A buyer persona is a fictional, generalized profile of an ideal customer type. They help companies to understand their customers better, and allow them to customize content for the specific desires, habits and pain points of distinct customer groups.
While B2C companies have been achieving great results with buyer personas for a long time now, their B2B counterparts have only recently begun to adopt the practice. In fact, only 44% of B2B marketers are currently using buyer personas.
That’s a real shame, because buyer personas have been shown to be very effective in B2B contexts. According to SiriusDecisions, using buyer personas can improve campaign response rates by 28%, reduce sales cycles by 2-3 months and increase overall marketing-related revenue by 25%.
Want to get some of those results for your own company? Here’s how.
The Critical Elements of a Buyer Persona
Buyer personas might be fictional generalizations, but they should also be accurate and relevant to your marketing goals. The best way to create useful buyer personas is to focus on a few key elements that can paint a vivid picture of who your ideal customers are, and why they value your solution.
Here are the five critical questions you need to ask:
1. What is the customer’s demographic and professional profile?
This often includes details like:
- What is this person’s job title?
- Is this person male or female?
- What are their key responsibilities?
- What is their level of seniority?
- What type of education do they have?
- What department do they represent?
Demographic and professional information form the foundation of a typical buyer persona. Alone, it might not yield much deep insight into how that person thinks, but it is easy to obtain and can act as a solid starting point for further research.
2. What does a day in this person’s life look like?
This can include both personal and professional information, such as:
- How much time does this person spend at work?
- How does this person prioritize between various areas of responsibility?
- Which colleagues would this person spend the most time interacting with?
- Who does this person report to on an everyday basis?
- Who does this person need to impress to advance in his/her career?
While the demographic and professional profile gave you a static picture of your customer, this question lets you see him or her in motion. You’ll be able to walk a mile in their proverbial shoes, and really get into their headspace.
3. What pain points does this customer have, and how can your product or service solve them?
This question gets to the heart of the matter – why does this customer want to buy your solution?
It’s also usually the trickiest question to answer, because it’s so easy to fall into common patterns. After all, every marketer worth their salt knows the standard benefits of their product by heart. But that’s not good enough – you’re looking for details that are specific to that persona, as seen from that customer’s perspective.
Take a company that sells web design software to small businesses and individuals. One of their personas might be a small business owner who knows nothing about web design, and just needs to set up a basic website as quickly and painlessly as possible. Another persona might be a technically-savvy teenager who wants to set up a personal blog, and is looking for unique templates that reflect his personality and interests.
Despite buying the same solution, each of those customers has a different set of pain points, and that distinction should be reflected in their buyer personas.
4. What are this customer’s most common barriers or objections to your solution?
No solution is perfect for every customer. If you can anticipate the issues they are likely to have with your solution, you can address them early on in your marketing or sales process.
In some cases, this resistance might come from the customers themselves, perhaps due to previous bad experiences with products in your category, or a negative perception of your company (justified or not). In others, it might come from elsewhere in the organization, perhaps a superior or even another department.
Regardless of the source, you have to determine what those barriers are and how to address them.
5. Where does this customer go to do research or gather information?
The majority of business buyers conduct their own independent research before deciding on a purchase. If you wish to influence that decision, it’s essential to meet them early in the process and present your best case. And in order to do that, you first have to know which sources they use to conduct their research.
At the highest level, this can be broken down into various types of media. Some customers might like reading reviews online, while others might prefer trade journals or face-to-face meetings. Once you’ve determined that, you need to delve deeper into the details. Are there particular review sites they trust? Do they use Google or Bing to conduct their searches? Which thought leaders do they follow on social media?
By discovering your customer’s information gathering preferences, you’ll be able to place your marketing messages in the right place and time.
Create a Personalized Buyer Journey
Once you’ve established your buyer personas, you can leverage them to deliver a truly personalized experience for your customers, at each stage of the buyer journey.
While there are many ways to do this, here are four of the most important areas to focus on:
1. Channel Selection
Once you’ve figured out where your personas do their research and hang out online, you can focus your inbound marketing efforts on a select few channels that will yield the greatest ROI. For instance, if they’re on LinkedIn all day long, you might want to invest in LinkedIn PPC ads. Or if they follow marketing thought leaders on Twitter, perhaps influencer marketing might provide a better bang for your buck.
2. Customized Content
Finding your customers is only half the battle. The other half is tailoring a specific marketing message that resonates with them on a deep level. You should create marketing content that speaks to the particular needs of each persona, communicated in a style that appeals to them. For example, you might have a white paper for each specific industry vertical your software caters to. Your healthcare customers might care a lot about regulatory compliance, while your financial customers might be more focused on data security and interoperability with legacy systems. You should address those concerns directly, using the language and industry jargon that they’re familiar with.
3. Website Segmentation
Ideally, your website should have separate landing pages and resource pages for each different buyer persona you’re targeting. This will not only allow you to deliver a focused message to each persona, it will also provide a simple path for your website visitors to follow. For example, instead of having to wade through pages of generic information, your small business owner clients can simply click the link for the “small business” page to find content that is directly relevant to them.
According to Hubspot, such personalization can make websites 2-5 times more effective and easier to use for the targeted customers.
4. Optimized Email Marketing
Your customers’ inboxes are full of general marketing emails, and most of them will go unread. But personalize your emails to speak to their exact needs, and you’re a lot more likely to get their attention. Additionally, since you now have a good picture of what your customers’ daily routine looks like, you can optimize the timing of your emails so that they receive them at just the right time.
MLT Creative found that such customized emails saw a 2x increase in open rate, and a 5x increase in click-through rate.
Leverage the Power of Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are a very powerful tool in the B2B marketer’s arsenal. Given the effectiveness of personalization in the buyer’s journey, marketers should see this as a major opportunity. By tailoring your marketing strategy and message to the needs of each specific buyer persona, you’ll be able to attract more of your very best customers and make a significant impact on your bottom line.
If the topic of buyer personas fascinates you, check out our buyer’s journey infographic.