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When you are looking for information on building B2B buyer personas, this is what you may find: “Step 1 – Buyer persona definition, Step 2 – So now you know who your buyers are, Congratulations!” Wait, what?  I’m filling in the blanks how to go about creating buyer intelligence.

Buyer Personas, Indeed!

Indeed.com is a great tool for starting the process of creating B2B buyer personas.  You usually know the titles of who you are trying to target for business, so start by searching on them (zip code doesn’t matter here – any of them will do) and then go through a good number of them to copy the information into the following categories*.

  • Responsibilities: what are they managing? what are they expected to achieve?
  • Objectives or metrics of success: this is key to know and influence in order to help them succeed, so address these in your marketing communications.
  • External challenges: what are they up against externally and what industry trends may make it more difficult for them to be successful in their objectives?
  • Likely internal strategies or initiatives: what is likely happening internally within the organization that helps them to achieve their objectives? do these replace what you have to offer?
  • Internal issues: what is likely happening internally within the organization that prevents them to achieve their objectives? can you help them overcome these issues?
  • Primary interfaces: who do they report to? what groups do they interface with?
  • Status quo: what statistics do you have to beat in order to work with them? what is happening there now in the area of your expertise?
  • Change drivers: what things may influence them to change their status quo?  Sometimes this is price, but price usually isn’t the only reason that people will make a change in supplier.
  • Change inhibitors: what things may influence them to stay at their status quo? did they already plan their budget? can they make decisions on what you have to offer? what are the risk factors for them to change what they are currently doing?

*These categories come from the book SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today’s Frazzled Customers by Jill Konrath.  I highly recommend any marketer or salesperson to read this book.

LinkedIn

Now, we can add to this information using LinkedIn.  By searching on these titles in LinkedIn and then going through profiles, add to this list:

  • Industries: what industries are they in?
  • Influencers: who are they following? can you meet and influence their influencers?
  • Groups: what groups are they active in that you can also join?
  • Associations: what associations are important to them that you can also join?

Qualitative & Quantitative Research^

So now that you have all this information by title, you need to understand their attitudes and behaviors in order to put them into buckets that are useful to your business.  In order to get at this information you have to survey customers and prospects in order to understand their goals and beliefs, conscious and unconscious, and how that affects buying behaviors.  The buckets that you place them in will center on their different goals. Methods  and tips for conducting interviews include the following:

  1. On-site qualitative interviews: unstructured or semi-structured question formats requesting unstructured responses as in a friendly, non-threatening conversation.
    1. One-on-one in-person surveys
    2. Focus groups
    3. Documenting “day in the life of” experiences
  2. Online surveying: structured questions that are written and provide optional answers in such a way as to be unbiased and not leading.
    1. Be sure to add to your website’s newsletter sign-up page a box asking if it’s OK to contact people for the purpose of market research.  If you have a newsletter database already where you do not have this permission, send out an email asking if it would be OK to send surveys to them in the future.
    2. With quantitative research, you must have a minimum of 100 people (larger populations are better, to a point) for the results to be viewed as applicable to a similar audience. If you intend to analyze sub-profiles of a larger audience, each sub-profile must have 100 people in it for the results to be valid.
    3. If you do not have 100 people minimum that you can survey on your own, then you will either need to work with a panel partner (such as Esearch and Research Now) that can provide the specific sample that you are looking for, but you will need to write the questionnaire and analyze study results, or you can work with a our Market Research Expert who can not only obtain the sample, but help you determine what samples may be needed, write the questionnaire, implement the study and analyze the results.
    4. If you can afford it, gift certificates of $5-25 towards Starbucks or Amazon help influence people to respond to questionnaires. Some companies also offer a drawing for a larger prize, however, it is not recommended to only offer a drawing as every person should get something to participate.
    5. If you are working with a panel partner or market research firm to conduct questionnaires they will be done anonymously so that respondents won’t know who you are, however, you can dig deeper into their opinions/beliefs about your company vs. competitors.  Additionally, since you are also blind to who exactly who respondents are, at the end of the survey you can make your company known and ask if they would like to join your email marketing list.  This is allowed and a great lead generation tool.

Note that for in-person interviews and focus groups you can conduct them using your own employees, however, it is recommended that you hire a third party, such as our Market Research Expert, to gain deeper insights.  The interviewee may not want to offer opinions that you could find offensive or may hold back information that gives them an edge in negotiations with you.  If you can not afford to hire a third party, the employee-interviewer must assure the interviewee that all input is welcome and necessary, even that which may seem hurtful, and it would be best if the employee-interviewer is a new face to them.

Who should you interview?  You will want to have represented:

  1. Early adopters
  2. Defectors: those who have abruptly stopped returning calls/emails
  3. Ex-customers who have not ordered again
  4. Your sales and customer service teams: they can tell you what some of the problems and concerns are that their customers are dealing with
  5. Groups: communities such as official user groups and LinkedIn groups
  6. Targeted accounts that are entrenched with competitors
  7. Prospects
  8. Loyal customers
  9. Recent customers won
  10. Recent prospects that you did not win business over a competitor

Goals:

  • What stated motivations drive them to buy your product/service?
  • What fears motivate their behavior (what would put their job in jeopardy)?
  • What are their company’s overarching goals?
  • What are current industry initiatives and strategies (you can do some research on your own to ask specific questions as to their importance and where they are in trying to reach them)?
  • What perceived values are important that they expect suppliers in your field to bring to the table?
  • What are their measures of success (KPI’s)?

Opinions/Beliefs:

  • Is there a preference for using certain suppliers? Why?
  • What supplier have they used most recently? Why?
  • Do they hold any current opinions/beliefs about your company?
  • If they recently selected a competitor over your company, where were you in line of being the preferred choice (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th)?  Why?
  • If they recently selected your company over a competitor, why?
  • If they recently did business with your company, how do they feel about the project that you did for them?
  • Have they noticed any changes lately in their customers’ behavior? Why do they think things have changed or may change?

Behaviors:

  • What budget guidelines and company processes impact buying decisions?
  • Are buying behaviors tied to specific calendar dates/events? What drives these dates/events?
  • How do people in different roles in their company interact to come to buying decisions?
  • What are key buying decision criteria?
  • What is their procurement process?  Are there formal and informal buying processes that need to be followed?
  • Are there any new systems in place that affect buying?
  • How would they use your product/service?

Influences:

  • What magazines/eNewsletters do they read?
  • What blogs/websites do they follow?
  • Who do they find influential in their industry (we can also get at this using LinkedIn, as mentioned previously)?
  • What associations do they belong to (we can also get at this using LinkedIn, as mentioned previously)?

The bottom line is, how can your customers’ future change if they enter a relationship with you?  You must articulate this and map your benefits to their goals in order to influence the buying decision.

Now that you have some research pulled together, at the final stage you can create for each buyer persona a scenario that casts this archetype as the central character, and then walks you through their goal, activities related to their goal, the actions they take in response to those activities, the value received from the activities and actions, and the opinions/beliefs that they hold.  Go ahead and give them a name and even a face, as that will help you to implement sales and marketing initiatives based on having this certain “person” in mind and knowing how to best target them.

Do you have any other tips on how to create buyer personas?  Let me know in the comments at bottom of the page.

Do you want to own your customer journey but don’t know where to begin in developing buyer personas?  If so, contact us to talk about how we can help. We’re flexible to work with you wherever you are at in creating an inbound program.

 

^Some of the information presented is summarized from the website TonyZambito.com, if you want to follow his blog, and some of it is from me.