B2B buyer personas – what are they and why do they matter?

Posted in Sales techniques and processes.

Every company has a specific audience in mind that they would like to cater to. This target audience is filled with individuals and companies who they believe will be most interested in what they have to offer. In order to better develop a sense of what this target audience looks like you need to create buyer personas.

Buyer personas are representations of what your ideal customer looks like based on a combination of market research and real data about existing customers. The buyer persona should tell you who the buyer is, what they aim to accomplish, what goals drive their behaviour, how they buy, and why they make certain purchasing decisions.

However, the above focuses more intently on an individual and can be seen as more suited to B2C situations. When it comes to B2B, you want to learn more about the companies you are selling to. This means that the company becomes the buyer persona. However, you cannot use demographics to create a persona for a company so you need to focus on the person within the company that holds the most decision-making power, and in a way, emulates what the company stands for.

Taking the above into account, here’s what you need to include in a B2B-specific buyer persona:

*  Information regarding the company’s industry and what their position in the industry is.
*  The company’s size, revenue, employees, etc.
*  Objectives of the company alongside the threats and obstacles that are preventing them from achieving these objectives.
*  The way in which your product can alleviate pains related to the above threats and obstacles.
*  How decisions are made within the company.
*  What information they usually look for and are most receptive to.
*  What they require in order to make a decision relating to a product.

So, why are buyer personas important in the first place? Since purchasing behaviour and markets change so frequently, keeping a finger on the pulse of what your ideal type of customers are up to is vital. Buyer personas help you to personalise your messaging and product development based on the information you have acquired, which means a more widespread reach.

Buyer personas also aids you to understand your customers better and the creation of content that appeals to them. Personas can even have a positive effect on profit. Aberdeen Research has found that companies who use buyer personas to influence how they sell have 73% higher conversions than companies who don’t. Also, Deloitte and Touche has found that companies who focus on customers through persona-development are 60% more profitable than non-customer-centric organisations. So, in the long run, it pays to build buyer personas.

Now that you know all this and want to get in on the action, how do you go about creating your very own buyer personas? The best thing you can do is to start small with one or two personas, and then add to this later as you see fit. Remember, there is no need to have a lot of different personas, rather stick to a few more refined ones.

Where do you find information to include in your buyer personas?

*  Your sales team

Field sales reps deal with customers on a daily basis. They have built relationships with these customers, know who the decision-makers are, and what the companies are like on the inside. Find out from your sales reps what type of customers they work with, what types of companies they work with the best, and what issues they deal with on a regular basis. Not only does this give you an idea of what your buyer personas should look like but also aids in improving your current products.

*  The Internet

Research your current contact database. Take each customer and search for them on Google or through whichever method you prefer. Look at their social media accounts (specifically LinkedIn) and their company website. One can learn a lot from your customers by looking at their online profiles. It is also a valuable tool when it comes to interviewing previous and existing customers (see points below) as you won’t need to ask certain personal questions about the customer that might make them feel uncomfortable.

If you participate in online advertising, look through your Google Analytics insights. You should be able to find information in the Audience section about interests, what browsers and devices they’re using, and so on. Also, make use of your social media accounts’ analytics sections. They will tell you what the demographics of the people are who consume your content and what other categories and companies they are looking at.

*  Interview previous customers

Before you move on to existing customers, you can interview customers that are no longer with you. This is helpful for discovering why things didn’t work out and find out negative or exclusionary personas. These personas are companies and individuals that are not a good fit for your company or who won’t have much need for what you sell. This ensures that you don’t waste time and energy on less receptive customers.

*  Use surveys

Surveys are a less intimidating way of interviewing people. Customers are usually more willing to provide information when it is done via a survey. You can also create online forms that include fields that are useful for creating your buyer persona. Fields like for example, “What informs your decision when deciding on a product for your company?” If you’re filling in information on an electronic product catalogue, see it as an opportunity to learn more details about your customer to help in developing your buyer personas.

*  Interview existing customers

Your existing customers are there for a reason, you have clearly been doing something right for them to be buying from you. Even if your current customers aren’t the people you are ultimately aiming to reach, they are great for honing your buyer persona. When interviewing existing customers focus on demographics (age, gender, etc.), their key problems or issues, what their motivations for purchasing are, and what would deter them from purchasing.

Also, make sure that the idea of an interview doesn’t come across to your customer as a sales pitch, this is neutral ground. Make the process of interviewing as easy as possible by being flexible with time and doing it according to your customers’ preferences.
Buyer personas can provide a lot of insight into what your goals need to be in order to get the results that you want for your company. With these you are able to align the different departments within your company, and ensure that everyone knows who to talk to, how to talk to them and who to seek out to the benefit of the company.