Undertaking B2B marketing without knowing the people you’re marketing to is like putting a blindfold on before throwing darts.
You may have a general idea of where the dartboard is, but if you hit the bulls-eye, it’s purely luck. And there’s a good chance you won’t even hit the board.
Developing customer personas is a key step in taking the blindfold off. B2B may be about business transactions, but the purchasing decisions are made by human beings—and the more you know about them, the clearer you’ll see the bulls-eye.
You obviously can’t get to know all of your potential customers individually, but you can get to “know” them by developing customer personas—fictionalized representations of each type of customer you’re targeting.
Each persona you define becomes a “character” that your entire organization—not just your marketing team—always keeps in mind as a target customer. This focuses everyone on doing all the right things to generate and convert leads.
We encounter many companies that haven’t developed customer personas in their B2B marketing campaigns. Others have tried with no success and quit. That’s a missed opportunity. We’ve had a lot of experience with customer personas, and we know they work.
If you haven’t yet embraced customer personas as a key part of your B2B marketing—or if you’ve tried it and found it a waste of time—we urge you to consider what you can do with customer personas if you develop and use them right.
Here are some tips based on our experience.
1. Use a template.
A template for creating the personas helps keep the process focused on the essential aspects—personality, occupation, pain points, etc.—that are relevant to their potential to purchase or influence purchasers. (You’re welcome to use the One Red Bird persona template or draw ideas from it. Download it free here.)
2. Get the whole team together.
As you begin defining your personas, involve customer service, operations, sales and anyone else who works with your customers. Defining a realistic persona isn’t just a marketing effort. Everyone should be involved in sharing their perspective on what makes your customers tick.
3. Survey your existing customers.
Put together a survey and get on the phone to get to know the people who are already doing business with you. Simply calling them up and talking to them about their business and their needs is a productive use of time. And don’t hesitate to get out of the building. Visiting your customers where they live and work can give you a real-world picture of how your customers make decisions and what potential alternatives to your products/services they are actually using.
4. Do your homework.
If your customers are all from one location, or from a single industry, you can find out a lot about them online. If you’re researching a particular industry, check out videos by industry experts talking about that industry. You can also utilize social media research—and listening—to find your potential customers. On Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, ask questions or air problems your product or service can solve. The responses can be illuminating as you develop your personas.
5. Consider how the way in which people work can be revealing.
Is your persona tied up in meetings every day? Do they spend all their time online or are they on the road? It really helps to learn how a prospect works and communicate to them in kind. Slow and steady people will not respond well to being hurried along. Alternatively if your buyer only has five free minutes a day to skim emails, you need your marketing to hit hard and fast. The ways in which people work—and the effect it has on when and how they should be contacted—should be incorporated into the description of each persona.
6. Use the marketing funnel.
Knowing where a lead is in the marketing funnel is vital in providing them with the right content and/or sales communication. Therefore, when developing personas, include as much as possible about what behaviors indicate buying signals or a willingness to spend. Knowledge of these cues will allow you to develop strategies to move each persona along the funnel.
7. Collect and analyze your data.
CRM and sales data can tell you about what kind of customers buy what, and in what combination. Site analytics can allow you to see where your visitors come from, what keywords they used to find you, and how long they spent once they arrived. Use this data to help you determine who your personas should be and to capture their behavior.
8. Share the personas.
Once they’re developed, promote them throughout the company. Everyone should know what ideal customers look like, how they make decisions, and what kind of interactions they expect.