In the B2B space, buyer personas are invaluable tools that everyone from your customer-facing teams can use to better understand who your customers are and how to engage them.
As marketers, we all understand the importance of knowing who it is we're trying to reach.
Different demographics are interested in different services/products, while no two industries share the exact same challenges – or solutions. In the B2B space in particular, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking those demographics and industries are all we need to target our audiences and generate leads.
But we're not marketing or selling to numbers on a spreadsheet, and an industry-wide audience makes for some pretty sweeping generalisations. This can be a real challenge, especially in the B2B space where the buyer's journey can often extend to months or sometimes years.
"Even in the B2B space, all we’re really trying to start is conversations with the people our businesses need to grow."
You already know how useful buyer personas are for helping us to accomplish this, or you wouldn't be here now. But how do you know where to start when it comes to creating your own? What steps should you follow to make sure your buyer persona is accurate, and where can you turn for help?
Whenever we onboard a new marketing client, defining their buyer personas is one of the very first processes we follow. In the last ten years, we've drafted hundreds of them, which our clients have then used to:
- align their marketing activities with ours
- deliver more targeted marketing automation
- produce more personalised content
In this article, learn how to create your own buyer personas so you can achieve the same, unlocking the full potential of your marketing and content.
Short on time? Download the persona profile checklist for a list of the core questions to ask when researching to create your customer personas.
- Buyer persona definition
- Why are buyer personas important?
- B2B buyer personas in action
- How to create a B2B buyer persona in 7 steps
- How do you conduct buyer persona research?
Buyer persona definition
In case you're not 100% familiar with the term, let's recap what we're talking about. Our CRM software partner HubSpot calls them buyer personas, but you might know them more generically as customer personas, too.
Either way, we're discussing the same thing, "semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”
'Semi-fictional' is the key takeaway from this definition. Buyer personas aren't based on specific examples of customers you serve. They're not real people.
At the same time, an effective buyer persona isn't pulled from thin air. Grounding your buyer personas in market research, real data and even customer validation will keep them accurate.
Why are buyer personas important?
Imagine how helpful a dossier on your target buyers would be in terms of informing your content marketing strategy and focusing the conversations you have with your customers.
"It’s common for brands to assume that they're the main character in their stories, but if you want to engage your target buyer, you need create content that puts them in the limelight."
Your brand is the enabler, the wise man, Rowling’s sparkly-eyed Dumbledore. You bring the knowledge, the expertise, the magic. The customer you're trying to reach? They're Harry, trapped in the cupboard under the stairs, dreaming of a better life. Your products or services, and the helpful inbound marketing you produce, can give that to them — if you know what they want.
Only by exploring and documenting your customers' wants and needs through buyer personas will you be able to target your approach to resonate with today’s time-sensitive buyers.
B2B buyer personas in action
In the B2B space, buyer personas are arguably more important than ever. Why is this?
The typical buying cycle for B2B buyers is much longer than it is for consumer purchases. In fact, some sources report that the average B2B buyer consumes as much as 13 different pieces of content before they decide on a vendor.
That's a lot of content to line up for your persona to get them over the line, so to speak.
The challenge is further heightened when you consider how people make purchasing decisions.
It's widely reported that emotion is actually what drives us to click 'buy'. Only afterwards do we 'rationalise' our purchasing decisions (or regret them, depending on what you've bought...)
"Emotion is what really drives the purchasing behaviors, and also, decision making in general [...] This idea is of great importance because it helps us realize that human beings are not as logical as we might imagine. And understanding this has significant implications for marketing, sales, and branding." Logan Chierotti, 'Harvard Professor Says 95% of Purchasing Decisions Are Subconscious'
As Chierotti goes on to explain, "[by] only marketing the attributes of your product, you will likely generate lackluster results. And the poor results you receive are due to the fact you are completely missing the subconscious, human element in the decision-making process."
What does that emotional attachment look like in the B2B space, where buyers aren't making purchases for themselves and decisions frequently involve multiple stakeholder approvals?
As B2B marketers, understanding what shape that emotional attachment takes — or how to persuade the buyer to pick up the phone in the absence of any strong, personal feelings toward the product/service — is key to developing inbound marketing strategies that deliver results. Buyer personas accomplish this for you.
Could any of this be why your B2B marketing strategy isn't delivering the results you want it to? If so, read on to discover seven simple steps for creating a B2B buyer persona.
How to create a B2B buyer persona in 7 simple steps
Step 1: download the persona profile checklist
Start by downloading our persona profile checklist. It's free and the questions in the checklist outline the key sections you'll want to build into your persona.
Tailor each question as needed to reflect your industry and the language used in it.
For example, rather than asking "Where do your customers go for information?", you could ask "How do they research X product?"
Step 2: using the questions, conduct buyer persona research
One by one, carry out the necessary research to answer each question. You might like to begin with desk research, but there are actually lots of ways you get the answers you're looking for.
You can conduct buyer persona by
- interviewing current customers or prospects
- surveying your customers or prospects
- talking to your co-workers
- asking questions on social media
Buyer personas are key to HubSpot's flywheel model, which will help you to reduce friction and deliver successful B2B campaigns. Learn more in this article.
Step 3: use HubSpot or your existing CRM to review lead intelligence
Browse your customers' contact records and cross-reference these with your marketing analytics/reporting dashboards to identify
- which topics and types of content your contacts gravitate towards
- what they're most interested in reading on your website
- which social media platforms they use
You might have a huge database of contacts and customers to choose from. Prioritise those leads that your sales have marked as qualified, and use your most popular content (such as your most viewed blog articles and most downloaded offers) to identify relevant topics in which the buyer persona is interested.Related read: What HubSpot’s ROI 2021 Report Means For Your Future B2B Business Strategy
Step 4: turn your data into insights
What trends can you observe in your contact data? What insights can you draw from it?
Collect all your findings in one place and highlight the trends and similarities in the answers you've gathered.
These trends or common responses will provide insights into what challenges your persona is facing, what subjects they are most interested in, where they spend most of their time online, what they find engaging, even their preferred way of communicating.
You might also be interested in: How Useful Is Instagram in Your B2B Marketing Strategy?
Step 5: translate your notes into a complete persona
By this point, you should have a comprehensive range of qualitative and quantitative data, spanning contact records/marketing analytics and the insights you've drawn from them.
What remains is to turn these notes into a coherent buyer persona story.
- What common job titles and demographics can you observe?
- What does the buyer persona's working day look like?
- What are their challenges or pain points?
- Where do they go for information?
- What common objections do they have to your products or services?
Your buyer persona story should include all these important reference points. You'll know whether it's detailed enough or not because it should paint a picture of your persona.
If, on reviewing your draft, you feel it could be more helpful/informative, go back and add more detail until the picture becomes clear.
|Buyer persona tip:
Do you have a copywriter on your team? They are often the best person for collating your data/insights and turning it into an effective buyer persona that tells the persona's story and paints the detailed picture you're looking for.
Step 6: add your buyer persona into HubSpot or CRM
Choose a picture and name for your persona. Why? It will help bring them to life for you and your team. It may sound cheesy, but actually asking 'would Sue read this?' will help you to put everything you do into perspective.
Add your high-level notes to internal fields labelled Persona's Roles, Goals, and Challenges.
Create a form field option that answers the question of how the contact would describe him or herself on a form.
By creating a form field option, you're creating a drop-down form property option. Now your contacts can identify with a persona when they fill out a form, which will help you with delivering personalised content and segmentation going forward.
Buyer persona tip:
Step 7: review and update your buyer persona
Every quarter, review your buyer persona story to make sure it's still accurate. Update or add new, relevant information to make sure it's the best possible representation of your customer.
How do you conduct B2B buyer persona research?
As we touched on at the beginning of this article, we see buyer personas as a vital piece of the B2B marketing puzzle. Because of this, we always prioritise them when working with a new client on their Inbound Strategy Planning. Only the Positioning and Messaging Workshop comes first.
"BabelQuest has been absolutely fantastic to work with. Our marketing strategy and the content we are now putting out has gone from 0 to 100. And the resulting leads and new business speaks for itself! In the past year of working together, we have built a great relationship with the BabelQuest team, excellently led by Gemma and Bridget and backed up by fantastic resources in the shape of Gem, Tom and Chris! I look forward to continuing to work with BabelQuest and growing the VFE brand!" Slater Jinkinson, Head of Sales, VFE
B2B buying is a complex journey made up of all kinds of touch-points, content and conversations. It spans business units and challenges even experienced marketing teams in terms of automation and creating workflows that move the prospect along their journey.
But underpinning all of this creativity and technical know-how is the very human need to understand who you're trying to engage and what they need from you.
We hope the steps outlined above help you to create buyer personas that enable your team and kickstart those conversations that turn today's prospects into tomorrow's customers.
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For more information about this, click below to read our follow-up article on the buyer's journey and how to engage your buyer personas.