What are your personas missing?
Buyer personas, otherwise known as marketing personas – have been around for a while now. And the internet is clouded with different advice and templates.
So much so that buyer personas vary greatly in different industries, sectors and countries across the globe.
Naturally, this makes sense as what you want to understand about your clients could be quite different to what we as a business want to know.
But it begs the question: What are the most important characteristics to include in a buyer persona?
This varies depending on whether your persona is representing a B2B or B2C segment.
What’s the difference between B2C and B2B personas?
First of all, they have different motivations. A B2B buyer is trying to help their organisation or move up the career ladder. Whereas, a B2C buyer is motivated by improving their own experience or that of their friends and family.
B2B buyers also have to think collectively as opposed to a decision just for themselves. Therefore, B2B buyers are typically more conservative, less impulsive and more cautious than their B2C counterparts.
How do we translate this into B2B personas?
It’s important to include job title, organisation and industry. For instance, a marketing manager in a pharmaceuticals company will be very different from a marketing manager in a clothing company.
Both have the same title, but their jobs and industries have different requirements. Basically it boils down to generalising less, and documenting more. The more information you have about your buyer personas: the better.
Here’s 3 things you need to consider:
“Buyer personas that don’t help you figure out how the buyer finds and chooses you and your business are useless.” – Duncan Connor
It’s all very well gathering detailed information about your different personas, but not all information is created equal.
For example, a company that supplies cleaning products to airports doesn’t need to know that their buyers watch Game of Thrones.
This could be relevant for B2C personas, but it is unlikely to help you as a B2B marketer.
We need to fish through all the data and highlight where our customer characteristics and our business interests intersect.
This is where the opportunities lie.
You can label this section in a number of ways. At Blue Eye Deer, we call this section, “How can <insert business> help?” This comes after your goals and challenges’ sections.
This section is about: How can your business meet your buyer’s goals and challenges?
This is the interception point where B2B personas are at their most powerful.
Here’s an example:
Name: Marketing Mark
Prove the value of his team to the directors of the company
Get his team recognised by the company
Better utilise the different skills in his team and grow them into better marketers
Wants his team to be innovative but he’s constantly having to justify every dollar spent
Accessing and reporting on the right metrics from different email, SEO, social and advertising platforms is time-consuming and confusing
His marketing budget gets slimmer every year yet the directors want the same results
How can Smarketing help?
Marketing efforts are simplified by having all of the various channels in the same platform
Analysis is easier with all of the data (email, SEO, social etc.) in the same place
Report building is faster with automated reports based on real-time data
Smarketing is a fictional CMS platform that directly provides solutions to some of the buyer’s challenges. This is an ideal scenario, but it is not always the case.
What if you were a company that sold cleaning products to airports like in our earlier example? How then would your company address your personas’ goals and challenges?
You might not be able to directly address your personas’ pain-points/challenges, but you can add value in other ways.
Just like with the 3 levels of product concept you can provide value with the outer two layers of your product. Indeed, brands such as Microsoft and IBM provide immense value with the actual and augmented product layers. These layers include the brand name, quality control and after-sale service.
Both Microsoft and IBM have rival competitors who make similar products and offer similar services. Yet, these B2B brands are the most powerful in the world.
The secret lies in branding, messaging and understanding customer pain-points. And the branding and messaging is how you can demonstrate that you understand your buyer's pain-points.
This is where many marketing personas finish. But the real value for your buyers' is explaining how your product/service can help them achieve their goals and meet their challenges.
So, make sure you include how your organisation can help your marketing personas. This will help to change your buyer personas from being useless to useful.
2) Persona Stories:
“Behind every person, behind every company, behind everything, is a story of how it got there – and the most relevant stories connect on a personal level.” – Beth Comstock
Buyer or persona stories are where you bring your personas to life.
As a content writer, I don’t gain inspiration from staring at a list of empty demographic and behavioral information... I’m guessing that you don’t either.
Persona stories take all the qualitative and quantitative information and you guessed it; craft it into stories.
Why should you do this? Well, what is the purpose of buyer personas?
To better understand your different customer segments.
Persona stories take all the static data and humanise your customers. Your personas are not their ages, jobs, goals... they are the sum of all parts.
Persona stories complete this equation and help you as a marketer to better understand who these people are.
Here’s what your buyer stories should include:
A day in the life of...
What does your buyer’s average day look like? What do they enjoy about each day? What frustrates them?
Information Search Process
How does your persona search for information?
If it’s Google: what time of day does this usually occur? Do they search on mobile, desktop or tablet? Is this at home, work or in between?
What do they expect from your product/service? How would they use your product/service? How would this influence their day?
Here’s what a persona story could look like in reality:
Mark is a busy marketing manager who loves football, spending time with his family and traveling. Instead of being stuck in traffic, Mark takes the train to work every day and uses the time to watch highlights of his favourite football team and check the news on his tablet. At work, Mark manages a team of five and enjoys working with a diverse range of people. However, Mark is often left frustrated by directors who are always pressing him for performance statistics and questioning his marketing budget. Instead of having to search and compile all the statistics himself, Mark wants all the relevant data to be compiled into a report that is sent to his inbox once a week. In addition, having an easily accessible marketing dashboard would make his job a whole lot easier. Mark would be willing to invest in any product that collects, collates and visualises the most relevant data required for reporting. Beyond all else, Mark values simplicity and functionality.
By crafting persona stories, you can connect the dots between quantitative and qualitative data. More importantly, stories humanise your personas and make them more relatable to your organisation.
3) The Why:
Many marketing personas only just scratch the surface. Humans are complicated creatures and we all make decisions for different reasons.
As a B2B buyer, there is more responsibility to make the right decisions. The buyer’s professional reputation, income and future is on the line.
A B2B buyer is making purchase decisions on behalf of the business. But, B2B buyers don’t make decisions purely on a "this will help the business" basis.
In fact, personal value was found to have a greater impact on decision making than business impact. So much for logic and reasoning dominating B2B decision making...
This is why marketing personas that simply state empty facts - don’t cut the mustard, because they miss the primary drivers behind B2B buyer decisions.
Let’s make a comparison:
Jeff uses LinkedIn 2-3 times a week. He typically checks is feed in the morning before work and after 7pm during the week.
Jeff uses LinkedIn 2-3 times a week. He uses LinkedIn because he wants to keep up with industry trends and be known as an expert in his field.
As you can see, persona 1 has good information enabling marketers to target the times when the buyer is online. However, this offers little information about how the buyer is actually using LinkedIn.
Posting content at the right time will fall flat if you don't understand what your buyer wants to see and how he wants to see it. Not only should the content be relevant to the buyer, it should also be contextualised with the buyer’s motivation.
As you develop your personas, ask yourself these two questions:
What are the buyer’s motivations?
What are the buyer’s concerns?
As you've been scanning this article, you might have identified different areas where your marketing personas could improve in. The key takeaways are to identify how your business can help your buyers, develop persona stories and researching your buyer's motivations. By doing this, you can develop personas that are 'human', are detailed, and relevant to your buyer's motivations. In this way, you can use your personas to drive both marketing and business decisions alike.