As a B2B marketer, it’s crucial you know your intended buyers. You must know what kind of content to create to attract them to your business, move them through the funnel, and bring them into contact with your sales team.
You probably already know the basics, like their title, what their job entails, and a few of their pain points. That’s a great start, but what about their key responsibilities, where they look for industry news, or how much influence they have in purchasing decisions? These are all vital characteristics that can help you create compelling content that will resonate with your audience.
All of this information, plus additional insights, can be found in a well-rounded B2B buyer persona profile.
Why Are Buyer Personas Important to Your Marketing Strategy?
Without a great set of buyer personas, you’re going to build content, campaigns, and marketing strategies that are poorly aligned, don’t lead buyers to buy, and are a waste of time and resources.
Yet, if buyer personas are so crucial to marketing efforts, why do 83% of marketers say their buyer personas are only “somewhat useful” to their marketing?
Typically this “usefulness gap” is driven by buyer personas that lack a coherent structure. Much more than a mere skeleton, a great buyer persona is a life-like representation of a specific buyer archetype.
The 6 Key Insights of a B2B Buyer Persona
Marketers must make tough choices when designing a buyer persona. What is absolutely critical to build that life-like representation of a buyer, and what is merely fluff? Here is what we suggest you incorporate first.
The job title offers a glimpse of what a buyer persona’s role entails. This section can include potential titles in cases where a title may vary for similar function in an organization. Titles are your first step toward getting a preview of what drives your persona, how they fit into their organization, and the organizational structure your efforts will target at different company sizes (i.e. enterprise, mid-market, etc.).
A buyer persona’s set of core responsibilities are what they must do to be a productive member of their organization. While they may have secondary responsibilities or peripheral duties that impact other departments, their core responsibilities are what they were hired for and what they’re evaluated on. Therefore, a target persona will prioritize these tasks above all other responsibilities. Furthermore, these core tasks provide insight to whom your persona works with on a daily basis, what metrics they’re tracking, and some of their daily challenges.
Role in the Buying Process
A persona’s role in the buying process determines whether they initiate purchasing decisions or are brought in later, what other stakeholders are involved, and how much of an impact your persona has on the buying decision. Their role in the buying process can also provide insight as to what your persona’s buyer’s journey looks like.
Favorite Resources and Channels
This information impacts your marketing strategy by informing where your buyer persona learns about industry news and emerging solutions. Their preferred channels of information show what they find to be most credible and how they like to learn, whether it’s from word-of-mouth, webinars, white papers, or conferences. Wherever they turn to for information, you need to get your content in front of them.
Every buyer persona has a unique set of challenges that impact their job. These pain points can be ongoing, seasonal (i.e. a CTO for a retail organization preparing for the holiday rush), or situational (i.e. accommodating a virtual workforce amid the pandemic ). Either way, you can take these pain points and make sure you address them in every piece of marketing you create.
Motivators show you what gets your persona excited and drives them. This can include meeting their monthly goals, earning the respect of their peers, expanding their skills, growing their organization’s impact on the market, or becoming a thought leader in their industry. Like challenges, you can use motivations to drive content creation, showing them how your products and services align with what excites them about their job or industry.
Trimming the Fat from a B2B Buyer Persona
There are some characteristics of a traditional B2B buyer persona where it’s easy to pack on some extra weight, but doing so isn’t the healthiest option if you want your buyer persona to have a long and useful shelf-life. Here are a few places where you can safely put your buyer persona on a diet.
Broad based demographic characteristics are useful information for B2C marketing efforts, where the buyer is a single person making a (typically) quick decision. For B2B marketing efforts these simple demographic characteristics aren’t as compelling. Age, location, and even educational background don’t strongly correlate with the role a buyer plays in an organization’s purchase process.
For instance, a CFO might be 25, 35, or 65. Or a CEO might be 21, 31, or 71. Additionally, a company founder might have a high school diploma or a doctorate. At the same time, the VP of marketing might have an MBA while the founder they report to has an Associates degree from Junior College.
In sum, basic demographics rarely tell much of the story in B2B. Worse yet, they can lead to biases that don’t truly play out in the real world. Instead, marketers should limit the inclusions of this basic demographic information to the times when it truly impacts the buying process. For example, if your target audience are the managers of inside sales teams, and your research shows that they truly tend to be under the age of 35 in most cases, then by all means use that information to target specific social media channels that are of interest to that age group.
Outside of specific examples such as this it’s better to skip the demographics and treat that data much like your appendix. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it, as it’s not doing much for you anyway.
Recording the obvious and well-known characteristics of a buyer persona does not provide value to your marketing goals. A well-rounded buyer persona goes beyond what you already know and offers insights that will differentiate this buyer from other similar professionals.
For example, every enterprise CFO may mention common news outlets like the Wall Street Journal. Highlighting this information as an insight isn’t helpful. As a leading publication with a vast audience, it isn’t a surprise that the Wall Street Journal is a favorite among this group. But, a more useful insight is identifying the niche resources and channels that are specific to their role.
It’s easy to say that compliance roles care about mitigating risk, CFOs care about controlling costs, and developers prefer to self-service purchase over engaging with a seller—we don’t fill our personas with that. We try to fill our personas with advice they can act on.” – Philippe Boutros, Chief of Staff, Cascade Insights
Other examples of obvious information we’ve seen in poorly written buyer personas include:
- Telling a team of marketers that IT leaders care about running an efficient set of processes.
- Explaining that CFO’s “care about the numbers,” or that CEO’s “delegate a lot of their tasks.”
- Documenting that developers typically wrote their first line of code at an early age. This has been true for years and remains so today.
- Sharing that sales team leaders care about “hitting their numbers.”
This kind of obvious advice shows up in buyer personas for only one reason—a lack of shared context. A vendor who knows your context up front won’t tell you what’s obvious. They’ll tell you what you need to know.
Bridge the Gap With B2B Buyer Persona Research
Now that you know what information your buyer personas should contain to help you build an effective marketing strategy, it’s time to evaluate your buyer personas and fill in what you’re missing.
Look at what you have today for buyer personas. How much of it is unhelpful information vs. actionable facts. How much of what you see is subjective vs. objective. Finally, how much of it makes its way into marketing content, campaigns and strategies that resonate.
After you’ve thought about this for a while, score your buyer persona on a simple grid like the one outlined below.
|Do our buyer personas contain a lot of unhelpful information?
|Do our buyer personas contain an abundance of obvious information that anyone would assume is true about our target buyer personas?
|Are the insights contained in our buyer personas very subjective in nature?
|Do we use these personas in a meaningful way when we build content, campaigns, and marketing strategies?
If your score is higher than 0, you could benefit from some buyer persona research done by professionals. We work with clients to learn about their culture and how their buyer personas will be used. We determine our research methodology and conduct research based on this information and provide insights that are actionable. If you’re interested in learning more about buyer personas that can impact your marketing, reach out. We’re happy to help.
This blog post is brought to you by Cascade Insights, a firm that provides market research & marketing services exclusively to organizations with B2B tech sector initiatives. Want to learn more about the people behind your personas? Our B2B buyer persona research can help. For more information on all types of B2B market research, visit What is B2B Market Research.