In the online dating world, we create a profile that we hope will attract the right match for us. We include our physical characteristics, profession, likes, dislikes, goals, aspirations, personality traits, and whatever else we want a potential partner to know. Then, we post it online and hope the "perfect" match swipes right on our profile.
If you are groaning over the thought of dating online (or living it), consider this. If you are in a B2B marketing role at a brand, you are responsible for something very similar every day. Your company’s ideal customer is out there looking for you, and it is your responsibility to make sure they swipe right on your brand. Your company’s buyer persona is very much like your perfect match.
What is a Buyer Persona?
According to our B2B spirit guide Hubspot, a persona is "a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers." A persona is a profile of your ideal customer, that person looking for a product or service like yours to solve a pain point or conflict. It is a summary of your brand's “type” if you want to continue the dating metaphor. In fact, many brands create a description of an actual person, like a dating profile, for their customer personas.
Why Create a Persona?
Creating a persona humanizes your target audience so you can tailor your business efforts more effectively. When you build a profile of your ideal customer, you will better understand their characteristics, behaviors, goals, pain points, and more. You can identify their purchase decision-making process, how they like to communicate, who they need to include in the decision, and more.
Marketing and advertising campaigns are expensive. Without personas, your campaigns may not reach the customers interested in purchasing your products or services. When you focus on a target persona, you avoid wasting budget and other resources because you are speaking to an actual person instead of shouting into the crowd.
Here's a simple example. Say you are the marketing and sales director for a CRM software for hospitality companies. Your customer persona is likely a company's marketing decision-maker (CMO or VP of Marketing). So, with that knowledge, you focus your sales efforts on hospitality conferences and your marketing efforts on buying an industry list. Without that specific customer persona, your efforts may target a more general business audience who may not be interested in your product.
By identifying your customer persona, you can better position your brand [Link to Positioning blog], an important element of brand strategy. Remember that your target audience owns the brain space you want to occupy. Targeting that specific person results in more “sticky” messaging, higher conversion rates, and better ROI for marketing and sales efforts.
Need proof? Here it is. 56% of companies say they produce higher quality leads using customer personas. Overall, 73% of companies currently use or plan to use buyer personas.
The Difference Between B2C and B2B Personas
While a persona is always a customer profile, there are slight differences between a B2B (business-to-business) persona and a B2C (business-to-consumer) persona.
A B2B persona is the ideal customer for a company that sells products or services to businesses. The persona includes target company size, industry, and location as well as the customer’s role, title, and responsibilities. It could portray the decision maker and/or the end user within the buying organization, which may be different people. So, B2B personas tend to include more elements because of a longer and more complex purchasing process.
In contrast, a B2C persona focuses on the ideal customer for a company that sells directly to consumers. It features the characteristics, behaviors, and preferences of an individual consumer. A B2C persona is based on individual factors such as age, gender, income, interests, and lifestyle. The goal is to understand the emotional and practical needs of that ideal customer and how a product or service can satisfy them.
How Personas Can Feed a Content Strategy
To be effective, all marketing content should have a clear target audience and measurable goals. That means understanding who you want to read your content, where they will find it, and what you want them to do once they've consumed it. Of course, you can only do this with complete B2B personas in place.
Here's a case study. Skytap, a cloud automation solution, used customer personas to launch a content marketing strategy to generate and convert more leads. The year-over-year results were:
- 210% increase in website traffic
- 55% increase in organic search traffic
- 97% increase in leads from online marketing
- 124% increase in leads from all channels (online and offline events)
- 73% increase in opportunities from online marketing
These results would not have been as remarkable without a deep understanding of the company’s buyers. These insights helped the marketing team create winning pieces of content such as:
- Case studies and testimonials featuring satisfied customers
- Blog categories, titles, and tags based on critical customer search keywords
- Blog posts and website copy speaking to specific customer roles/positions
By using personas for content creation, you will create strong content that is relevant and engaging for your target audience. You'll see it in your ROI.
How to Create a Great Persona
You'll need a team to create a relevant customer persona for your brand. Effective personas combine data from several departments, including product development, finance, marketing, sales, customer service, and customer analytics. If there is time and budget, you should also deploy a team to perform key customer interviews as well. The more information you have about your current customers, the more accurate your personas will be.
First, a solid persona is based on solid customer demographics, psychographics, behavioral information, and insights from market segmentation. Demographics include age, location, family information, occupation, seniority and title at their employer, and decision-making responsibilities.
B2B buying decisions are rarely made by one person. So, find out who the ultimate end user is and who the purchase decision-maker is. Are they the same person? If not, who is actually searching for the solution? This means you need to develop several different personas and understand how they work with each other when making purchasing decisions. You will also need to create marketing messages that appeal to each persona.
Also, knowing what drives a potential customer to look for your product or service is essential. You know this by identifying the problem or pain point that businessperson is experiencing and the type of solution they need. It's also important to know where a customer may be searching for a solution and what features of your solution factors into their ultimate decision. These features include price, ease of use, implementation process, or integration with existing processes or technology.
Learn about your competitors, how they promote to their customers, and which of their products your customers may be using. In addition, understanding what product comparisons your potential customers may be making between your brand and others is critical.
Also, pinpoint how your ideal customer consumes industry information and prefers to communicate with salespeople. You should also understand their purchasing process and timetable, including when their annual budgeting season is.
Once you have gathered all relevant data, look for common themes. These themes can help you identify if you need more than one persona. By involving multiple departments in creating customer personas, you will create more detailed and accurate profiles of your target audience, better informing your future business activities.
B2B Persona Examples
Your B2B personas can be very much like dating profiles. Make them avatars by giving them names and faces (now that’s a good use of AI tools!) A good customer persona should include:
- Decision-maker: yes or no
- Salary/Seniority level
- Personality (for example: data-driven and analytical or human-focused and emotional)
- Overall goals/motivations
- Problem/challenges to solve
- Important decision factors (price,
- Common objections
- Tools they use to do their job
- Purchasing time table
- Others in the company who might need to be involved
- Preferred communication channels
- Product/service features that solve their problems
- Elevator pitch
Creating a B2B customer persona is vital to identifying and understanding your target audience, improving your effectiveness of marketing campaigns, guiding product development, enhancing customer experience, and driving company profitability. In short, creating a strong B2B customer persona can help your brand be more "swipe-right-worthy" to the people who need to know about your product or service.
Putting all cute metaphors aside, remember to be thoughtful and analytical when writing your personas. Build them on your Brand DNA map, the foundation of what is true about your brand, your audience, and the competitive landscape. If you need help building that DNA map, identifying your customer personas, or utilizing personas successfully, contact us—our brand experts are here to help.