Marketing personas: what are they and why do B2B marketers need them?
The value of marketing personas in B2B.
People buy people, even in B2B. That’s why understanding the personalities in your target audience is so crucial to your marketing success. A good way to do this is to research your target audience and then create an idealised version – your marketing persona.
You will want to reach this persona with the right message. You may also have more than one persona. Each persona will require different messaging depending on their needs, and prefer certain types of content and channels for consuming that content.
It is our job as marketers to change how people feel. If we don’t have a deep understanding of who our customers are and what motivates them, we can’t possibly expect to change how they feel.
This combination of understanding the personality, business and personal aspirations, needs and drivers of our audience alongside their preferred method of communication means we can create messaging and delivery that achieves our marketing and business objectives.
If you’re targeting a particular audience by delivering the wrong message via an unfamiliar channel, then don’t expect results. You may even damage your brand. Conversely, building a deeper understanding of your audience and engaging them using the right tools can lead to spectacular success.
What is a marketing persona?
We are all unique and have personal preferences and this extends to how we like to be marketed and sold to. As individual consumers, we may prefer some channels over others, and be intensely irritated if someone bothers us using the wrong approach. B2B buyers are no different. If, as an individual consumer, we use social media to inform our choices, it’s likely that we use social platforms in our work.
Marketing is now incredibly personalised. But we need to start somewhere, so we start by grouping individuals into audiences according to different preferences, behaviours and demographics, assigning them various labels. This collection of personal, professional and business attributes - our ideal customer or character - is called our marketing persona. The word avatar is also used.
Because we understand these preferences and behaviours, we can design marketing and sales experiences that both reach and resonate with decision-makers and key influencers. Personas drive our messaging, channels, user and customer experience (CX/UX) design, and content strategy. Almost everything we do as B2B marketers is driven by our understanding of our target marketing personas.
Segmenting personas into decision-makers, influencers and users
In most consumer marketing, the customer, decision-maker and consumer/user are all one individual. For example, parents may be both the customer and decision-maker when choosing something on behalf of their children, or a household might decide collectively on a major purchase.
However, in a B2B context, where the proposition is a complex solution with a complex supply chain, there are typically multiple decision-makers and key influencers. This means you will need to create multiple personas and segment those personas into additional segments. You will then need to design the marketing and sales strategy to engage with each persona type.
Remember, teams or committees that take decisions are made up of individuals, so you are still talking to people. And there is usually a single decision-maker within that team, or who that team reports to.
There are many sales and marketing theories about segmenting customers. As always, we turned to Google to find out what the world thinks. Among the hundreds of definitions, most approaches – alongside our own experience – boil down to four main groups of personas who are part of the decision-making process:
• Business decision-maker
• Financial decision-maker or influencer
• Technology decision-maker or influencer
• User/operator decision-maker or influencer
Just to add further complications, with complex solutions, the decision-making or influencing roles may change during the decision-making and purchasing process. The business decision-maker might ultimately decide on which brand will supply the new vehicle fleet, but the technology decision-maker would specify the vehicle type and the operator decision-maker might decide on the cab configuration. Then the financial decision-maker might veto the whole plan because the price and terms are not acceptable.
All of this must be mapped onto a marketing and sales funnel, so the right type of awareness, consideration/evaluation, decision and aftersales content is supplied to the right persona in the format they prefer via their preferred channel AND with the correct messaging, all at the right time.
Creating a marketing persona
What makes an effective marketing persona?
There are no set rules about what goes into a persona’s profile. Ultimately, you decide what information you need so you can design your messaging and marketing to meet your objectives and the persona’s needs. But like many marketing tools, although there are no right or wrong answers, there is best practice and experience.
Some of the criteria we use to create and define a persona include:
• Overview/about – a general description
• Company role/job title
• Decision-maker/key influencer
• Demographics, such as location, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, marital status
• Characteristics, such as background, education, professional skills, qualifications, industry career path
• Industry knowledge
• Time available/day-to-day activities
• Digital confidence
• Preferred devices, channels, content type
• What drives decisions – value, price, information
• Challenges and pain points – what keeps them awake at night
• Business objective and aspirations
• Personal objectives and aspirations
The latter criteria are hugely important. If we understand what keeps someone awake at night, what their pains is, we can create the solution and resulting messaging that will generate engagement, turning a prospective customer into a qualified lead. The rest of the information is also vital, as it informs the detail of our marketing.
This information can require dedicated research to find. This could mean commissioning quantitative and qualitative market research, Delphi (speaking to experts) or desk research. Or you could talk to your sales colleagues, consultants, field engineers, or anyone in your business who speaks to your customers (personas) every day. Preferably both.
How should you use marketing personas?
The next step involves turning this insight into actions that generate results. This could be designing the right CX/UX to optimise consumables sales conversions on your website, or it could mean running machine demonstrations because that’s what your operator persona prefers, and they are key influencers.
Creating marketing personas for your B2B brand
Do you need help to understand each marketing persona’s challenges, aspirations, needs and profile? Do you need to better define your marketing personas?
We can support your in-house team to update existing marketing personas and build new ones. We can complete all the research required to do this, and work with you to make sure your marketing personas help to generate the right results. Contact us today for B2B marketing support.