Buyer personas are table takes for any B2B organization. These are the times when it is particularly crucial for an organization to procure buyer persona research.
Today I want to talk to you a bit about why an organization embarks on buyer persona research, either for the first time or to update an existing set of buyer personas. And I would say if you break it down, there’s really two major reasons an organization embarks on this kind of initiative. The first is sales-focused.
It’s just simply harder to sell than it was in the past. So maybe that’s a difference between this quarter and a few quarters ago, or this year and a few years ago. But for whatever reason, it’s harder to sell and you’re not just getting the uptake that you would expect.
Another motivation to conduct buyer persona research is that your marketing isn’t doing as good a job driving leads as it should. So perhaps when prospects get further down the funnel and they interact with your sales team, things are fine. You’re able to convert those people into paying customers. But from a marketing standpoint, you’re not driving the kind of leads that you expected a few quarters ago or a few years ago, and both of these reasons can be very good reasons to consider buyer persona research.
Now, if we pull back a little bit and ask ourselves, what are some of the shifts that are causing these things to happen? Like what’s causing the kind of sales and marketing pain that leads an organization to embark on a buyer persona research effort? Well, there’s a few things. One is on the sales side. So you might have just had a leadership change or a change in tactics and strategies, and it’s just not working like you expected, but you don’t really know why.
A good example of this came across in one piece of research we did once. We had a client who decided to basically ship a bunch of born and raised US sales executives and managers and sales team members over to a particular European market to grow that market for this organization. And what we found is that the cultural mismatch was just so high that the sales team, in essence was getting in the way of closing new business. The product itself was actually pretty good, but customers said the sales team is just not behaving in a way we expect. They’re not following our cultural norms. They’re not engaging with us in the way we want. And so in the end, this organization had to make some very major shifts in the sales leadership in that country, and in the end were much more successful as a result. And all that came out of conducting the buyer persona research and really asking buyers what happens in the journey for you on your path to purchase? What kind of engagement do you want to have with vendors? What’s kind of appropriate for your region or your geography? All those kinds of things. And all of that led to really good conclusions for our client.
Another example of changes that can kind of drive this behavior is that perhaps your product and service mix has just gotten much broader. We see this happen all the time. For example, AWS versus GCP versus Azure. These are major cloud platforms that release a new service what seems like all the time. So if you look at the landscape of the services these organizations provide today, it’s much more vast than it was even just a few short years ago.
So clearly an organization that’s investigating these particular cloud platforms might have a different set of buyer personas that are engaged, you know, perhaps a few years ago, maybe a more lower level buyer was considering one of these platforms, but now it’s a much more strategic buyer. And so those kinds of shifts can happen all the time in tech in particular.
Another example is on the marketing side. Here you might have a scenario, as I alluded to earlier, where the organization just doesn’t have the right set of kind of tactics and strategies and content, and what they do have isn’t visible in the right places. And a buyer persona project can really help here because one of the things that happens in a buyer persona research effort is that you ask a lot of questions about how a particular individual makes decisions about the vendors or the products and services that they’re going to acquire and how they educate themselves on those offerings.
So you get a lot of good intelligence on things like the kinds of stuff they want to read and the kind of platforms they want to engage with to get that content and just even how they want it to be delivered. So that can really shape a set of marketing tactics and strategies very effectively.
Another good place where buyer persona research can come into play is when an organization has decided to shift into, let’s say, a different vertical. So maybe what they were selling before was pretty generalized to the market as a whole. But now they see a really big opportunity, perhaps in education or in healthcare, and they realize that the buying committee in that vertical won’t be that generalized.
It’ll be fairly specific to the vertical itself, and that vertical have its own needs and kind of sources of information and just even just kind of the buying decision may look a lot different in terms of the players that are involved and buyer persona research by digging. And looking at not just key stakeholders, but influencers in the buying committee can help that organization have a much better idea of how to craft sales strategies and marketing strategies and tactics and all those kinds of things.
So that’s just a few of the things that might drive a buyer persona research initiative, but another one. Is competitor activity because frankly, in general, competitors don’t stand still. So they may be producing better content than you. They might be producing better marketing strategies than you, or marketing campaigns.
They may have also structured their sales efforts in a way that they’re a lot more engaging. And obviously there’s a few different ways you could get resolution on a scenario like that. But while you’re conducting buyer persona research, you can. How the people you’re talking to engage with competing organizations or what do they think about the content competing organizations provide, or even the marketing strategies and tactics that these organizations seem to pursue?
And how that represents to that particular buyer. So competitors are also a big influence. And finally, there can just be kind of broad market shifts that mean it’s really time to update your buyer persona. For example, for a number of years now in the technology industry, it’s been known that the IT shop – or the director of IT, or the IT manager doesn’t really hold all the cards when it comes to like what an organization is going to buy or invest in when it comes to software or even sometimes hardware.
Line of business managers have a pretty large influence these days on these purchases. So an organization that was used to selling to that IT director, well now they’re going have to really think about the buyer personas they need to investigate as they step into these line of parts of the organization and maybe now have to sell to the CMO or the CFO or the chief operations officer or the folks that report to these individuals.
And so those kind of broader market shifts can also drive the need for an investment in buyer persona research. In some, you don’t want to fly with a lack of visibility if you feel that your buyer personas have grown stale. It’s a very straightforward project to. It tends to focus on qualitative research more than quantitative and leads to all kinds of great discovery along the way.
So if you have any questions about buyer persona research in general, you can always feel free to reach out to me directly and or to Cascade Insights at www.cascadeinsights.com.
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