Imagine you could have any customer in the world. The perfect firm. The perfect role. The perfect budget and scope. Who comes to mind? As growth leaders, we're typically hungry for opportunities. Often when starting out, we have to take any potential customer that picks up the phone or replies to our email. After a few poor opportunities leave us disappointed, we begin to wonder what our ideal customer really looks like.
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Having clearly defined B2B buyer personas is a way to ensure our efforts are focused on finding the right type of customer. The concept is essential to building an effective marketing strategy and ensuring sales teams are satisfied with opportunities. In this guide, we'll walk you through all you need to know about buyer personas and help you find that perfect target customer.
What is a B2B Buyer Persona?
Before we dive into mapping out our buyer persona, we must first understand the concept. A B2B Buyer Persona is a fictional ideal buyer for our product or service. It consists of specific details on the buyer's company size, industry, role, goals, responsibilities, fears, and challenges. Compared to a B2C buyer persona, which is more closely linked to lifestyle, hobbies, and other preferences— a B2B persona is closely related to the individual's professional role.
Why are B2B Buyer Personas Important in B2B Marketing & Sales?
Creating detailed buyer personas is essential to ensuring we are marketing and selling to the right individuals. By not taking the time to specify whom we wish to serve, we risk wasting valuable marketing and sales resources. Or even worse yet, having dissatisfied customers because of our product or service being a poor fit.
Here are some hard numbers regarding the benefits of having clearly defined personas:
- Buyers are 48% more likely to consider vendors that personalise marketing to address their specific needs.
- Companies that use buyer personas see 73% higher conversion rates compared to those that don't.
- 56% of companies that started using personas say that there has been an increase in lead quality.
- 82% of companies report having a clearer value proposition after defining their buyer personas.
Top-performing sales and marketing departments are relying on buying personas to drive their efforts. By ensuring that agreed-upon personas are established between the marketing team and sales team at your organisation, your business stands to benefit greatly. As buyer personas will directly impact your marketing and even overall business plans—ensuring that your executive team is involved with the creation of these personas is essential.
What are the Steps to Creating B2B Buyer Personas?
Through this guide, we'll provide everything you need to build your buyer personas. If you are an established organisation, taking a deep look into your current customers can be a valuable source of information to understanding who you're serving well. If you're responsible for a completely new product, these will be closely tied to your ideal target buyers.
Additionally, there are two important aspects to consider.
Multiple Personas: When it comes to accurate person identification, we typically recommend getting started with a single buyer persona. That being said, many businesses usually serve multiple target buyers. Whether you have multiple products spanning multiple industries, or treat mid-market and enterprise customers differently, we recommend identifying no more than three personas.
Negative Personas: As another helpful exercise, it is also valuable to understand who you're not looking to serve. If you find yourself losing money on certain kinds of customers, you may also want to keep deterring them in your marketing and sales efforts.
Now that we've laid out the groundwork and definitions, the fun can begin. Let's define your B2B buyer persona!
Step 1: Understand Your Buyer's Industry
For many B2B products and services, the buyer's requirements will differ greatly between industries. As an example, if you provide planning and logistics software for farmers, their needs will differ greatly from those in the mining industry. If you are currently serving multiple industries, you may wish to understand which industry has the least amount of competition or the greatest amount of opportunity.
Some products however are more industry agnostic. Companies needing eCommerce software will have many of the same requirements whether they're selling shoes or small electronics. In these cases, you may have multiple industries that you're looking to serve, or they may fall into a larger bucket such as "Retail & Hospitality".
Certain products may have very tightly defined niches they are serving. If you are a small organisation, this can allow you to hyper-personalise your messaging to buyers in that niche. Some examples include industrial automation software targeting only industrial bakeries. With account-based marketing (ABM) being so easily accessible today, this approach can yield many benefits. As the book by Susan Friedman suggest, "There are riches in the niches."
Step 2: Understand Your Buyer's Firm Size
Beyond a buyer's industry, there are also other firmographics to consider. An important one is a firm's size. This aspect often determines many important factors, such as their budget, requirements, buying committee, deal length, and more. While you may not need to be overly specific at this stage, we recommend at least specifying a range.
Often while a firm's size is important, department size and maturity may also be important factors. If you are looking to sell marketing automation software, as an example, a sales-led organisation will have very different needs than a team that grew with a marketing-led motion instead.
Step 3: Understand Your Buyer's Geography
With the world becoming increasingly globalised, the geographies you'll be looking to target are another important consideration. Will you serve the US or all of North America? Does your product sell just as well for English-speaking customers in Spain, as it does in Australia?
Companies that provide in-person B2B services such as equipment installation, will serve very different geographies than those with self-serve SaaS products. Furthermore, in more diverse regions such as Europe or Asia, you will also have to consider language differences and more.
Step 4: Understand Your Buyer's Role
Beyond the firmographics, your buyer's department and their role will have a massive impact on how relevant they find your product or service. Sales leaders will have very different goals than individuals working on product management. For most products, the department that will be targeted will be clear. However, with more flexible products, such as project management software, that departmental focus may be less defined.
Buyer seniority is also another important consideration when it comes down to sales efforts. If you're targeting the C-suite, getting their attention will often be more difficult compared to managers. This will also have a massive impact on how you approach these buyers and market to them. A director or vice-president will also perhaps need approval from their CXO, or require some additional budget from their CFO.
Step 5: What Are Your Buyer's Goals and Responsibilities?
Related to your buyer's role, are their goals and responsibilities. A marketing department lead will typically be responsible for ensuring that their brand is well-polished and that their marketing campaigns are performing well. On the other hand, a sales lead may have performance tied to revenue generation and close rates instead. Someone with the title of CRO may be interested and responsible for both.
Beyond goals, conflicting responsibilities are another factor to consider. While you may have the content manager on board with your proposal, the director of brand may veto the initiative if it conflicts with their agenda. The larger and more complex the organisation, the less clearly defined these roles and responsibilities become. Your sales team may need to investigate each opportunity and asses on a case-by-case basis.
Step 6: What Are Your Buyer's Fears and Challenges
When it comes to sales and marketing, you must create a sense of urgency, especially in the world of B2B, where building a pressing business case is essential. Is your buyer afraid of cyber-security risks? Are they perhaps perplexed by how to grow their sales pipeline? The more you can understand their fears, challenges, and other sources of pain on a deep and personal level, the greater the likelihood that they will be willing to buy now.
Step 7: Going Beyond The Surface
Now that we've covered firmographics, demographics, and lightly touched on psychographics, there are many other factors that can be considered when it comes to selling and marketing to these target decision-makers. Aspects such as political affiliation, interests, and hobbies, can all be borrowed from the B2C world to produce a deeper insight into the lives of these individuals. For example, the level of education will often dictate how complex or simple your messaging should be. Combining these insights will enable you to create a well-rounded and deeply useful persona.
Examples of Buyer Personas
Putting all of information mentioned above together is where the real magic happens. Check out two examples of well-crafted buyer personas below.
Example 1: Sam, Engineering Manager
Example 1: Mia, HR Director
How to Put Your Buyer Personas Into Action
In the modern B2B marketing and sales environment, there are many ways to use buyer personas to improve performance. Check out our suggestions below for inspiration.
The Impact on Marketing: Account-based / Persona-based Marketing
When it comes to marketing, Account-based marketing, or ABM, is the process of tailoring your messaging to be relevant to the needs of individuals at each company or group of companies. As an extension of this, you can also adjust your marketing techniques for each persona.
For example, founders and CEOs will have different priorities than CFOs. The founders and CEOs could be shown case studies of how you’re helping to drive growth. While the CFOs could be shown white papers about how your solution is the most cost-effective on the market. With channels such as LinkedIn and Google Ads supporting custom audiences, many possibilities exist.
The Impact on Sales: Different Playbooks for Each Persona
When it comes to sales, many companies approach each lead with the same playbooks and tactics. This is especially true for companies that rely on small high-volume deals for their growth. By considering each persona’s unique needs, you’re able to craft a sales experience that is more tailored to their unique needs.
Going back to the example above, if the champion of your solution is the founder, they may appreciate a more direct buying experience instead of a lengthy process. On the other hand, if you’re selling to the CFO, they may appreciate additional resources and a more polished proposal to convince the rest of the buying party.Grab Our Free Buyer Persona Template
❇️ Buyer Persona Template
We’ve compiled our buyer persona template to make it easy for you to build yours. It includes all of the aspects detailed in the post and more. Download it here and start crafting the personas you need to grow your business!
Click here to download the template
Get Started with Personas
Once you've developed some well-crafted buyer personas, you'll be able to adjust your marketing efforts and sales activities accordingly. From creating unique messaging and outreach strategies for each of these personas, to tailoring content that is well suited to their needs—the sky is the limit. As a recommended next step, check out our piece on the buyer's journey.