You have already developed a buyer profile for your target customers – you have identified things like the age bracket under which they fall, where they live, and what time they watch their favourite TV shows. Now it is time to make this profile three-dimensional, transforming it into a buyer persona.
What is the difference between buyer profiles and personas? Profiles generally list the typical demographic and geographic characteristics of your customers, whereas buyer personas bring them to life, giving particular attention to their psychographics and behaviours.
Armed with this sort of knowledge, you can then tailor a compelling content marketing strategy to meaningfully connect with your target market by using the most appropriate mediums, speaking their language and addressing their interests and concerns. This information helps your content writers to understand the audience they’re addressing. If you’re about to begin using an automated inbound marketing platform like HubSpot, creating buyer personas will be one of the first things you need to do.
Both consumer (B2C) and business (B2B) markets can greatly benefit from the use of personas.
But rather than cultural makeup and lifestyle, your B2B customer personas will focus more on the characteristics of the organisation, including size, industry and who makes the purchasing decisions, as well as buying patterns, what they want from a business relationship, and the effect of trends on their business.
Developing personas for B2B customers
Let’s start by getting into the B2B mindset – we are used to being consumers on an individual and household level, but corporate bodies have significantly different needs, consumption patterns and decision criteria.
Market research and insight company B2B International lists some of the most definitive characteristics of business customers – these can be used as guidelines to underpin your B2B persona development, and ultimately your communication strategy to each segment.
1. B2B markets have a more complex decision-making unit
The purchase of goods and services may involve board members, production managers, and technical and health and safety experts. One question this raises when developing personas is deciding who you will base your buyer persona on: the company, or the decision-makers themselves?
A good way to approach this would be to incorporate a ‘decision-maker’ component into the business persona, which combines the strongest criteria these key personnel use.
In this way, the accuracy and representativeness of the persona will be maximised, as will your ability to address the concerns of these key people.
2. B2B buyers are more ‘rational’
It can be safe to assume that consumers tend to buy what they want, whereas B2B buyers generally buy what they need.
To gain a better insight, include factors such as the company size, image, volume purchased and job function in the persona. When it comes to marketing content, a rational tone, and factual emphasis on the company’s needs and your product’s ability to meet them, would be effective in connecting with B2B buyers.
3. B2B products are often more complex
B2B purchases are frequently tailored. If every customer has complex and entirely different needs, it can be argued that every single customer should have a separate persona. This means that businesses will inevitably have multiple buyer personas, and will typically rank them in order of importance to the success of their business.
Extra effort must then be made to develop a comprehensive persona for the highest-ranked customers, which also explains why they are of such high ranking. Communicate with them accordingly, adding a level of authority to your knowledge of the product and how it aligns with their needs.
4. B2B target audiences are smaller than consumer target audiences
It is not unusual, even for the largest B2B companies, to have 100 or fewer customers that really make a difference to their sales.
This leads us on to the next point.
5. Personal relationships are more important in B2B markets
A small customer base that makes frequent transactions makes it easier for the B2B supplier to invest attention into each one, thereby enhancing loyalty.
For this reason, it can be useful to conduct research on what these customers look for in a business relationship, and detail this in the persona. This will provide insight as to what to communicate to them, how often to communicate with them, and which mediums to use, for example, a weekly email newsletter with special deals and technical support or a monthly phone call just to check in.
6. B2B buyers are longer-term buyers
Imagine buying a house or vehicle every year – as a consumer, that would be relatively unlikely. But for B2B markets, capital, machinery and components can be purchased yearly, and require frequent service.
You will need to keep abreast of the subtly changing needs and characteristics of your B2B customers – update their personas regularly and advise them on the latest technology that will accommodate their most current needs.
7. B2B markets respond to trends more so than drive them
B2B’s have the time to re-evaluate their segments and customer value propositions, and respond promptly to the evolving needs of their clients.
B2B buyer personas should discuss the type of industries they serve and how quickly trends emerge. Your content strategy should keep your B2B markets up-to-date with trends relevant to them.
8. B2B markets have fewer behavioural and needs-based segments
Coupled with the significantly smaller number of B2B markets compared to B2Cs, needs-based B2B segments are typically more focused on one of the following:
This can provide much insight in their personas regarding their buying behaviour, financial capabilities and organisational composition. Be sure to capitalise on their respective focus as you communicate to them.
Brainstorming the various types of needs, decision criteria, thinking and buying patterns, and clientele of your B2B customers can help you create a rich buyer persona. In turn, your personas can enable you to address the most dominant concerns of your B2B customers, using the most appropriate channels and tone of voice. B2B buyer personas can form a subtle but very effective part of your marketing communications strategy.