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The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Buyer Personas

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B2B marketing is constantly evolving to keep up with trends, technology, and consumer preferences. Because most buyers start their journey online—the modern marketer’s biggest struggle is to cut through massive amounts of digital content to reach qualified prospects.

The best way to be heard is to understand your audience and craft messaging that resonates with them. Unfortunately, this is a lot easier said than done. In fact, 60-70% of B2B marketers say they don’t truly understand their buyers.

This statistic highlights an enormous problem; think of it this way, if you don’t understand your audience, how will you generate effective content, influence their purchasing decisions, or form a relationship with them?

Enter buyer personas.

What are buyer personas?

On a basic level, buyer personas are profiles of your best customers. These profiles are based on extensive research, observation, and analysis of existing customer data. Consider who your best customers are and what traits they share. For example, do they have a specific job title, work in a particular industry, or come from companies of a certain size?

A very simple buyer persona may look something like this: 40-50 year-old male, working in the financial service industry at a company of 100 employees or less, who has ‘manager’ in his job title.

It’s important to note that a buyer persona is much more than a list of common characteristics— you need to have a thorough understanding of each persona’s buying habits. This includes common concerns, shared viewpoints, and factors that influence their purchase decisions.

Putting together your buyer personas is not a simple task—it requires time, effort, and research. There are no shortcuts in this process.

Why are buyer personas important?

In exchange for the time and effort put into buyer persona creation, you will see big returns. Consider the following statistics (source):

  • Companies who exceed lead and revenue goals are 4 times as likely to use personas for demand generation compared to those who missed lead and revenue goals.
  • 93% of companies who exceed lead and revenue goals report segmenting their database by persona.
  • 56% of companies have created higher quality leads using buyer personas.
  • 36% of companies have created shorter sales cycles using personas.
  • 24% of companies gained more leads using buyer personas.
  • It is more effective to target cold leads with Persona based content than targeting warm leads without using persona based content (58% versus 45%).

It’s evident that buyer personas can have a huge impact on your B2B marketing strategy—from content marketing to branding to sales enablement. Not sure where to start? Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to creating buyer personas for your B2B organization.

How to construct buyer personas

There are many ways to gather data and compile the observations you need to create buyer personas. But, what works for one company may not work for another. For this reason, you may have to revise and test out a few variations before you land on a successful combination of characteristics.

Having said that—there are a few tried and true ways to construct buyer personas that work across different types of companies and industries.

  • Analyze your existing data. Export your contact and customer data in a way that allows for easy analysis. If you don’t have the time or resources, you can also work with an outside organization to do this for you. The key is to recognize important patterns within your data. For example, if you have an overwhelming amount of customers of a certain gender, age group, industry, or job title—this is worth noting. Remember, you will likely have more than one persona. So don’t panic if you end up with multiple patterns or trends.
  • Interview employees from each department in your company. Sales, marketing, finance, HR, recruiting—each department interacts with your customers differently and has a different perspective on what makes a customer successful. Spend time interviewing each department to figure out what generalizations they can make about your best customers. Focus most of your energy on the sales team—as your reps spend the most time interacting with your prospects and customers.
  • Interview your best buyers. Identify ten to twenty of your best customers and conduct an interview with them. Ask about their pain points, their buying motivations, what lead them to purchase your product, why they chose your company, etc.
  • Optimize your data collection methods. Consider how you collect your prospect and customer information. In the age of the internet, most prospect and customer data is collected through web forms. Use this to your advantage. Include form fields that will help you determine the likelihood that a prospect will buy from you. For example, do your best buyers come from a specific industry? Ask for that information on your forms.

Once you gather your data, it’s time to compile important trends and segment your findings into your different buyer personas.

How to use buyer personas to improve your marketing

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost control of your content strategy? Like you no longer understand who you’re reaching or if it’s even making a difference? You’re not alone. Fortunately, your new buyer personas will provide the structure you’ve been lacking.

Here are a few ways to use your buyer personas:

  • Speak their language. Consider whether your content is casual or formal. Then, make an effort to tailor it to the language your prospects are actually using. This goes for social media, blog posts, whitepapers, and web copy.
  • Segment campaigns. Break up your email sends by persona. This will allow you to send more targeted, personalized offers. For more information about segmenting your email lists, check out the following blog post: 3 Ways to Optimize Your Email Campaigns.
  • Optimize your timing. Have you ever received an email, a coupon, or any other business communication from a company at exactly the right time? Now your company can do that. Consider when your personas are online, when they check their email, their day-to-day schedule, or common occurrences in their personal lives—i.e. summer vacation, holiday breaks, etc.
  • Pick your channels. Figure out where your personas hang out—are they on LinkedIn throughout the day, do they listen to the radio on the way to work, or do they regularly check your blog? Pick and choose which channels to focus on based on the behavior of your best buyers.
  • Personalize your offers. Send your personas offers that speak to their specific needs. The more targeted the offer, the more likely it is that they’ll make a purchase. Do you have a product that works particularly well for one persona? Or does a specific persona’s busy season coincide with a product launch?
  • Form partnerships. Influencer marketing has taken the B2B world by storm. Use your buyer personas to partner with companies and people that already speak to your target audience. For an in-depth look at influencer marketing, check out the following article: B2B Influencer Marketing 101.
  • Fix your sales process. A successful sales process mirrors a prospect’s preferred buying journey. Work with your sales team to match their processes to your persona’s preferences.

Key Takeaways

Buyer personas can dictate every aspect of your organization—from product development, to content creation, to customer service. As a result, you’ll attract more of your best buyers and successfully contribute more revenue to your company’s bottom line.

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About the Author

Molly Clarke

Molly Clarke is the Web Marketing Manager at ZoomInfo—a leading market intelligence provider. Molly is a regular contributor to the ZoomInfo blog where she covers topics related to B2B sales and marketing. Prior to joining the ZoomInfo team, Molly has worked in various marketing roles and has contributed content to multiple industry publications.

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