If you’re developing B2B Buyer personas as part of your content marketing strategy, it’s critical to get them right. Why? Because no matter how dazzling your infographics, eBooks, videos and other content assets are, they’re going to fall flat if they’re not carefully tailored to the specific needs of the potential buyers of your product or service.
It goes without saying that if the people most likely to buy your products aren’t reading, watching or listening to your content, you’re going to have a hard time executing on your content marketing strategy and meeting your business goals. If you’re going to improve your B2B marketing content, a set of solid, well-researched buyer personas are critical.
So, let’s take a closer look at the what and the why of buyer personas in a B2B context, and touch on some proven best practices for creating them.
What exactly is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is an in-depth profile of your ideal target buyer. It’s a comprehensive document that includes all the relevant information you need to understand the many facets of the person you want to sell your products or services to. One important note—sometimes these are called marketing personas, user personas, audience personas or customer personas, but they all mean pretty much the same thing.
Buyer personas don’t represent actual living people, but when you’re creating yours, your goal should be to paint a vivid portrait of that ideal buyer – one that’s as accurate and lifelike as possible. That means capturing the buyer’s characteristics, needs, goals, responsibilities, etc., so that you can get to the heart of why and how they buy.
B2B sales cycles can be lengthy and complex, and arriving at a purchase decision often requires the participation of multiple people within the organization. Research from Gartner reports that “the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers‚ each armed with four or five pieces of information they have gathered independently and must de-conflict with the group.”
As a result, most companies have multiple personas they are marketing and selling to. So, when you’re doing your persona research, it’s important to make sure you identify every person who plays any role in the end-to-end buying process. If your company sells into multiple industry verticals, then you need to create one or more personas for each of them.
Key information to include when you create your B2B buyer personas
The best buyer personas include a wealth of detailed information about your idealized buyer. What specifically yours will include will depend to a great extent on the nature of your business and the products and services you’re selling. Buyer personas for B2B marketing and sales will be substantially different from their B2C counterparts, for example, because so many aspects of the sales process and the buyer journey are different.
Still, most well-researched and effective buyer personas include the following information:
A name that indicates their role in the organization. Ideally, it’s one that’s easy to remember, such as Ted the Technician or Manjeet the Marketing Director.
A job title, such as Director of IT, Customer Support Technician, or Head of Marketing.
Their role in the buying process; for example, are they a key decision maker, or do they provide the decision makers with what they need to make a purchase decision?
What criteria they use to make a purchase decision.
Their key job responsibilities, particularly as they relate to your products or services.
The key requirements and pain points they are trying to address with their purchase.
A list of their primary goals within their role and the organization.
Where they prefer to get information about the market as well as the products and solutions they want to purchase. This could include websites, social media, YouTube videos, print publications, etc.
Keep in mind that as you go through the process of developing your buyer personas, you will have conversations with customers and prospects and that will help you uncover new data and deeper insights. This will lead to richer, more complete personas that will include information that goes beyond what’s on this basic list.
Why you need to create buyer personas
There’s really no magic to it: the more you and everyone in your organization knows about the people you’re trying to market and sell to, the better your results will be. That’s the value of buyer personas in a nutshell.
With well-researched personas in hand, you can confidently create a variety of powerful and engaging content assets that directly address their very specific requirements at each stage of their buyer journey. You’ll have more downloads, more shares, more sales, and more revenue.
Who else in your organization benefits from buyer personas?
While buyer personas are extremely valuable for executing on your content marketing strategy, and filling the pipeline with solid leads, they’re also hugely beneficial for other groups within your organization. For example, Product Management and Product development will use your personas to add new, highly targeted features to the product.
Buyer personas, not surprisingly, are also an indispensable tool for the Sales team. The best salespeople will learn their personas inside and out and use this knowledge to engage with their prospects more effectively, understand their biggest pain points and close more sales.
Some tips for creating effective B2B buyer personas
The step-by-step process of creating your buyer personas warrants its own in-depth article, but here are some quick tips to help you get started.
1. Start by capitalizing on internal expertise
Collecting all the data you need to create high-quality buyer personas can be a big job, so it’s helpful to tackle it in stages. Consider starting your research internally to leverage the data, knowledge and expertise that are already available from members of your organization. Meet with representatives of different customer-facing teams to gather input and perspectives to help you augment your understanding of your target buyers.
2. Extract pertinent data from marketing automation systems and sales databases
If you currently use a marketing automation system like Marketo, Eloqua or Pardot, there’s a wealth of data available for you to extract about your buyers, such their roles and titles within their organization and the content assets they’ve downloaded in the past.
Customer databases and solutions like SalesForce can also be an excellent source of customer information and insights, so it’s a good idea to consult them as well and extract any helpful data during this initial research phase.
3. Leverage sales relationships to connect with customers
If you’re a marketer, you undoubtedly have strong relationships with some of your customers, but your Sales team works directly with your customers every day. When you’re looking to line up customers to interview, connect with your colleagues in Sales and leverage their relationships to arrange interviews with as many customers as possible.
4. Conduct interviews with as many customers as possible
Not surprisingly, it’s the conversations with your customers that tend the produce the most valuable insights into their pain points and the steps in their buying process. Armed with your preliminary research, you will be in a position to develop a questionnaire to guide you in these interviews. What are their goals in their role? What are their challenges and barriers to success? What do they value the most? Where do they go to get information? During this process, some of your assumptions will be validated, but you’ll learn more and understand the kind of nuances that will make your personas that much better.
5. Once you’ve created your buyer personas, update them regularly
One final point. B2B Buyer personas are dynamic, they’re not a one and done. Buyer requirements and perspectives change over time for a wide variety of reasons. To do it right, you need to revisit them frequently and update them based on any new insights and intelligence you acquire in your content marketing journey.
If you need help researching and developing your buyer personas, we’re here to help. Contact us today and let’s get started!