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B2B Buyer Personas: 6 Easy Ways to Research & Develop

In my previous post I shared 7 reasons B2B marketers need buyer personas. B2B buyer personas describe your ideal customers so that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attract, convert, and nurture the right people.

Now that you’re convinced you need buyer personas, these tips will help you get started. According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study high-performing companies use a variety of methods to compile insights about their buyers, while underperforming companies reported using fewer sources of data. So use as many of the tips below as you can to research and develop your B2B buyer personas.

Here are 6 tips for researching and developing B2B buyer personas:

1. Create (steal) a persona template – The first thing you need to know is what information will describe and personify your ideal customer so that it’s meaningful to internal users in marketing and sales. Create a buyer persona template with sections for the types of information you want to collect.

Why start from scratch when you can get persona templates for free. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll find many more in addition to these – HubSpot Buyer Persona Guide, Content Marketing Institute Target Persona Template, Content4Demand Buyer Profile Playbook. The HubSpot and CMI templates are simple to use, but I like the Content4Demand templates which are downloadable from within their Playbook because they are more comprehensive, providing a richer description of the persona. As you review the templates, take what makes sense for your situation to create your own custom buyer persona template. With this in hand, the rest of your B2B buyer persona research will fill in the blanks.

2. Analyze customer and prospect data – According to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America 64% of marketers use a dedicated email platform while 51% use a marketing automation system. That’s a lot of contact data. Plus you’ve likely got a CRM system with even more customer and prospect data. Mine your contact data for things like contact titles, company types, gender, and vertical. Use this information to focus in on specific LinkedIn profiles (see #5 below). You can also use this data to segment and send a survey to your contacts to gather insights.

It is concerning to see that only 47% of B2B marketers use buyer personas according to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America even though more than half use a dedicated email platform or marketing automation system. Apparently these marketers aren’t convinced they need buyer personas.

3. Interview sales – Your frontline sales people know who they want as customers and who have made the best customers in the past. The same goes for Key Account or National Account sales people. So interview your sales team to learn who they see as your ideal customer. Be sure to pick sales people from the different geographies you sell into and with experience in the persona’s vertical. It may also be insightful to interview sales support or account managers. Depending on your product/service and company structure, these people probably know your existing customers better than anyone else.

Attending regional or national sales meetings is a great way to get in-person interviews with sales. Of course picking up the phone works too, especially if timing is an issue. Interviewing sales team members has the added bonus of helping align sales and marketing.

4. Interview your customers and prospects – There’s nothing better than hearing firsthand what your customers and prospects think, how they find information, and who they look to for advice. If you have time and access, conduct in-person or phone interviews with customers and prospects.B2B buyer personas

Trade shows can be a great place to do quick in-person interviews, as are sales ride-alongs. Or review your CRM database with guidance from sales to find suitable customers and prospects to interview over the phone. Be sure to keep the call less than 30 minutes, 15 minutes is better.

5. Use LinkedIn – Search LinkedIn to find real customers, prospects, and others similar to them using titles, companies, and verticals. Look at individual profiles to learn their education level, interests, “typical” background, certifications, associations, and years of experience. See what LinkedIn groups they belong to and who they follow.

LinkedIn job postings for the titles/roles you are researching can provide additional insight. For instance, things like education, background and experience, certifications, plus their responsibilities and goals. You may need a LinkedIn Premium account to see the information you want, but can drop back to a free Basic account afterwards.

6. Interview customer service – You may need to understand and describe those who actually use your product, a user persona, especially if your marketing efforts include customer retention goals. The user of your product or service often has direct influence on renewal/repurchase decisions. Your customer service reps know better than anyone else in your company what describes your ideal user . They know their challenges, typical titles/role in the company, where they go to get information, and how their input factors into the buying decision.

You may only need one persona to improve your marketing results and can add others later. Developing buyer personas is a bit like exercising — it can be hard to get going and there’s many ways to go about it. But like the Nike slogan – Just Do It! Using these tips can make getting started on your highest priority persona easy.

What techniques have you found effective for researching and developing B2B buyer personas?

 

7 Reasons Every B2B Marketing Strategy Needs Buyer Personas

Are you confident your B2B marketing efforts are targeting the right audience? Most B2B buyers today self-educate long before reaching out to sales. That’s why your B2B marketing strategy needs buyer personas.

You’ve seen the numbers — 57% of the purchase decision happens before sales gets involved according to CEB and 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally according to SiriusDecisions.  Therefore, it’s more important than ever that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attracts, converts, and nurtures the right people – your ideal customer or buyer persona.

Here are 7 reasons your B2B marketing strategy needs buyer personas:

  1. B2B buying is complicated – Most B2B buying decisions aren’t made by one person. Sure, there may be a single signature on the contract or PO. However, usually a buying team has purchasing, technical and functional experts. In addition, senior management weights in on final B2B purchase decisions. In fact, CEB’s research shows that an average of 5.4 people are involved in B2B buying decisions. Personas help marketing reach and influence each person on the buying team.
  2. Helps you prioritize – Every marketing team has limited resources. The persona development process helps you and your marketing team (and sales) really home in on your ideal prospects. In addition to the role of your ideal customer (see above), developing personas forces everyone to think about and prioritize verticals, geography, etc. that will drive growth for your organization.
  3. Improves sales and marketing alignment – Since marketing works closely with sales to develop personas, this naturally drives alignment between marketing and sales teams. Marketing will learn from sales, and marketing and sales will be aligned on reaching the priority prospects. The personas you develop can become part of sales on-boarding. This helps new sales reps ramp up more quickly and align them with marketing.
  4. Improves lead quality –Creating your marketing campaigns and content with your persona in mind will naturally attract people more likely to convert to leads. And those leads will be easier to segment for more targeted, personalized and engaging campaigns resulting in more effective nurturing. Marketing will be handing off higher quality leads to sales – sales will love you!
  5. Better focus channels – Do your research right and you’ll know where your personas go to educate themselves and research new solutions. This means you can save time and money by devoting resources and promoting your content to the channels where your personas are, not where you think they might be.
  6. Improves content topic ideation – Without personas your team will be wasting time trying to guess what topics will be of interest. Even worse, you may be developing marketing content that never gets seen. Well-developed personas clearly spell out pain points and challenges, interests, common problems, goals, etc. This makes it much easier to develop topics that resonate with and engage your ideal prospect.

During the persona development process you will invariably uncover internal resources for developing future topics and content.

7. Quicker and better content – Having a persona to share when making content development requests or assignments helps ensure it’s written with the right audience in mind. This is true no matter who the writer is, a new marketing team member, guest blogger, outside writer, or internal subject matter expert. You’ll save time and improve your content.

According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study, companies that exceeded their lead and revenue goals were 2.2 times more likely to have and document buyer personas than companies that miss their goals. So what’s holding you back? Isn’t it time your B2B marketing strategy includes formalized buyer personas for marketing success? Learn more by reading 6 Easy Ways to Research and Develop Buyer Personas.

 

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