The key is to create a persona that is actionable. It shouldn’t simply describe who your buyer is, but also help you determine what content to create and how to promote that content to get your prospective customers’ attention and get them to take action.
Here’s a process for developing B2B buyer personas based on six dimensions, that not only characterize your target prospects but also provide actionable guidance for reaching them.
The Six Dimensions of a B2B Buyer Persona
Working through these six dimensions will help you define who your ideal prospects are, what concerns them most, and how to connect with them.
What region do your sales cover? U.S. only, North America, multiple countries, global…? Defining where your prospects are is the first step in developing your marketing plans, particularly for targeting advertising on Google or social networks.
This is your target prospect’s company size and industry segment. Do you sell into the small to midsized business (SMB) market? Large enterprises? Somewhere in between?
And most B2B businesses sell on primarily a vertical or horizontal basis. That is, they either target specific industries (retailers, law firms, manufacturers, financial services, healthcare providers, etc.) or focus on a specific role regardless of industry.
For example, a virtual event software provider may target meeting and event planners across industries; an HR software provider may focus efforts on HR executives in midsize companies across industry segments; and an email service provider may sell to SMB customers in multiple types of businesses.
Needless to say, there’s a world of difference between marketing an enterprise business software suite and a smartphone app. Another key dimension is understanding the technology environment your product will be sold into.
If you sell software, is it more likely to be used in an office setting or on the go? What type of device(s) is it mostly likely to be used on? What other software is your target prospect likely to be using, and do you need to integrate with those applications?
If you sell services, what technology is your ideal buyer likely to be using, which you need to be familiar with? This may include project management software, marketing automation tools, financial software, design packages, or other platforms.
This is arguably the single most important dimension in your buyer persona. To use the cliched phrase, ask “what keeps them up at night?” What problems, concerns, and pains does your ideal prospect have that you can solve? Come with at least three, preferably more. Five solid problems you can address is a good number.
Think also about what will matter to them most when it comes time to make a decision between competing vendors. Price is always “a” factor, but should never drive the decision.
Determine what they really care most about—flexibility, reliability, ability to integrate with their environment, your company’s expertise, ease of working with you (customer experience), etc.—and how you will address each of those concerns in your messaging.
Okay, this breaks the pattern, but trying to shoehorn it in with a made-up word like “roleographics” or “jobographics” would be just silly.
Who is most likely to be your “product champion” within an organization—not necessarily the person who signs the purchase order, but the person who will push to buy your product or service—by function and title?
Employees who are more junior or lower on the corporate hierarchy are generally more focused on functional benefits; products or services that make their lives easier, that help them do more, be more productive, do a better job, or do things they couldn’t do before. Status matters—they want to look good to the boss.
The more senior your buyer is, the more he or she will focus on business benefits: improved brand image, dollars saved, extra revenue generated, greater return on assets, or other financial performance metrics.
A crucial, though challenging, dimension that highlights the importance of really knowing and understanding your target prospects. This refers to how your ideal clients prefer to learn about new products and services, and where they go to look for information.
In most cases, search will be part of their process—though they may not click on search ads. Beyond that, what events (in-person and virtual) do they attend? What blogs and online industry publications do they read? What associations do they belong to?
Do they care more about industry analyst’s opinions (enterprise software) or software review sites (SMB tools)? Do they congregate on specific forums, or LinkedIn or Facebook groups?
Competitive research is one input, but the most important is to have your customer-facing employees ask your prospects how they look for information, where they search, and how they found you. The holy grail is identifying places where your prospects are active but your competitors haven’t yet discovered.
The Complete Picture
Understanding your ideal client prospects in detail across these six dimensions will enable you to create compelling content, in the right formats, and distribute / promote / amplify it in the right places. And demonstrating a deep understanding of your target buyers is the first step in creating a great customer experience.