Buyer Personas in B2B Marketing and Why You Need Them

 

Ideal customerOne 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.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the mention Phil, and for talking about the importance of buyer insight as the foundation for B2B marketing. The key is to gain factual, in-depth information about why a buyer chooses you, another company, or to do nothing at all. This information doesn’t exist in the company today . . . it needs to be discovered through in-depth, unscripted interviews. Surveys presume that we know what questions to ask and interfere with the real goal — getting the buyer to tell his/her story and learning what we could do better.

  2. Thanks for the mention Phil, and for talking about the importance of buyer insight as the foundation for B2B marketing.
    The key is to gain factual, in-depth information about why a buyer
    chooses you, another company, or to do nothing at all. This information
    doesn’t exist in the company today . . . it needs to be discovered
    through in-depth, unscripted interviews. Surveys presume that we know
    what questions to ask and interfere with the real goal — listening to the
    buyer tell his/her story and learning something meaningful about what we could do to persuade or impress them.

    I appreciate your help — marketers have the potential to have far more influence over the revenue outcome, even in complex B2B sales, as buyers are now 60 or 70% of the way through their decision process before they talk to Sales.

  3. Adele, you make some great points. Of course I would expect you would given your expertise in this subject area. I appreciate you elaborating here for our readers.

    With the Duct Tape Marketing System this is one of those critical areas that we address with our clients very early in the process of developing a marketing strategy that works. Thanks for the work you have done in this area.

  4. Very impressive article Phil…You are right B2B Marketing has been changed drastically..and we must know what our customers looking for and why they choose us or some other company..all these information can help a lot in improving & enhancing our marketing strategy which will bring great profit ultimately…
    Thanks for sharing it with us!

  5. So far, I’ve come across very informative articles, this blog is just awesome! Your posts connects to readers from any profession. Regarding winning customers, I agree that our clients are our first priority, without our clients/customers we cannot run a business and B2B marketing perfectly explains about this relation.

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