Using Buyer Personas in B2B Marketing


B2B Lead Generation | Buyer Personas

Personas
Buyer Persona models at Kadient

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I’ve long argued that Buyer Personas are THE basic building block of B2B marketing today.

But Jim Burns of Avitage told me that companies he talks to claim “We know our buyers.” But do they really?

I’ve experienced this too, Jim. In fact, a small software company in Florida simply called a meeting and discussed personas. Sorry, those are not personas. 

A bit of digging reveals that, while many executives may think they know buyers, they lack the deep insights needed for real buyer personas.

Please note that standardized buyer personas work regardless of industry. Take the same list of questions to a financial services market, a retail market, an accounting market, etc.

What companies need to do is develop a standard written template for buyer personas. This written template should contain all the questions that the company will ask for standard buyer personas.

To come up wish a list of questions for the written template, let’s look to the great post by Barbra Gago of LeftBrain Marketing for the Content Marketing Institute, entitled 20 Ways Buyers Consume Content.

I suggest you design headings and group your questions along these lines:

How do they like to access info?

Questions to ask:

  • Do they attend events? In-person or online?
  • Do they subscribe to RSS feeds?
  • Do they like email newsletters?
  • Do they access content online or via a mobile device?
  • Do they get most of their information during work hours or at home?
  • Do they get their information through word-of-mouth from their business community?
  • Does advertising play a role?

How to find this info:

Knowing the right questions to ask is key, but getting the answers can be a bit more tricky. The easiest way to get a real sense of how your buyers are leveraging content through these channels is to talk to them:

  • Interview new customers
  • Conduct a survey with a trusted research firm (and publish the results if appropriate)
  • Engage in conversations with thought leaders in the space.

I am currently working on a project where I need to get into the minds of engineers.  I am reaching out specifically to engineers who are active in their communities online. Because they are already engaged within the community, many of them have been very open to a 15-20 minute call. This has been extremely helpful not just to get the information, but also to affirm assumptions that I have made.

What topics interest them?

Questions to ask:

  • What content are they consuming?
  • Why are they consuming that content?
  • What format is their preferred content in?
  • Is the content they need  to make a purchasing decision different from their primary interests?

How to find this info:

Your web analytics can be the easiest way to determine what content your buyers are interested in and what formats they prefer. Take a look at what topics are the most popular on your site (e.g., blog posts or product pages) and cross-reference the format in which that content is presented.

Talking to your sales team can also shed some insight on the kinds of content they need for themselves as well as for any decision makers at the client site.

How much information do they want to receive?

Questions to ask:

  • How often are they exposed to new content/information?
  • Do they subscribe to RSS feeds?
  • How often do they log on to social networks? Which ones?
  • Do they attend events frequently? (Which events do they attend?)
  • How much content do they consume at different stages of their buying process? Do they need more at the early, mid or later stages of buying?

How to find this info:

Knowing how much information your buyers want to receive – and how they want to receive it – is difficult to discover unless you have some conversations.

Providing an RSS feed on your blog or website sheds insight into how often buyers are actively engaging with the new content you provide, but this is not the only metric to track. There are a lot of other places these people are getting their information. Consider talking to owners of other popular sites that your buyers are visiting regularly, or examining community engagement. Evaluate how often people are commenting or posting new content to community sites.

Who or what influences them?

Questions to ask:

  • Where do they like to get content?
  • Who do they get their content from? Industry analysts, vendors, thought leaders, friends?
  • How does the format of content they consume change throughout the buying process?
  • Are there internal/external influences in the kind of content they choose to consume? (Does an internal event trigger certain content consumption? Does the community itself drive the content needs/expectations of individuals?)
________________________
Thanks, Barbra. Great list!

 

Starting with a list like this, you can obviously add and subtract questions. Use it, test it and refine. But once it is stable, set it in stone. Developing standardized, written buyer personas in a standard format is a key element of B2B marketing.
What do you think? We love comments. We love people who share. We love subscribers too!

 

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Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers. Find New Customers helps companies dramatically improve revenue results by transforming the ways they attract and earn the trust of prospective customers. Contact Find New Customers by calling (516) 495-9350 or sending an email to sales at findnewcustomers.com.

Find New Customers helps companies (with between 150 and 5,000 employees who sell complex products to businesses) to implement world-class lead generation programs. As companies struggle to create quality sales opportunities, they turn to lead generation companies like Find New Customers.

“If more companies listened to (Find New Customers) a lot more would be sold.” Dan McDade, Pointclear.

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3 thoughts on “Using Buyer Personas in B2B Marketing

  1. I am in complete agreement that most companies only think they know their buyers. The problem is twofold — the information they have is inaccurate, and the type of information they think they need is far too narrow.

    If we can’t change these perceptions, buyer personas will fail to achieve their potential to be, as you say, “THE basic building block of B2B marketing.” This would be a shame, because the need for strategic marketing has never been greater, and the value of personas to enable this transition is HUGE!

    I’m working on this problem too and have two resources that your readers might find helpful. I have free (no registration) templates available at http://www.buyerpersona.com/buyer-persona-templates. These will help to expose the other categories of insights companies should have. And to help people understand the depth of information, you might refer them to the Five Rings of Insight for buyer personas at http://www.buyerpersona.com/what-is-a-buyer-persona.

    Thanks for your help with this important topic Jeff. And I’d love to get your feedback on the info on my site. We need to work together to make this happen.

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