A buyer persona is one of the many concepts in the discipline of market segmentation. This concept can also be called customer segmentation, ideal customer profile, profiling or similar terms used to address the creation of an imaginary person matching the description of the desired buyer for a certain product or a service. B2B buyer personas are similar to B2C profiles, but a bit more detailed and attached within an industry, just as the sales process in B2B is a wider and more complex one compared to the B2C buying process. This comes from the simple fact that in the B2B buying process the decisions for buying a product or a service is rarely dependent on one person but ruther on a team of people, and it often goes through more than one level of evaluation, assessment and consultancy.
Having this in mind, we may freely say that the creation of a B2B buyer persona starts with the basic psychographics, firmographics (details about their organization) and demographics of the prospect. Another very important detail about this persona is their job role and whether or not they are the decision maker or included in the decision making process.
This person represents a segment within a market and as such it is created using market research and customer data.
The process of creating the image of the desired B2B buyer persona is a process that helps sales teams better understand to whom they are selling, the needs of their customers and helps them in improving their products and services.
How useful the B2B buyer persona is in B2B marketing can be easily concluded by the following facts: buyer personas double the open rates in email marketing, the sales cycle that has used B2B lead generation buyer personas is up to a couple of months shorter, content based on buyer personas, when reaching out to cold leads, has more than 5 times increased engagement compared to non buyer persona based content; more than 70% of B2B buyers expect personalized content crafted for their needs.
And here is 5 more excellent reasons to create a buyer persona:
It gives you a better understanding of customers, allowing you to market to them more effectively.
It allows you to see if there are any personas you shouldn’t be marketing to.
It helps internal staff to understand customers better.
It allows you to understand how and when different personas interact with you along the customer journey.
It helps to guide decisions about the creation of new products and services.
Crafting the profile of the B2B buyer persona
When creating the image of this imaginary person there are some things which are absolutely essential to think about:
Demographic – once you have drawn the lines of the territory of interest, next to determine is the industry, company size and lastly – the job roles. In order to solidify the image of this person it is good to consider details like age and the highest level of education they have achieved. This will help you define some finer aspects of their personality and ease the imagined communication.
Decision making power – Messaging is key, literally. It is the key that opens the door to interest, engagement, communication and the sales process. This key opens the lock and the lock is the position of each persona and their role in the decision making process. You can determine this with a few simple questions: is this person a budget holder? Do they report to or do they advise the decision maker? Does this person’s opinion influence the final decision and in which phase are they involved?
The Decision to buy – what is important to your buyer persona? When speaking of B2B buyer personas you should look behind the curtain a little and find out what are the responsibilities of their role and which KPI`s are most important for them. This may be the number of sales, ROI, profit, revenue, reducing complaints, improving their processes or some other parameter defined in their company or industry.
Industry insights – the overall condition of a certain industry is also good information to add to this as context.
Inhibitors – challenges you must find a way around. The natural “stop” sign of human nature is fear. It is one of the main inhibitors in the decision making process. You need to be prepared to address these questions if they arise. Is your buyer persona already using services or products provided by a competitor? What are the reasons they are looking for a change? Is the market segment for some other reason resistant to what you bring on the table?
Positive character qualities that support a better quality communication and sales
B2B buyer personas focus more on the business side of their lives (industry, ambitions, achievements and career goals) but they are still people and it is always good to look into details that will bring their personal drivers to life. Some of these may be details about their hobbies, interests and activities out of office. Previous experiences with similar products and services and the current suppliers, though they are a part of a company, they still hold personal likes and dislikes of things. And the edge – what are their professional goals? How long have they been in the industry? What drives their ambitions? Will they be at a different position a year from now? Are they expecting a promotion or some other role change? Have they resolved their frustrations? Do they subscribe to certain ideologies? Do they make decisions based on suggestions, beliefs or plain numbers? Would they prefer a PEST analysis over a Market research analysis?
Adding the qualities of their personal psycho-dynamics will enrich the list of triggers you’ll be aware of when designing the approach for the B2B buyer persona.
While on the topic, the bottom line is always this: “How does your product or service help your potential buyers solve their problems and achieve their goals?”
So whenever you dwell over which details you should give more focus to, when creating this buyer persona, remember this and stick to the clear solutions.
Ensure you use preferred channels.
One of the most important things to look into is how and where you can reach out to the prospects. What communication channels do they prefer? Which social media platforms are they using? Which online space are they inhabiting and feel comfortable spending time in?
Constructing a B2B buyer persona: the main ingredient is information
Have you dug in deep? No you won’t be needing a shovel, but you will need to dig into information and details about your customers.
Digging – a common expression for research. Well done research is the foundation for everything that follows. Quality and quantity are both important, but the latter will give you a stronger base to jump off of.
Sources of information include web data, social media data, prospecting data. A CRM is also an excellent source of information if your company uses one. Let’s take a look at each source and where you should focus your attention.
Indicators on your website can be a source of great information. Google Analytics can provide you data such as bounce rate, conversions, session etc… If you slice this web data and extract groups by demographics, market segments, topics, age, gender and other parameters that are important for understanding your audience and prospects, you can start the base map of this B2B buyer persona.
Another useful source of information is social media. Listening on social media can provide you both quantitative and qualitative information about your customers, which you should use when creating a B2B buyer persona or when altering course and adjusting to market change.
Looking into your social media followers can give you information about their demographics, times of engagement and incentives. Groups on social media are also a valuable source of fresh information about which topics are of interest, peoples opinions as well as behavioural changes you might consider when building your buyer persona.
Social media – the grey zone
Social media profiles are on the rise, so you have plenty of places to discover valuable data. Your current and future prospect can be found on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and some other less known channels. Although, when speaking of business, LinkedIn is still the most used social network. When speaking of social media, there are few more things you must know: Social media accounts are personal assets, this includes LinkedIn profiles even though they are mostly engaged in professional networking and are a representation of professional achievements. It is important to keep this in mind if you do prospecting via the LinkedIn network for a few reasons. Firstly, this means that most of the profiles are created by their owners and they are free to choose the information they are willing to share. It is their own personal decision whether they will state their positions or not. Company control over how their employees and representatives configure their LinkedIn profiles varies. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that the owners of the profiles are not all equally educated in personal PR or in optimizing their profiles. Time spent on LinkedIn varies and different people have different perceptions of the value and functions of their professional networks. Having this in mind, you should expect some surprises when approaching the prospects through the network. You may come across profiles that are not updated or, at the other end of the spectrum, profiles that are bursting at the seams with information. To reiterate, LinkedIn profiles are personal assets.
This might be a good time to mention the network “scams”.
LinkedIn, like all other networks, is a place where scamming activities happen. Most of them are obvious and easy to detect, but some are not very obvious and you really need a sharp understanding of the trends to notice them.
This all brings us back to what we first pointed out, that LinkedIn profiles are personal assets and, as such, all the flaws of human behaviour are present.
The information you have collected in the process of prospecting such as job titles, seniority level, company size, industry and so on is a great input when you begin campaigning. Regardless of the channels you have used for prospecting data, this information will always be an advantage.
One of the most common prospecting tools used is LinkedIn Sales Navigator. As you will probably find a lot of useful information using it, there are a few things that are good to mention when it comes to creating the B2B buyer persona profiles.
Let’s start with an astonishing fact: LinkedIn uses a base of 20,000 titles.
The reason for mentioning this is because title definition is a very important part of crafting strategy when you are thinking about LinkedIn campaigning. Titles are names of positions, job descriptions and processes delivered by the person, so seeing that number justifies the difficulty in navigating this huge ocean of information. Perhaps you are used to a common type of profile in your immediate surroundings carrying a certain title but those same positions could be named differently in another geographical region or in another industry.
When you are entering an active B2B campaign, you are looking for a decision maker or someone who is closely connected and regularly consulted by the decision maker about a certain topic. Each company has their own policies on structure and on titles.
The seniority level – also determined or shown through the titles, is dependent on the company’s culture. You may happen to come across companies that have plenty of senior titles (that sound like decision making titles) and some that have only few. The reality is that probably not all of these powerful sounding titles in those companies really have that much power and that, most probably, someone among those with lesser sounding titles has the power to consult and influence the decisions that take place within the company. A perfect example of this is “The CEO’s secretary”. It may be a cliche example, but it will make the point. This person is in many companies much more than a secretary or receptionist to the CEO, which is why lately the title has evolved to “Assistant of the CEO”, which implies that there is more to the role than simply taking care of scheduling. Many times these people actually are involved in creating the company policies, read the yearly plans for the forthcoming year, do research for important questions and give important opinions on whether the CEO should be spending time and effort on certain topics. And in many cases, these undervalued titles are what everyone is looking for.
What else is important about prospecting as a source of information?
Using the lead search in the sales navigator is the most used and the most simple way of prospecting. It is the fastest way to get prospects in but it excludes many prospects that might fit the desired profile of people that simply have spelled their titles differently or that have decided to emphasise a different aspect of their work on their profile.
It is more “superficial” compared to the “account” search, meaning it gives less insights about the structure of the companies or the emerging trends.
The lead search is the fastest and most suitable for discovering prospects for a big target (wide geography and big pool of prospects to be reached out to).
Another way to get to the desired prospects is through an account search.
This type of search first determines the accounts – companies that can be reached within a certain industry. Then there are two ways to discover the prospects within these companies: you can use the lead search as usual but limited on these accounts or you can explore each account deeply and go through all the prospects that are working in these companies in order to find the desired profiles suitable to approach for communicating the product or services of your company.
The last way of prospecting is most time consuming and most thorough – deep diving. It gives the opportunity to learn something about the structure of the companies and if there are emerging trends in new types of titles (happens more in areas that are new such as digital, CX and emerging fields of professions not yet established in the traditional structures of titles or departments).
Exploring the companies in depth might result in new discoveries of desired titles or appearance of titles that are not common or you haven’t come across, and might remind you to include some of them in the desired profiles. Having said that, you might also treat it as a certain kind of research in the field that is in the focus of your interest. It will also give you insight about the sparks and trends in the network or in the industry that is in your field of work and give you useful information about the companies that you are interested to win over as clients.
If you were serious about your prospecting and sales process, you probably have a rich source of information in your CRM.
Your sales reps are probably well educated to understand the value of the qualitative data they bring in to regularly update the CRM, since they are in direct contact with existing clients and potential customers.
You probably already know that qualitative data is in fact gathered by interviewing and this may come from the sales reps, SDR teams, people involved in direct contact with existing and potential customers or some external source as a marketing agency or indirect sources as reports. Have in mind that the most valuable qualitative data always comes from direct communication.
Creation, detection, identification
Are you familiar with the sand separation process? It’s all mathematics. The size of the grain determines whether it will pass through the net or not. This is a rough comparison, but it is a visualisation of the process of refining the profile of your B2B buyer persona with testing the numbers and crossing them with the descriptions of the job roles and other parameters.
Patterns are very important and you will notice them in the data you gather. It is good to start with looking at differences in performance within predefined groups.
Company size is a great starting point in order to define groups. The most important question is which titles in which groups lead to sales. So, here’s how you can do it:
Company size can be split into 9 groups, starting from company size of a few employees to a company size to over 10.000 employees. Look into those groups and determine which group is most reactive and engages with you the most.
Now, having determined that, cross it with another detail from your buyer persona description- for example the job title. This will help you determine which titles in which group determined by company size leads to success and sales.
You will do this as many times as needed to clarify the groups, which means that you will probably need to cross several job roles with several groups determined by company size. Out of these steps, the B2B buyer persona should emerge..
Another parameter that is important is the seniority level. Implementing this third parameter over the previous two completes the definition of the B2B buyer persona.
Also, keep in mind that there are plenty of other variables that you can use for sharpening the details, but be careful to remain at a number that is operational and easily manageable. Therefore you should aim to define a few types of buyer persona. We recommend defining 3 to 4 buyer personas, as this will be easily applicable and controlled in the time ahead (always have in mind that the market is alive, behaviours change and so do needs and expectations).
Finally, keep in mind that the description of most of your potential customers should fit this imaginary person. So, put in enough information and data to have a clear image, but keep it general enough so that it can reflect the majority of your customers.
If you’re new to the game, there are a few online tools that will help you create a good B2B buyer persona. Here are some useful links:
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