By John Kennedy on 2017-03-06 16:00
All too often, technology companies define their markets in meaningless terms that fail to connect marketing and sales with prospective buyers. The problem with vague target market definitions and weak buyer personas is that they have not kept pace with how buyer behaviour has changed and fail to identify real buyers.
So the focus should be to develop actionable buyer personas to direct content strategy as a way to improve the entire sales and marketing functions to acquire, nurture and close sales leads.
Why Do We Need Buyer Personas?
Since only 30% of content marketers according to the Content Marketing Institute believe that they are effective with their content, creating content that targets a particular persona is increasingly more important if it is to achieve it's goals. So for your content to be effective it has to be written with a person in mind, especially if your aim is to stand out from the crowd.
Research has shown that buyers are increasingly relying on internet searches and content from authority sources to make buying decisions, with up to 74% of B2B buyers according to Forrester using this content online to make a purchase offline.
A well drawn up buyer persona will provide an outline on the motivations, challenges and purchase preferences of a prospect.
However, Personas Are Only A Starting Point.
Personas have been around for a while, but they’re growing in popularity because businesses are beginning to shift to an inbound approach to build relationships through deeper insight into buyers and their behaviour. There is now a higher customer expectation of an interaction that is both relevant and personalised. A buyer persona helps sales and marketing to understand what people want and how to interact with them based on their preferences.
What Is A Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional character created as a picture of an ideal customer, built around insights and common patterns of behaviour. These audience profiles are commonly "pen portraits" including avatars and fictional names that help us visualise and entrench the picture in our mind of the buyer long after we have read the memo.
The persona provides rich insight that can be picked up by sales and marketing to guide a sales strategy, help marketers design a campaign and work on engagement plans and digital experiences to generate and nurture leads.
Which Companies Can I Help? - Identify The Ideal Buyer Profile.
Before you can identify potential buyers, you need to define which buyers you can help and which buyers you can’t. This is called the Ideal Buyer Profile.
In a B2B context, here are some questions to consider when defining your ideal buyer profile.
- Company size?
- Geographic locations?
- Attributes of your buyer’s customers?
The ideal buyer profile defines which companies are a good fit for what you offer and which ones are not. The buyer persona defines the different buying patterns of people within your ideal buyer profile that you are going to target.
How To Create A Buyer Persona
To make personas actionable when you do your research mix information with qualitative insight that paints the "human face" of the customer with quantitative data that describes their decision making behaviour.
So start by defining the key information sources to build your buyer persona:
- Demographic — Location, salary, title, role, level of education, etc.
- Has there been any recent changes in the buyer’s role?
- Are you aware of what particular market forces may influence your buyer's behaviour?
- What issues does your buyer have to address?
- What does success look like for them or failure?
- How much experience does your buyer have?
- What is the decision making process?
- What is your buyer’s professional background?
- How do they research information?
- Interests — Active content downloads, emails opened, social media presence, etc.
- What is your buyer's motivation?
- What are their needs?
- What is your buyer looking to do?
- How active a buyer are they today?
- Historical — What can previous transactions reveals if this is an existing customer?
- Who does your buyer report to?
- Are you aware of the stakeholders in the decision making process?
- Do they have particular "hot buttons" that moves them along the sales funnel?
- Behavioural — Capturing data by visiting your website, social media profiles, etc.
- What is the attitude of the company’s business leaders toward technology?
- Do they believe in outsourcing or managing their technology internally?
- Does the business see IT as a cost center or a competitive advantage?
- Would you recognise the triggers of when they are ready to buy?
- Firmographic - Size of company, no. of employees, yearly revenue, etc.
- What type of organisation are they - risk averse, cost cutting or transforming?
- What is the organisation’s focus - price, quality, customer service, etc?
- What technology if any has your buyer purchased before and why?
Manage Your Personas Over Time
There is not a "right number" for how many buyers personas you create, but you need to be able to manage their research and development. So don't spread your resources too thin by trying to over reach with too many personas, because you will never have enough time to actually be responsive.
Personas should be nurtured. It does not mean that once you have defined them you forget them, but it also means that you need to take an approach where you learn and adjust.
After creating your buyer personas it makes sense to take time to map each one to specific moments on the buying journey. Where do you have contact with your prospective buyers, is there a particular order to their journey, and at which touch point could you influence them the most?
The Changing B2B (Business-to-Business) Sales Process
The sales process for the technology industry is complex and difficult to control. And with the increase in the numbers of B2B buyers “self researching”, it is important that your business is being found amongst the huge amount of online content that buyers use in their decision making process.
With so many touch points now in the sales process the sales cycle is also becoming longer because of:
- Budgets are tighter
- Fear of making a bad decision
- Buyers have more options
- More stakeholders involved so an increased level of complexity
- Reaching a consensus is a challenge
- Customers want to interact differently
What's The Difference Between Target Market And A Buyer Persona?
Target market is a specific part of the entire population that you as a business will use to categorise the customer who your will try to sell your products and services to. You will define the ideal buyer profile to narrow down these companies in a B2B context that you have some thing for, and those that you do not.
A buyer persona is a representation of who the individual buyers are, a definition of your ideal customer.
So target markets tend to be more group centric, buyer personas focus on the key buyers. Both play complementary roles in any sales and marketing strategy.
Keep Buyer Personas Top Of Mind
In order to not fall into the trap of spending time and money on creating your personas then not extracting the maximum value, the following are some actions to follow:
Keep on top of the changing market dynamics to see if you need to refresh what you have. By making personas a part of everybodies routine, take turns to have to present the personas to new members of the team and make it an integral part of learning about your company.
Communicate why personas are important, the value they have, what insights they provide and how they can be customised and used across the business.
The personas should be available for everybody to see across the organisation via the intranet, videos, webinars, posters, etc.
A Closed Loop
Personas work well when examples can be provided and recommendations made on for example touch points along the buyers journey. And remember to review and adjust your persona at regular times throughout the year to make sure you are on top of what is happening in your industry sector.
Download our Buyer's Personas templates and guide, to get you started and focused on your customers pain.
To make your buyers’ needs the focus of your marketing strategies and tactics, avoid these three common mistakes:
1. Don’t get too personal - the focus should be on how the buyer makes a decision
2. Stop basing your analysis on a "gut feeling" - talk to buyers and get their insights
3. Don’t develop too many buyer personas, because you will end up with too much work to be able to reap the benefits of a targeted approach
Personas can be powerful marketing tools to inform decisions, guide strategies, improve customer experience and enhance collaboration across your business.
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