One thing every expert will agree on is the face of B2B marketing has changed drastically in recent years. Connecting with your target audience has trumped the previous primary goal of a great campaign. Add to that the realization that the term “audience” is not nearly as homogeneous as we would like and– well, that makes things even more difficult.
Today’s effective B2B marketing relies on buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a detailed definition of your ideal customer (step one of the 7 Steps to Business Marketing Success). A look at end-of-year numbers can tell you who’s buying whatever you’re selling, but they don’t tell you why. Unless you know why people are choosing you, you can’t really understand how to appeal to them, making your B2B marketing useless. Not only that, but it will greatly enhance your customer service once they become your customers.
PR20/20′s Tracy DiMarino gives the example of two buyer personas that frequented her fast-food drive through window: Mommy Melissa and Businessman Bob. Melissa is more health and budget conscious; her visits are infrequent, usually related to current promotions or coupons. She’d rather linger in line a bit if doing so increased either content or value. Bob, however, has a routine and sticks to it. He wants the fast food because it’s fast, and doesn’t want to waste his valuable time being upsold on the new deep-fried cheesecake milkshake on a stick or whatever the special is this week.
These two customers will respond to very different marketing techniques. Anything mentioning “fast” or “convenient” will probably appeal to Businessman Bob. Mommy Melissa is more likely attracted by advertising health-friendly options like swapping milk out for soda. B2B buyer personas can present similar challenges.
It might seem a bit silly to sit down and invent imaginary customers, but the truth is it’s necessary in today’s B2B marketing world. The way we engage with businesses and buyers is more custom-tailored than ever before. The explosion of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have removed the barricades and trenches that used to separate businesses from their customer base. These days, just one negative comment online can bring a hurricane of trouble your way, which makes it even more vital to maintain loyalties and attract new blood with engaging B2B marketing campaigns. In response, we’re moving from aggressive sales approaches to more responsive ones.
Of course, we can’t market directly to each target customer; creating buyer personas for every possible personality out there is a recipe for disaster. Instead, think of them as B2B marketing archetypes. Their purpose is to identify the motivations of your customers. What are their goals and expectations? How can your business meet their individual needs while retaining mass appeal? Crafting a buyer persona helps marketers to provide a more customer-centric approach.
Sounds great, right? Happy business, happy customers. But how to begin?
The Buyer Persona Institute offers a great freetemplate to get things started. The key is to ask lots of questions. And you can’t cheat by saying “Our clients are students” or “Our customers drive motorcycles.” These elements are important, but miss the point of the buyer persona. JeremyVictor at B2B Bloggers reminds us that effective B2B marketing is done via a true buyer persona, and it
“goes beyond statistics and demographics, and defines behaviors, motivations, likes/dislikes, traits, etc. Its intent is to help you reach your customers on a human level.”
A good buyer persona is like an imaginary friend that’s grounded in business reality. Effective B2B marketing builds on existing data, adds a little extra detail, and doesn’t go overboard. If you find you’d like to grab coffee with your buyer persona on your lunch break, you’ve probably taken things just a bit too far.