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Four Steps to Creating Effective Buyer Personas

It’s no secret: creating accurate buyer personas is a key element of a successful modern business.

That’s why, over the past ten years, the B2B sales and marketing universe has been speaking almost non-stop about the importance of establishing personas and mapping the buyer’s journey. 

In the real world, it’s still somewhat of a rarity for organizations to actually undertake buyer persona creation. Though, it’s safe to say that organizations who’ve identified their ideal buyers have results that far exceed those that have not.

Solid buyer personas eliminate much of the guesswork and assumptions around the full spectrum of your efforts, from sales to content creation. You’ll always know exactly to whom you’re speaking, as well as the types of messaging that will get their attention.

So, if you’re one of those organizations that are tardy to the party, here are four steps to creating effective personas.

Step One: Get Out There and Ask

To put together effective buyer personas, you’ll need to do some hefty research. Buy you won’t have to search far and wide for data, because it will come from something very close to you: your customers.

The easiest method to get feedback from your best customers is to conduct interviews directly with them. Ask your account managers and sales reps to identify the most engaged or enthusiastic customers and request an introduction. Then, take them to lunch, coffee, or drinks, or something along those lines. If they aren’t local, even a Starbucks gift card would be a nice gesture. Above all, offer a little value for giving feedback.

Once you get a dialogue going with these customers, you’re going to want to dig deep. Forget about basic product usage questions and ask more about their day-to-day workflow, what challenges they face, what their most pressing needs are what their role in the company is.

Demographic knowledge is also important. Things like job title, company size and industry are fine, but it’s the individual thought processes that matters most. Things like: What are their career pain points? Do they have buying power? Are they happy? Why, or why not?

Keep your focus strictly on the individual; this isn’t a sales opportunity or product pitch. Instead, it’s an opportunity to gain valuable insight on who’s really buying your product and what’s driving their decisions. Find out who they are, how they think and how they came to you.

Even more critical is uncovering the needs and problems that you’re not solving – yet. Gradually, you’ll assemble a full and detailed portrait of the buyer’s journey.

Step Two: Talk to Your Team

Your team is another great resource to tap, because they’re on the front lines with customers at each stage of the funnel and have deep firsthand knowledge of where customer pain points and motivations lie.

These team members can often provide key insights into different stages of the buyer’s journey, including acquisition, purchase and retention. Of course you run the risk of them filtering the customer’s goals and values through their own perspective. As a result, some of their assumptions may be slightly off the mark – so bear in mind the motivations of your own people.

For example, sales reps may have insights into needs around customer ROI concerns, while support teams may have feedback that is more product or service oriented. By no means should you discount this filtering, instead use this insight to create effective hooks and triggers that customers themselves don’t always see.

Step Three: Take a Walk in Your Customer’s Shoes

The next step is one you’ll do on your own: write a brief biography for each of your personas.

These are similar to the character sketches that a novelist would use. Start by writing about who they are as individuals at first. Then, describe a typical day for each buyer. Once you have a detailed portrait of your buyers, examine your revenue cycle model and buying stages.

Now, it’s time for a little thought experiment:

  • Choose one of your buyer personas and put yourself in that persona’s shoes at each stage.
  • Consider these questions from their point of view: What problem needs to be solved?
  • How is this problem affecting the business, and what might be lost because of it?
  • What questions are popping up, and where can you go to find the right answers?
  • Be as reflective as you can as you consider this persona’s motivations.
  • Then, repeat this same process for the others.

Will it be easy to accurately and insightfully step into a buyer’s shoes? Not always. But if it was easy, everyone would do it. Seeing the world through your buyer’s eyes, and understanding their motives, will lead you to develop the right messaging and content that ultimately make their purchase journey and engagement that much more successful. And your bottom line will increase as a result.

Step Four: Construct Your Database

The final step is organizing all of your work in a marketing database. Here, you’ll build your persona segments around behavioral and demographic data.

Several types of information are relevant here, including:

  • job title
  • previous types of content interaction
  • company size
  • location and more

This step lays the framework for creating buyer-centric content and optimized campaigns. So make sure you have the right fields in place to support that.

Also, be sure to keep your CRM and marketing automation fields aligned, so your systems will always stay synchronized after updates. You’ll save a world of headaches down the road.

One more word of advice: Buyer personas are not a “set-it-and-forget-it” type of activity; they will continually evolve, just like your business goals. You’ll likely need to revisit your personas from time to time to ensure they still accurately reflect your true target customers.

The long-term returns of building buyer personas far outweigh the relatively minor up-front costs of creation. You’ll be able to inject clarity, empathy and accuracy into all of your marketing activities and your campaign development process will become more simplified and more targeted at the same time – ultimately making a greater impact on your bottom line.

Want to learn even more about how to use predictive analytics and psychological data to design a truly buyer-centric revenue process? Check out How to Create a Buyer-Centric Revenue Model, a TOPO Case Study on LeadMD

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