As the expectations of B2B buyers continue to evolve, a focus on customer needs, customer insights and the buyer’s journey is more important than ever. The organizations that will have an advantage are those creating customer-centric experiences. And to do that, the first step is knowing your customers. Creating buyer personas is a critical step in gathering intel on customer needs, pain points, decision factors, content preferences and more.
And I’m guessing many of you reading this are bought in on the idea of personas, and perhaps have already developed them for your company. But many marketers I speak with struggle to translate the time and effort of developing buyer personas into real impact for the organization. Sometimes, the personas are completed, and then they end up in a binder on a shelf gathering dust. Other times, personas are embraced with a lot of fanfare at the beginning, but when marketers struggle to apply them to marketing programs in meaningful ways, the excitement just fizzles out.
According to research by SiriusDecisions, a demand creation strategy that includes customized messaging built on personas yields TWICE the sales pipeline.
That’s a pretty compelling opportunity to take advantage of! If you want to make sure your personas don’t gather dust and that you can apply them to your marketing programs to increase your sales pipeline, read on…
First things first. You need to make sure you’re taking the right approach to your buyer personas. Hint: It’s more than just asking about customer needs.
Here are 5 key things to consider when developing buyer personas:
- Focus on what matters. B2B buyer personas are very different from B2C personas. Demographics are much less important than understanding customer pain points, the buyer journey, key decision criteria, content needs and preferences, etc. Ensure you’re developing personas that will deliver real value to the marketing and sales teams by using a robust persona template that captures all the right information. You can get started by using our buyer’s journey template.
- Limit your personas. I get it. The buying process is complex. You sell to big buying groups or buying committees. You have different products and positioning for each market you serve. It can be easy to feel like you need to develop dozens of buyer personas to cover all the possibilities. But in the end, all of that complexity will make your personas too cumbersome to use. Instead, focus on the core attributes of your buyers and only create unique personas when the buying process or key motivators are different. You may find that multiple titles across a variety of industries share a lot in common and you can get away with 3–5 personas.
- Get buy-in from internal stakeholders. The best buyer personas are based on first-person voice of customer research. But once you’ve finished compiling your personas, you should gather feedback and validation from internal stakeholders. The sales team is a must for this input, but you should also consider tapping the insights of your product team or other subject matter experts who may have a unique perspective on customer pain points or the lexicon and watering holes of your buyers. Besides being an incredibly valuable way to round out and finalize your personas, this stage of gathering input will go a long way toward building buy-in and enthusiasm for applying the personas.
- Keep them fresh. Even though personas can be a lot of hard work, resist the temptation to cast them in bronze and put them on a pedestal when you’re done. Personas should be living documents that you update as your market evolves, and as you gather new information and learn more about the behaviors of your buyers. How often should buyer personas be updated? While the answer depends on how rapidly your market is changing, every year is a good rule of thumb. And personas should be examined at least quarterly for interstitial updates based on changes in your industry or things you’re learning through your demand generation programs.
- Make them easy to access. No matter how valuable the information in your personas, if they’re hard to find or difficult to decipher, they won’t get used. To integrate personas into your organization, consider the right format and location for sales and marketing teams. We recommend hosting personas on a shared portal that connects persona information with other collateral, sales tools, territory playbooks, etc., that can be readily accessed in the office or on the road.
Ready to learn more about how to apply customer insights for more effective demand generation? Watch our webinar with Cheri Keith from SiriusDecisions, Marketing to Customer Needs: The Power of Personas! You’ll take home some great insights to see your personas in a new light — and use them in new ways.