Gene Simmons once said "You have to understand that nothing appeals to everybody."
And it makes total sense.
Love or hate KISS, they did (and still do!) what they’re good at.
They’ve amassed a huge following and, let’s face it, kinda have their own thing going on.
The band’s success has never relied on trying to please everyone.
It comes from their understanding of the audience that has so wholeheartedly embraced their music.
And of course, their style.
In a bid to attune to the modern buyer, many brands try too hard to be everything.
But reality is, your time is better spent figuring out exactly who it is you’re trying to reach and tuning your marketing messages to fit the stage you’re on.
Marketers are waking up.
They’re finding new ways to cut through the noise and focus their efforts. So if you haven’t already taken steps to define your ideal prospect, now’s the time...
Buyer personas: Method to the madness
We’ve already discussed the purpose and context of buyer personas. But let’s recap.
Detailed representations of your ideal customer, buyer personas are based on demographics, behaviour, education, personal histories, motivations and concerns.
They act as a ‘composite sketch’ which, as B2B expert Ardath Albee explains:
‘...focus on the roles and responsibilities of the particular people you’re going to try to establish dialogue and conversation with’.
In short, they help you define the audience you’re trying to reach, help and ultimately sell to.
Personas go beyond the raw statistics to facilitate targeted, creative, personalised marketing messages. They bring sense and direction to the content you create, allowing you to speak directly to the needs of your niche and confront their pain points head on.
These days, people care only for their own problems, not your product.
Buyer personas give insight into the drives and afflictions that make your customers human, and what influences their decisions.
What many fail to see, is that B2B purchase decisions are personal and emotional.
It’s the buyer’s neck on the line after all. It’s their responsibility to deliver a sound ROI and it’s their job, their career, their livelihood that relies on them making the right choices.
How do you create a buyer persona?
OK, now I’m going to take you, step by step, through the process we use at SupaReal to create buyer personas for our clients.
I doubt the first step will come as a surprise to you.
It’s probably something you’re doing already - or should be doing anyway.
Start listening to your customers. Like, really listen.
Listen to their problems, to their questions and the things they complain about. Capture the things that make their day and those that put a bloody big smile on their face!
It means leaving any assumptions firmly at the door.
Be ready for surprises.
Get to know your customers inside out - they are, after all, your biggest advocates and only they know exactly why they chose you.
We follow a simple, yet rigorous five-stage strategy that allows us to drill down into the type of person(s) businesses are trying attract, and develop accurate buyer personas...
1. Workshop with customer facing teams
Internal workshops with customer facing teams (e.g. service and sales) should aim to glean valuable information and actionable insights into how existing customers behave - their vices and their reasons for coming to you.
There is often a disconnect between this front of house environment and more senior roles. So make sure you’re getting input from the frontline teams who deal with buyers on a daily basis.
This practice helps to engage the whole team and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Pick their brains, be inquisitive and curious. Dig down into anecdotes and experiences, and ask the questions that help to build a picture of who the business is selling to and why.
Workshop questions often include:
- What type of customers do you typically have?
- How would you describe and define your ideal customers?
- Why do different types of customers typically make a purchase?
- What reasons do they cite for selecting you?
- What are their most common objectives?
- What kind of issues are they challenged with? That they complain about?
- What kind of characters and personalities are they?
2. Desk research key trends and themes
It’s time to step back, take a retrospective look at the information you’ve gathered and supplement it with your own research into the key trends and themes in your buyer’s industry.
Read blog posts, download relevant eBooks and get to know exactly what kind of content is out there already. This may help to give a strong indication of what your audience is interested in. Trade publications in a specific sector, for instance, are often great sources of insight into hot topics, trends and challenges that could be consuming the minds of your buyers.
Social media and online tools such a Buzzsumo will help you to discover what engages this audience, the content types that perform well (and those that are about as interesting as your bi-annual trip to buy dishwasher salt).
Research and connect with industry influencers - what is it they’re doing that’s just so… right?
You need to get under your buyer’s skin, put yourself in their shoes (and all manner of cliches).
Understand what they want, where they want it and how they want it.
Want actionable advice?
Go to LinkedIn now and look at what key people that fit the buyer profile you are looking to attract share online. A quick review of their last few posts and interactions can tell you a lot.
3. Conduct one-to-one interviews
Interview current clients (recent buyers will require less guessing and find it easier to relive the scenario) and develop an early buyer persona prototype.
Get to the crux of things. Effective persona interviews encourage your buyers to tell you the story about what engaged them, and what didn’t, as they progressed through their journey.
You need an agenda, not a script.
Let them speak for 90% of the time. Convince the buyer to say more. Guide them with the right type of questioning, seek endless detail about how a buyer decides and you’ll learn amazing things about your marketing that you never knew!
Asking industry specific, open-ended questions will encourage interviewees to share detail.
For example, what are the biggest marketing challenges facing the automotive industry? Or, what are the top priorities for IT managers within the medical sector?
Ignite their passion, find out what rocks their world...at least from 9am to 5pm anyway.
Interview questions could include (by no means an exhaustive list):
- What is your job role?
- How is your job measured?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What skills are required to do your job?
- What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?
- Who do you report to?
- In which industry does your company work?
- What is the size of your company?
- What are you responsible for?
- What does it mean to be successful in your role?
- What are your biggest challenges?
- What keeps you awake at night?
- What’s the toughest part of your working day/week?
- Are there any opportunities you think you should be exploring?
- What prevents you from exploring new opportunities?
- How do you learn about new information for your job?
- What publications or blogs do you read?
- What associations and social networks do you belong to?
- How would you describe your peer network?
- Which companies and individuals do you consider thought leaders?
- What prompted the search for a new solution?
- How do you generally explore and define a new need or problem to solve?
- How do you prefer to interact with vendors?
- Do you use the internet to research vendors or products - if yes, how?
- Describe a recent purchase - why did you consider it, what was the evaluation process?
- How easy is it to find relevant information about products and vendors online?
- What do you find most frustrating about researching products and vendors online?
- Who else is generally involved in researching and procuring new products and services?
- What is your role in the buying process compared to others?
Be as thorough as is humanly possible and adapt the questions to your industry. Extract and absorb as much knowledge as you can.
Remember, these are your customers - what worked for them will likely work for others.
4. Persona development workshop
Now that you have a solid understanding of who you’re trying to sell to, start to map out the context behind the buying journey of your B2B persona.
Bring together your key team players to do this, maybe even include some of those you involved at the first step.
Bring a behavioural dimension to your personas.
Identify key triggers and define changing needs and expectations, at the different stages of the buying journey...
- What causes the buyer persona’s search for your solution?
- What results or outcomes do they expect from the awareness stage?
- Why would this persona be unlikely to purchase this solution?
- What platforms do they use to compare options and make decisions?
- What role does this buyer persona play at each stage of the buying process?
- Who else will be involved at different stages and what is their influence of the decision?
This second workshop will help you to begin to form a clear vision of the who your persona is, what influences them on the path to purchase and their overall role in the final buying decision.
5. Write up, design, validate, finalise
Once you’ve gathered every scrap, shred and morsel of research and buyer information at your disposal, begin to piece together and polish up your final persona.
Remember, all of your efforts from here on out will be dictated by your persona(s), so be sure to include as much detail as possible.
Give them a name.
Give them drives, ambitions and pitfalls. Nobody’s perfect after all.
Find some representative pictures so we can visualise what they look like.
Make them feel real.
Include quotes of things they would actually say.
And be sure they’re actually helpful. Whilst it’s great to create a realistic embodiment of the customer you are aiming to reach, not all that information will be relevant when it comes to deciding what content you need to create.
Make the final persona document and description clear, well written, structured under headings, visual and professionally designed.
This really makes a difference.
Now you’re ready to get out there and start creating buyer personas of your very own.
Of course, the B2B buyer’s journey can seem baffling at times.
But if you can ask the right questions, show attention to detail and focus your marketing efforts, there’s serious scope to reach your niche with perceptive, canny content and communications.
Remember, these aren’t static documents either. You’ll need to continuously revisit and update each one in-line with your business ambitions.
Personas are there to help you bring method to the madness.