to create an actionable, goal-directed B2B buyer’s persona which acts as a tool. Defining and guiding your marketing campaigns so they align with your prospects buying journey.
Why You Need a B2B Buyer’s Persona
There’s a number of reasons (or benefits), as to why you would want to create a B2B buyer’s persona. As you’re reading this guide, it’s likely you’re aware of some of them.
Your benefits include:
- Creating a persona will double your chances of exceeding your lead and revenue goals.
- 71% of companies who exceed revenue and lead goals have a documented persona.
- 47% of companies who consistently maintain their personas exceed sales and revenue targets.
- 37% of organizations who meet their revenue and lead goals have a documented persona.
Be More Customer-Centric
- 90% of companies using personas have a clear understanding of who their buyers are and what they want.
- 82% of companies using personas are able to improve and make a focused value proposition.
- 58% of content B2B marketers say audience relevance is the most important factor when determining content marketing effectiveness.
Increase Lead Conversion in Your Sales Funnel
- 93% of companies who segment their database by persona exceed lead and revenue goals.
- 56% of companies who use personas create higher-quality leads.
- 36% of companies report having a shorter sales process when using personas.
Improve Conversion Rates
- When using a buyer’s persona, email open rates can increase by 2-5 times.
- Email Click-Through-Rates (CTR) can increase by 14%.
- Email conversion rates can increase by 10%.
- Companies using personas have seen website traffic increase by 210%.
- Leads generated through websites can increase by 97%.
- Sales generated through websites can increase by 124%.
- Top-of-funnel inquiries generated through persona based campaigns increased by 721%.
The benefits of creating a B2B buyer’s persona is clear–increased targeting, leads, conversions, and profits.
Which is great to know, however, what you really want to know, is how you can create an actionable persona you can use to help increase leads and sales.
We’ll get to it, but, it’s good to understand what exactly a B2B buyer persona is so you don’t fall into common traps.
What is a Buyer Persona?
Built from research on real buyers, it’s a fictional/semi-fictional representation of your business’ “ideal buyer”.
But, this is not just a description. And it’s definitely not an educated guess.
It’s based on real people, real feedback, and real data.
Covering details like demographic, behavior patterns, motivations, concerns, and goals (the more detailed the better). It allows you to gain a deeper insight into what potential customers are thinking and doing as they decide whether your product or service resolves their problem and helps them achieve their goals.
When you understand what potential buyers are thinking when deciding on whether or not to do business with you, you’re able to align your marketing, sales, and product/service development with your buyer’s expectations.
You’ll be able to attract the most valuable leads to your business.
However, one of the big problems most people face when creating B2B personas is they don’t do it properly.
They use the same approach as B2C–basing them off of demographics like race, marital status, or level of education. This wastes time and money.
Starting with this is okay, but you don’t want to spend much time on these because they don’t tend to have anything to do with a business needing B2B products.
I’m now going to explain in-depth the differences between B2C and B2B personas, and what you need to focus on as a B2B company.
The Key Difference Between B2C and B2B Buyer Personas
B2B and B2C marketing strategies are full of similarities.
You know it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to attract a business client or consumer, at the end of the day, you’re communicating with another human.
This human has goals, concerns, hopes and dreams, which any quality marketing strategy will tap into.
The fundamental difference is the decision process.
That’s why for B2C personas are comprised of personal attributes (demographics).
I’m not going to go into much detail here because a B2C buyer persona is not relevant. I am just using it as a way to show the difference.
These personal attributes make up the overall description as to why your ideal customer would buy your product or service. It works because the buyer’s decision is their decision.
Whereas for B2B, it doesn’t matter if they live in a house, shack, or boat. The demographics, although sometimes useful to know, are not necessarily relevant to the business.
Think about it…
Demographic data like, race, income, or their personal hobbies are not going to be effective if you’re selling to a business.
Why? It’s not relevant.
Because unlike B2C, the journey from awareness to decision is likely to involve multiple steps and people. B2B buying decisions are made by a committee to determine whether your product/service is right for their business.
They must discuss and reach a decision together. So one persona is not enough.
You need to consider the whole committee.
4-5 personas is the recommended limit. But this can vary depending on the size of your company, the number and complexity of your product/service.
Stat: 70% of companies who miss revenue and lead goals do not account for the full buying committee with their Personas.
When you develop B2B buyer personas, one is not enough. You need to understand how each of them interacts with other personas on the committee.
Depending on their role within the company, the information you need to provide them is going to be more effective if it matches their perspective.
Whoever is responsible for lead generation is likely to view a problem or goal differently from the person who’s responsible for managing the budget.
Each persona has to be unique because the same message will not appeal to both of them.
How to Create an Actionable B2B Buyer’s Persona
Here’s the harsh reality…
Many companies approach buyer personas as a checklist–once they’ve ticked everything off, it gets file away.
This is wrong.
You want your buyer personas to act as tools to define and guide your marketing campaigns. To do this, each persona needs to focused on their role, goals, and motivations in the business.
- Highlight specific topics important to their individual role.
- Help you understand what could derail or seal the deal.
- Be unique so you can define market segment.
- Allow you to identify market segments your team can each and engage.
- Help your marketing team understand how emotions and empathy can help solve specific problems or reach certain goals.
Here’s the information you need to be able to create an actionable B2B buyer’s persona.
The Template for Your B2B Buyer Personas
I’m now going to provide some examples for what each section represents. Now, some of these examples will slightly differ depending on your niche.
However, you will gain a clear understanding of the type information you need to obtain if you want actionable, goal-driven B2B buyer personas.
Drivers and Motivators
- What are the persona’s goals and objectives within the business?
- What do they need to accomplish their goals?
- What are their responsibilities?
Problems and Fears
What’s in the way of them hitting their goals?
- Current tools not good enough?
- Time management?
- What purchase do they regret most?
- What’s the hardest part of their job?
This is not based on their personal lives, it’s their work life.
- Are they detailed oriented?
- Do they think logically?
- Are they skeptical?
- What are their pet peeves?
What could stop them from moving forward in their buyer’s journey? (This can be linked to fears – they might be worried about making a bad purchasing decision).
- Who do they report to?
- Who do they want to impress?
- Who are the key stakeholders?
- What companies do they respect?
Day-to-Day Work Life
- What does a classic day look like for them? When do they start work? Check emails? etc.
- What are they currently doing that your product/service can improve?
- What tools do they use?
- How do they interact with other personas in the buying committee?
Layout the steps of what it may look like to engage the specific persona, from getting their attention to moving them along the buyer’s journey.
- What kind of channels will you use?
- Types and topic of content?
- Potential conversations?
- How will this affect their interaction with other personas?
- What questions does the persona need answers to at each stage of the buying process so it moves forward?
- Why wouldn’t they buy your product/service?
Keywords and Language
- What keywords do they use when researching at different stages in their buyer’s journey?
- What kind of language do they use?
- Are there any technical terms, slang, or phrases that resonate with them?
- What type of information is going to catch and hold their attention?
Channels and Information
- What social media platforms do they use most often?
- What are their favorite blogs/publications?
- Do they listen to podcasts? If yes, what ones?
- What type of content affects their decisions?
- How do they utilize and share content?
- What process do they follow?
- How does procurement govern their buying process?
- Who’s involved?
- What is their individual role?
Certain types of buyers, as well as industries, display specific patterns of timing.
- What are the seasonal patterns?
- How does budget planning affect timing?
- What is the normal end-to-end buying cycle?
It can be useful to include profile information, photos, and quotes. By all means, have some fun with it, just don’t waste too much time on it.
The really valuable information is the data outlining their:
- Drivers: what they’re trying to do, why and when.
- Motivations: what are their triggers, barriers, and influences?
- Behaviors: Where do they research? How meticulous are they? What captures their attention?
Yes, it’s great understanding what goes into a template. But, what’s the most effective way of obtaining the information?
The Most Effective Way to Gather B2B Persona Information
High-performing businesses are more likely to use a variety of methods to compile the data needed to create actionable B2B buyer personas.
Research by Cintell shows organizations who use more research methods exceed revenue and lead goals.
These research methods include:
- Qualitative interviews with customers and non-customers (prospects)
- Reviewing CRM/MA data
- Interviewing your customer success team
- Interviewing customers who were not happy with your product
- Interviewing your executive team
- Interviewing your sales team
- Reading external studies
- Reviewing competitors websites
The research shows the top five sources of persona insights were:
- Doing qualitative interviews with customers and non-customers (82.4%)
- Interviewing the executive team (70.6%)
- Interviewing the sales team (58.8%)
- Reviewing CRM/MA data (52.9%)
- Interviewing customer success teams (52.9%)
These facts from the 137 respondents, from a variety of roles (mostly in marketing), shows a strong correlation between the use of qualitative research and the effectiveness of buyer personas.
The Role of Qualitative Research
It’s time-consuming, hard to schedule, and can be expensive. BUT, the ROI is there for all to see. Still, you need to conduct them properly or it will be a waste.
Qualitative research works because it provides something a report cannot – a clear guide for understanding your customer’s point of view, motivations, reasons, and opinions.
Mapping out the mental and emotional journey leading them to the point of making a buying decision, and who influences the selection.
Most importantly, it allows you to ask “why”.
Why do they behave or act in a certain way.
Stat: 70% of companies that missed revenue and lead goals did not conduct qualitative persona interviews.
However, there is a big issue–bias (interpreting information to support a preconceived notion).
Here’s the thing:
It’s arguable marketers often have strong opinions on what works and doesn’t in a marketplace. They can also think if they like a concept, so will prospects and customers.
And whilst undertaking in-depth research for your B2B buyer personas, it’s common to uncover things previously unknown or considered. If the two don’t match up, marketers may discount them.
What you get is a biased, self-fulfilling persona–not what you want.
What you need, is an interviewer who is able to challenge assumptions and document the internal workings of how buying decisions are made.
Remember, buyer personas are made as a means to understand their goal-directed behaviors and decisions.
Therefore, you should either have one person (who is completely neutral) conduct all of the interviews so each one is done in the same way every time or use a third party.
I recommend using a third party because using an interviewer who doesn’t benefit (or isn’t connected) from the final outcome is going to produce reliable results.
This is going to give you the best possible persona.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how many interviews you should do. Rather, you need to spend enough time obtaining as much relevant data as possible, so you can develop them on as many accurate data points as you can pull from the interviews.
For an excellent guide to interviewing personas, see here.
How to Use Your B2B Buyer Personas
The first step you should take once you have your personas is ACTUALLY USE THEM.
Your personas are not documents, they’re a tool to help your marketing and sales teams understand who they’re talking to.
Incorporate them into your:
- Sales training kits
- New hire training kits
- Internal marketing documents
- Memos to employees with surveys asking for more persona feedback
- Creative departments
Pin them on the walls for all to see and understand.
Use Their Language
Tailor all of your content and copy to speak directly to whichever persona you are targeting, by using the same language, phrases, and terms etc. they use.
If your customer doesn’t understand you, they’re not going to buy from you. When you speak directly to your target audience using their language, it builds trust.
Target Preferred Channels
Now you know where your personas “hangout”, e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Medium etc. Focus on promoting your content on these channels to optimize its performance.
Join the same groups they’re in, follow trending topics, and join in the discussion with your prospects. Comment, retweet, and share their content. This is an easy way to increase your exposure and influence.
Optimize Your Timing
From your research, you will learn how each persona’s standard day-to-day habits are. Consider when your personas are online, check their email, their day-to-day schedule, or common occurrences in their personal lives, i.e. summer vacation, holiday breaks, etc.
I mentioned previously about how some companies will follow buying patterns. If this is the case, align your marketing campaigns to fall in line with these.
Personalize Your Marketing
Splitting your email campaigns up according to persona will allow you to send targeted, personalized offers.
Don’t send generic lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database. Instead, segment it by buyer persona and tailor your messaging to the real-life data you’ve obtained.
– When using a buyer’s persona, email open rates can increase by 2-5 times
– Email Click-Through-Rates (CTR) can increase by 14%.
– Email conversion rates can increase by 10%.
Answer Their Questions
Now you know which questions need answering to help move the buyer’s journey forward, form new content ideas by determining how you can answer the questions.
When conducting in-depth persona research, it’s common to uncover new things. If so, revise your current content and see how it can be refreshed to reflect your persona’s preferences to maximise the ROI.
Optimize Your Sales Process
Work with your sales team to design a process that aligns with your prospects buying stages so they’re guided towards purchasing your product/service.
Offers and Promotions
Now you know what your buyers are looking for, you can create tailored offers, promotions, and campaigns they’ll care about and be interested in.
You could look into creating relevant content like ebooks, webinars, or other downloadable content. These are shareable AND they’ll provide you with their contact information in exchange for the download.
Develop your product/service
Use the new found information to improve your product/service so it better fits with solving your target audience’s problems and helps them achieve their goals.
Update Your Persona
Humans are fickle. And because we live in a world where new technologies are developing fast, your prospects will change and evolve–personas become outdated.
Your personas are there to act as a tool to guide your marketing and sales teams through their buyer’s journey.
Many of the reasons why personas fail is because, after all of the hard work put into creating them, people are quick to leave them to one side and forget about them.
Cintell’s study found 64.7% of companies who exceeded lead and revenue goals have updated their personas within the last 6 months.
Therefore, it’s good practice to reassess them once a year.
Make sure they’re still relevant. It could be possible one or more of your personas were not as relevant as you thought. Maybe your product development has opened up a new persona opportunity.