Buyer Personas are the Foundation for Great B2B Marketing

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In our recent post we shared five prerequisites for Marketing Automation. The first prerequisite on the list is to create strong buyer personas. Since most businesses aren’t psychologists, they may not have the knowledge and skills to build meaningful buyer personas – so we thought it would be helpful to provide a roadmap.

To create really effective lead generation campaigns, you should start with buyer personas. In fact, a good tip comes from the book Launch by Mike Stelzner of the Social Media Examiner, who calls these “Person Personas,” because the emphasis must be on people and not on the transaction. (Amen, Mike.)

Without deep buyer (people) personas, you simply cannot create meaningful demand generation. In fact, lead management and lead nurturing are both powered by personas. And you won’t see the results you want from your investment in marketing automation software without them.

Personas are needed to tell you where to launch your campaigns, what topics to cover, what content you need, etc. For instance, what messages should you use in your email marketing campaigns for a specific demographic? Personas give you the answer.

But when I ask business leaders for “personas” during an engagement, they almost always give me titles and industries, such as “We sell to heads of Human Resources, Chief Financial Officers and CIOs.

Those are NOT personas. Those are just people identifiers. They lack the depth of information to build great content.

This is not a new concept by any means. In fact, software developers have used this technique as part of the concept of agile development where you create personas of who’s going to actually use the software you create. What are they interested in, what do they do in their off time, etc., so you can try and predict how they will interact with your software and ensure you’ve got the right usability model in place as well as the most important feature set.

Agile software development is not fundamentally different than agile marketing! To help you create personas in your marketing campaigns, let me share five tips for great personas.

1. Start with ideal customer profiles.
To start developing personas, start with the ideal buyers of the products and services your company sells. We’re not looking for the type of businesses; we’re looking for people. Who’s the best customer for you? Think of what problems you solve. What outcomes do these businesses bring to the people who seek them out?

2. Identify titles and industries.
Now that you know what people to target, think about the job titles that buy your products and services. Is it a VP of Manufacturing or Human Resources? What about IT? Who else is involved?

Your salespeople will know. Go ask them. Really. This is one of the best opportunities to bring sales know-how into the marketing mix and really start bridging that famous sales & marketing misalignment. The more involved you get them now, the better your personas and the better and faster the follow-up.

3. Ask all the questions. (Thanks to Ten Ton Marketing for these questions.)

  • What’s this person’s role in the buying process? Decision maker, champion, or influencer?
  • What work issues keep this person up at night?
  • What motivates this person to take action?
  • How familiar is s/he with the solution you offer?
  • What sources does this person turn to for information and daily news?
  • How does the prospect go about making business decisions?
  • What types of organizations does this person belong to and what events does he or she attend?
  • Does this person seek advice from colleagues, industry peers, and/or unbiased third parties? If so, where?
  • How is he or she dealing with the problem today?
  • What phrases does the prospect use to describe the issues he or she is facing?
  • Does this person prefer high-level details or a deep dive into a topic?
  • What prevents this type of buyer from choosing us?

4. Leverage all contact points.

To get answers to these questions, get information from all the places you can. Talk to people who deal with customers, like support and sales.

  • Ask questions on Linkedin and Twitter.
  • Create a survey in a tool like SurveyMonkey and have inside sales call to complete it.
  • Participate in blogs and online communities.
  • Ask questions and keep asking—till you get a 360 degree view.
  • And most importantly, conduct direct interviews of buyers to uncover the real reasons behind their purchase decisions.

5. Revise it every few months.

Don’t think one and done. Personas are an endless quest for perfection.  You’ll continually learn more and more. So periodically revisit your personas and make them better and better. Set bi-monthly meetings to review.

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