How to Make Praiseworthy B2B Buyer Personas

Episode 120: How to Make Praiseworthy B2B Buyer Personas

What are the questions that B2B buyer personas need to answer?

How do you make a B2B Buyer Persona that’s going to generate real praise from colleagues and stakeholders?

What makes B2B buyer personas different than their B2C counterparts?

That’s the focus of this article and the related B2B Market Research podcast episode.  If you prefer to listen to that episode you can do so above.

Are you Keeping your Personas in a Drawer?

Recently I came across an article from the Content Marketing Institute that talked about why B2B marketers sometimes keep their buyer personas locked in a closet. The reason for that, they said, is that the personas tend to focus so much on a consumer oriented view of the buyer that they’re not particularly relevant in a B2B context.

B2B Buyer Personas Are Different

By its very definition, a B2B buyer persona is going to be pretty different from a B2C one. It doesn’t matter what kind of ice cream they like or what car they drive. What matters more in B2B is that you’ve really cracked the code on how they buy.

You also have to realize that in B2B, it’s probably not a buying committee of 1. More likely, you have to understand the 8, 10 or more people that have a role in the buying process.

That’s why we think building buyer personas requires two crucial steps: you have to ask the right questions and you have to ask them of the right people.

This is one of the reasons that we built our own in-house recruiting capability for the buyer persona work we do.

Why in house?

Because the person doing the recruiting has to have the expertise to know whether or not they’re talking to someone who can give meaningful answers about the buyer’s journey.

How To Make Praiseworthy B2B Buyer Persona

So, with that background, what are some of the areas you need to focus on when developing B2B Buyer Personas?

Business Challenges and “Jobs to be Done”

First, it’s important to learn which business challenges the buyers believe are the most unique to their industry. These challenges are a goldmine. They will help you tailor your product. They will help you tailor your marketing. They will help you tailor your sales efforts.

You also want to find out which business challenges they think are the most daunting.  This is different from what business problems they think are the most unique and it’s really key to separate the two.

Many business professionals can wax poetic for an extended period of time about how unique their industry is, particularly if they’re passionate about it. But what you really want to get at are the business problems that they find the hardest to solve.

One way to identify these problems is to ask what jobs need to be done. It’s good to ask this question whether you’re talking to C-levels or more junior employees. You should follow up by asking which of these jobs could be solved by existing products or services.

Obviously, it’s better to be in the category of solutions where the customer doesn’t have a lot of potential options for getting the job done. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful where there’s already a plethora of solutions. Your road is just going to be a little harder.

Vertical Alignment and Success Factors

Next, you should find out whether the product or service you’re offering would be used differently in the particular industry you’re targeting for your buyer interviews. For example, your product might be used slightly differently in healthcare than it would in education, even though it has a similar use case overall. This may lead you to realize that you’re going to have to tailor your product to individual industries and their needs.

What metrics would they use to prove to the other stakeholders that this was a good purchase?

Then ask how would these buyers measure a successful product deployment or launch inside their organization. What metrics would they use to prove to the other stakeholders that this was a good purchase?

Self-Education and Influencers

Another key area to probe is how these buyers self-educate.

For example, if they were to search for your product or solution on the Internet, what would they search for? You might find them stating certain questions or problems they have and this will lead you to long tail keywords that you can focus on in your SEO work and marketing efforts.

Then you want to ask, who outside the organization influences them in terms of the products or solutions they want?

You want to steer clear of more general business influencers here. Instead, you want to focus on the individual or groups of individuals that influence them when it comes time to purchase a solution for a particular type of product or service. You might look for niche bloggers, social media influencers, or even conference speakers who deliver sessions at industry specific conferences.

Who Gets on the Short List?

…you want to dig into how folks generate an initial list of potential vendors.

Then you want to dig into how folks generate an initial list of potential vendors. How do they go about the process of generating that short list? That might be a mixture of referral and outside resources, but you want to make sure you fully understand how vendors arrive on that short list.

Then you want to dig a little deeper into the kinds of online assets they use to educate themselves on potential vendors that might make it to the short list. Are there specific blogs, specific types of social media, specific publications? In other words, what channels do they like to hang out in? You want to look at this in terms of both online and offline activities. What communities do they belong to, what associations are they in, what conferences do they attend, what groups are they engaged with?

Climb the Decision Tree

For most B2B purchases, there’s a pretty extensive decision tree. Depending on which study you read, you might hear that there are eight stakeholders in a purchase, or 12, or 10, or six. The point is: there’s certainly more than one. In short, impulse buys don’t tend to happen for complex B2B purchases.

With so much money and so many people involved, you’re going to need to understand the decision tree. You want to know all the stakeholders who are going to get involved.

With so much money and so many people involved, you’re going to need to understand the decision tree. You want to know all the stakeholders who are going to get involved.

You also want to figure out who is the most influential.  You don’t want to get the entire laundry list of potential influencers. You just want the most influential ones because you’re only going to be able to focus your sales and marketing efforts on a limited set of individual titles and personas.

For technical products you also want to ask, how does the IT or the technical side of the house, interact with the line-of-business side? It’s important to figure this out so that you don’t fall afoul of one team or the other when you’re trying to sell your product.

Purchase Flow

You also need to dig into the mechanics of the purchasing process. That alone can torpedo your offering before you’ve even got it to the right people.

How are solutions purchased by the decision makers, influencers, end-users inside the target organizations that you want to go after? Also, is there a standardized decision making process that must be followed for purchases or are they done on a case-by-case basis?

What typically prevents your target customer from engaging with vendors, even if they like what the vendor is offering? The answer to this question can lead to meaningful insights. You may learn, for example, that you need to spend more time with the purchasing committee in the organizations that you target and develop a buyer persona for the committee just as you would for your target customer.

Then, who actually pays for the application? This, in tech, can be difficult to answer because customers often move from freemium usage to paid usage to increased levels of usage. Hence, in the beginning, end-users, influencers or mid-level managers might have bought a product. However, the application or usage pattern may eventually grow to the point that senior decision makers have to get involved to negotiate a larger contract. In other words, who is actually paying can change over time.

How do they Want to Buy?

Finally, you want to look at how the buyers actually want to buy.

Walk them through their overall journey as a buyer from the very, very beginning. You’ll see pretty clearly where they spent the bulk of their time and where they spent less time.

…don’t forget to ask them what vendor personas they want to work with.

Also, don’t forget to ask them what vendor personas they want to work with. It isn’t just a buyer persona game in B2B, it’s a vendor persona game as well, because teams of sellers engage with teams of buyers.

And with that I want to wrap up this podcast episode.  Don’t forget to visit us at www.cascadeinsights.com

This podcast is brought to you by Cascade Insights. We specialize in market research and competitive intelligence for B2B technology companies. Our focus allows us to deliver detailed insights that generalist firms simply can’t match. 

Check out our podcast for more B2B Market Research episodes and articles.

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Sean Campbell

Sean Campbell

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