As a marketer, you know that buyer personas are table stakes for the success of your SaaS solution. Yet, when it comes to the best approach for developing them, you may be faced with a dilemma. Should you enlist the support of an agency? Or should you utilize one of the many templates, guides, and resources you find online to create your own?
While the DIY approach may initially seem appealing, it’s crucial to acknowledge the challenges it may bring. Given the pivotal role this research will play as the bedrock of marketing and sales efforts, venturing into this process on your own can be risky.
Marketers who choose the path of DIY buyer persona research should be prepared to navigate a series of obstacles that could significantly compromise the quality and accuracy of their personas over time. Failing to effectively navigate these potential pitfalls could result in generic, run-of-the-mill personas. Worse yet, it can even provide inaccurate information for businesses, making it worse than having no buyer personas at all.
SaaS Buyer Personas: The Risks of Doing It Yourself
The top disadvantages of creating buyer personas on your own include bias, not hearing from competitor customers, increased timelines, higher costs, and more guesswork. Here’s how all of those factors can hinder the quality of your personas.
Bias Creeps In
One of the most significant risks of DIY buyer personas is the potential for bias. To take just one example, your colleagues who are deeply involved in your product development efforts can struggle to maintain objectivity. This can lead to personas that reflect their own perspectives rather than those of your customers or prospects.
Or in another instance, marketers often rely on their sales teams to gather insights from customer interactions. While this can be a valuable tactic for gaining a better understanding of customers, sales team members may do too much generalizing from a specific customer conversation.
Additionally, salespeople have more engagement with customers towards the latter half of the buyer’s journey. This can skew their perception of the entire process. This bias may manifest in the belief that C-level executives are the most critical personas to target in marketing materials. However, it’s often individuals in roles like directors, managers, or even more junior roles who are responsible for vendor discovery. Consequently, these are the individuals that should be the focus of marketing efforts.
Difficulty in Hearing from Competitor Customers
In order for you to be able to thoroughly understand the market landscape, you need to hear from those who may never have even considered your solution before. You also need to hear from those who decided to purchase from a competing company.
That said, getting feedback from customers of your competitors can be challenging, if not impossible, without 3rd party input. Ultimately, once you tap into the reasons why certain buyers have never previously considered your solution (or those that chose a competing solution), you will be better equipped to deliver marketing that resonates beyond your current customer base.
Guesswork on Incentive Structures and Outreach
Marketers that attempt to develop their own buyer personas will likely have to guess at the incentive structures and outreach methods to encourage participation in their research. Without prior experience or data to guide them on what motivates certain personas to participate in a study, it can be challenging to determine the most effective incentives. This can lead to offering incentives that are less appealing or misaligned with what participants truly value.
Moreover, leadership teams will frequently have a distorted understanding of the significance of incentives and the challenges associated with recruiting niche audiences. This misperception can create hurdles for marketers in obtaining the resources needed to undertake the recruitment themselves, as opposed to having a vendor advocate the case for the necessity of these incentives.
Marketers will also have to experiment with various outreach methods to figure out which channels and messaging resonate. This trial-and-error approach can result in wasted time and resources.
A research vendor, on the other hand, has established partnerships, frameworks and methodologies to effectively engage with participants in a timely manner. They have the tools and resources at their disposal to recruit the right people needed for the study in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
Extended Project Timelines
DIY projects typically have longer timelines. That’s because the research work needs to fit in around a marketing team’s existing responsibilities, which can slow down the process. Furthermore, marketers will likely have to make educated guesses about the project’s duration, as it’s not a task that they’ve undertaken before.
And although marketers will start the project when they have the time, they may find themselves needing to hit pause as more urgent issues pop up. For example, a digital ad that they are running may not be performing well. So, they need to figure out why. A glitch in their email marketing platform may prevent them from sending something out on a certain date, and they need to find a workaround. A change in the organization’s priorities may force them to immediately redo pieces of marketing creative. All of these unexpected challenges can result in a project timeline that exceeds their initial intentions.
SaaS Buyer Personas: Unlocking Agency Benefits
While there are a multitude of risks tied to creating your own buyer personas, collaborating with an expert can unlock a variety of benefits. Here are some of the key advantages of working with a research agency to develop your personas.
Specialized Expertise and Industry Insights
Research agencies can contribute a wealth of expertise and insights to your project, particularly those with a niche specialization in the SaaS landscape. These specialized agencies bring a deep reservoir of industry knowledge to the table, facilitating the discovery of more valuable insights.
As an agency with more than 15 years of experience in the B2B technology sector, we understand certain things about the field based on the past research we’ve conducted. One example of this is knowing to not waste time building a procurement persona (even though sales interacts with them). That’s because they are not the ultimate decision-maker. C-level executives rarely search for new vendors on their own. For example, if personas are primarily going to be used by demand generation-focused marketers, we typically don’t advocate for the development of C-level personas, at least in the first wave of a persona-building effort.
Access to a Diverse Participant Pool, Including Competitor Customers
Recruiting the right participants for a study is just as important as asking the right questions. Instead of being confined to your own limited pool of potential participants, tapping into an agency for help will help you extend far beyond your current customers and sales team.
Agencies have access to a number of different partners and resources that target a wide range of study participants. Additionally, agencies have the capacity to recruit and interact with customers who have chosen competing solutions. This is vital for gaining insights into the competitive landscape and understanding the reasons behind their choices.
Encouraging Candid Feedback
Receiving honest and candid feedback is crucial for effective buyer personas. Candor helps build accurate buyer personas that reflect the true thoughts and experiences of potential customers.
Professional agencies excel at getting customers to be more open during interviews. That’s because participants may feel more comfortable sharing their honest opinions with a neutral third party rather than speaking directly to a vendor.
Expert Questioning Techniques
Agencies have developed effective methods for questioning customers, prospects, and competitor customers, enabling them to extract deeper insights. This in-depth understanding can lead to more valuable personas.
Experienced interviewers know how to steer conversations and ask appropriate follow-up questions in a way to unlock valuable insights.
Delivering Difficult News
Agencies can take on the responsibility of delivering negative feedback or challenging findings to their stakeholders. This can help maintain positive relationships, as the agency acts as an intermediary.
At Cascade Insights, we like to say we deliver bad news to good people. Perhaps we’ve identified that a client is targeting the wrong persona with their marketing efforts. Or maybe their messaging strategy is not working due to poor alignment with a persona’s true needs. Maybe their product or service is simply falling flat with their targeted persona. This is all bad news, but the right research partner can give you the right insights to set you on a good track.
Tailored Output for Internal Audiences
The right market research partner will have extensive experience in tailoring research findings and recommendations. They will be able to meet the needs of various internal audiences, such as sales, marketing, leadership, and product development teams. This ensures that the research findings are usable and relevant to each department’s goals and needs.
Superior SaaS Buyer Personas: Unleash the Power of Niche Expertise
When your need is great, a generalist isn’t a safe choice. You don’t want a generalist in the cockpit, a generalist in the surgery room, or a generalist as an educator. Nor should you settle for a generalist when it comes to buyer persona development.
Collaborating with a specialist agency is key to unlocking superior SaaS buyer personas. By making this strategic investment, you’re not just shaping personas; you’re laying the foundation necessary for all subsequent marketing and sales efforts.
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.
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