Buyer personas are necessary to identify target customers and to increase the return-on-investment (ROI) of your marketing campaigns. But the purchase and decision-making processes are not the same for all kinds of products/services and buyers.
For example, 79% of business-to-business (B2B) sales have more than one person involved in purchase process. Further, B2B buyers are likely to spend more time on analysis and review multiple sources and proofs before purchasing a product. As rightly captured by Forrester, “B2B buyers now demand an entirely different kind of relationship with your organization – They expect to be treated as equal partners”. This mandates a different approach to creating B2B buyer personas when compared to that of creating business-to-consumer (B2C) buyer personas.
In this article, we look at the differences between B2B and B2C buying processes, outline the steps for creating B2B buyer personas and share few examples of B2B personas.
B2B purchasing processes are more involved and have the following general characteristics in contrast to B2C buying processes.
Any business must define its set of target buyers. Only then can a business move forward with effectively choosing marketing strategies, generating content for such buyers and promoting its products.
Creating high-quality personas can unlock fresh opportunities for businesses to better relate to their prospective buyers, as well as unravel methods to efficiently preserve existing buyers. It also assists with awareness of negative personas/profiles that you are marketing to.
Buyer personas are fictional, composite profiles of genuine customers that the business wishes to acquire. In B2B scenarios, as multiple decision makers and influencers from different departments within a buying organization are often involved, more than one persona will have to be created. Attributes of these personas help to identify their needs/desires and provide ideas to interest them.
A typical B2B buying process involves three stages - awareness, evaluation and purchase stages. The process usually begins with the realization of a need for a product or service. This could result from, for example, monotonous tasks that can use automation, or a fresh line of work that demands the help of new products or services. To handle such needs, team members within an organization, possibly from different departments, will characterize the need/problem and the desired solutions from their respective perspectives.
Identifying such needs related information from the perspective of the buyers will help you make your product as relatable and distinguishable as possible for these customers and grab their attention. Understanding their online consumption habits will help guide creation of influential content in the form of blog posts, social content, e-books, videos, podcasts, and case studies.
In the evaluation stage, this team is on the lookout for a solution. Buyers will seek suppliers who can provide a product that fits their quality, cost, support, shipment, after-sales assistance, and customization needs. They will request for a proposal from various vendors and inspect them. It takes factors such as the availability and authenticity of the vendor into consideration.
A recent Gartner report shows that 77% of B2B buyers stated their latest purchase was very complex or difficult. For your niche, understanding the actual challenges for these buyers, whether it is selecting from a wide range of options or finding even one solution that does the job, is vital for planning appropriate marketing strategies.
In the purchase stage, they place an order for a product or service from the desired vendor. This stage involves negotiations, followed by final agreement on price, quantity, delivery, duration of the product or service in use, policies of return and guarantees.
Even after the delivery of the product or service, it is useful to track and understand the usage and associated benefits for those use-cases. Active usage and feedback of your product or service will likely result in renewals after the end of the current term.
Asking the right questions will filter the users and help identify the ideal users, which is essential for creating accurate B2B buyer personas. It tells us what the customer goals, behavior, demographics, and challenges are. These help in planning marketing campaigns that can yield a high return on investment.
Having a set of questions as a template will help you identify the needs and goals of your target buyers. Here are some questions to consider while creating a B2B buyer persona.
Your holy grail B2B buyer persona does not end right after creating it. Marketing strategies have more power to them when you create and apply them based on your B2B buyer personas. Since you know the kind of buyers you are targeting and their needs, it is easier to address them and convey content at ease. You can message better since you are addressing their needs instead of your own.
The buyer personas speak to you about where your buyers are, what channels they prefer, what they read online, where they get most of their information from, what their immediate needs are, etc. With the help of such insights, it is easier to create marketing strategies that result in higher ROI.
In a rapidly changing business environment, B2B buyer personas should be updated to stay current with the industry. Competitors are watchful and will grab opportunities to outrun you.
You should update your personas in the following scenarios:
Some of the prominent sections that a B2B buyer persona template must include are:
Here are two hypothetical examples of B2B buyer personas based on such a template.
“Kyle is an HR Assistant at a late-stage startup based in Silicon Valley and is looking for a suitable product to track his employees’ productivity”.
“Liza is a product marketer in an EdTech company who needs a tool to create, present and share videos lessons.”
It is important to understand how B2B buying differs from B2C purchase processes and why multiple personas are often needed for B2B purchases. Creating and using accurate B2B buyer personas, using the steps outlined in this article, help to refine target audiences, set up efficient marketing campaigns, and support buyers better as they navigate through a range of options as part of the buying process, thereby helping you grow your revenues.