Buyer personas are the multi-vitamin of market research efforts. Without them, companies grow weak sales and marketing efforts. With buyer personas in hand, companies can confidently take on new markets, new buyer types, and new opportunities with ease.
Yet this truth is sometimes ignored by marketers who are taking over a new position. Whether it’s a newly promoted marketer or a marketer at a new company, we’ve traditionally seen these people focusing on brand studies first vs. buyer persona efforts.
We think this is a mistake. While brand research is important, of course, it can sometimes be nothing more than a sugary snack that supports rebranding efforts, especially when compared to the multi-vitamin of buyer personas.
Is choosing a new website palette, a new logo, a new company name, or the design for a new website fun? Yes. However, we suggest marketers not take this step until they understand a fundamental question first: Am I saying the right things to the right people? That is a question that buyer personas are well suited to address.
What Are Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas are the blueprint to understanding the real people out there that you need to target with your marketing. As a marketer, you need to understand who makes the buying decisions that you want to influence. It’s the first step toward successful B2B marketing. If you are not 100% sure of the persona you are marketing to, it’s impossible to produce messaging that will resonate.
Most buyer personas include a buyer profile, but many don’t get deep enough into the buying decision. When we conduct buyer persona research, we focus on questions surrounding business challenges, jobs to be done, how buyers self-educate, how they develop a list of potential vendors, what their decision tree and purchasing process look like, and what type of vendor personas they prefer working with. We consider such questions as:
- How do buyers relate to each other? Additionally, how do they motivate each other to decide on a given vendor?
- How does each buyer rank their key buying criteria for solutions like yours?
- What’s the very first step a buyer takes to get educated? What’s next? What does their full buying journey look like?
…and so many more. By asking such in-depth questions to your buyers, potential buyers, and buyers of competing solutions, you will gain insight into the crucial factors that influence their decisions. Gathering these buying insights empowers you to create messaging and marketing that resonates with your targeted personas on a deep level.
Let’s Imagine Marketers Without Buyer Personas
Without this crucial foundational piece, it’s impossible to set your marketing off in the right direction. No matter how interesting your marketing is, these investments are not going to be effective if you don’t know your buyer personas. Here are just a few examples of where B2B marketers can go wrong.
You’re writing to the wrong person.
You’ve just launched a brand new website with messaging speaking directly to CEOs. It highlights all the new features of your service that they would love. It speaks to the daily challenges that they face, and inspires them with what you know will motivate them to purchase. One problem: C-level executives of a company are rarely the ones doing the research on which vendor to choose. More often, it’s a director, manager, or another position that’s creating the initial list. You need to know exactly who it is that will be reading your website and speak directly to them. Otherwise, you’ll be completely missing the mark.
You need to know the features that matter.
Your solution offers a great new feature, and you are excited to highlight that new capability. Unfortunately, that feature isn’t going to matter much to your potential buyer if it’s not solving a specific problem that they face. When you don’t understand the challenges a specific persona faces in their day-to-day duties, you will never know the features that matter. You’ll be stuck emphasizing an aspect of your solution that has no effect on the buyer’s decision. In sum, you don’t want to be the person screaming “I’ve got to have more cowbell!” when the market doesn’t want that.
You’re broadcasting to the wrong audience.
If the KPIs of your marketing campaigns have steadily been dropping off, it may be an indicator that the market is shifting. There often isn’t one big event that precipitates this, but you find your marketing just isn’t resonating like it used to. This could be a sign the primary influencer in the buying decision process is no longer the same.
You’re speaking in the wrong vernacular, using the wrong tone and/or terminology.
There’s nothing that screams that you aren’t on a potential buyer’s wavelength than by speaking in a way that they never would. Not using the terms that they use in their everyday work life, or just using it differently than they would, tells them that you are not their trusted expert for this process.
In a B2B technology context, this could be as simple as not understanding that:
- IT leaders almost always work in concert with LoB leaders when it comes to technology decisions.
- IT leaders are pragmatists (on average) and developers are early adopters (on average).
- C-level executives rarely search out for new suppliers, vendors, or solutions on their own. They delegate.
- A given technology is on the way out, and another is on the way in.
Now Imagine Marketers With Buyer Personas
Now, let’s say you have accurate, thorough, and in-depth buyer personas that allow you to see the buying insights of the top people in the buying decision process. This gives you:
Messaging that speaks in their voice.
Marketers that take on the voice of their buyer when developing messaging will be able to earn their potential buyers’ trust by using the same tone and vernacular that their personas speak in regularly. This knowledge can only come from conducting thorough buyer persona research that captures your buyer’s authentic voice. Getting the right voice isn’t easy, but it can be done.
Messaging that speaks to the right person.
When you have a deep understanding of the persona that you are speaking to, you hit on their specific fears, risks, and challenges they face within their roles. You can speak to the meaningful career goals your company can help them achieve, and highlight the exact pieces of your solution that they care about. In essence, you can target higher needs than just price, capabilities, and features.
Use cases that actually appeal to your buyer.
Your message should lead with what’s most important to buyers and should call out specifics. It should highlight the challenges that your buyer feels, and show how your solution solves them. You can only discover that critical information through conducting in-depth buyer persona research first.
Increased ROI on ad spends.
No matter what KPIs you are using to track your marketing campaigns, the first step toward achieving them is targeting the right personas and building messaging that converts. Once you establish specific buyer personas with deep buyer insights, you are able to create marketing campaigns that actually resonate with your audience.
Providing guidance for salespeople that they can actually use.
After you unlock your key buyer insights, the salespeople in your organization can then use that information to win business. Show your salespeople not just buyer qualification criteria, but give them in-depth buying insights that they can use in their conversations. For example, providing hypothetical conversations that they can anticipate having with different job titles is one of the most useful ways to leverage your newfound buyer persona research.
Say the Right Things to the Right People
Buyer persona research isn’t the flashy market research that captures everyone’s attention and leads to big, extravagant changes within your company. However, it is something that will lead to the most impactful results with sales, marketing, and product efforts. It should be the foundation for all of your marketing and sales initiatives. Without it, each initiative you try will fumble and fail.
So, here’s your homework. The next time you have a marketing or sales meeting ask: Are we saying the right things to the right people? If there is any doubt, it’s time for buyer persona research.
With more than 15 years of experience in the B2B technology sector, Cascade Insights understands how buyer persona research can inform effective marketing that targets the right people. Learn more about our buyer persona research here. For more information on all types of B2B market research, visit What is B2B Market Research.
Special thanks to Sean Campbell, CEO, and Philippe Boutros, Chief of Staff, for advising on this piece.