How well do you know your prospects? In the B2B world, such knowledge is powerful because it allows you to hone your content, strategy and efforts to focus on the right types of buyers. From the broad idea of what types of businesses can benefit from a purchasing relationship with you to the specific people involved in the decision, understanding the “who” behind B2B interactions is crucial for success.
But all this should be old news to you. If you’re working with buyer personas, you’ve already implemented these concepts into how you create inbound material. But that’s not the same, necessarily, as avoiding the most common errors B2B sellers make when crafting them.
B2B buyer personas are not about guesswork or merely applying human attributes to the amorphous concept of “the buyer.” There’s some hard science behind it and a serious need for individualized specificity. If you haven’t yet started using personas in your B2B marketing strategy, keep these things in mind when constructing them for the first time. But it’s every bit as important—if not more so—for B2B companies already using them to revisit theirs and address any of these potential errors:
1. Making assumptions
Good buyer personas have to be based in factual insights gained through research. To make assumptions about your buyers is to ignore the very essence of what a persona is meant to provide—a realistic enumeration of decision-makers’ qualities.
Research is the name of the game. Survey customers who’ve recently purchased from you as well as leads as they enter various stages of the buyer’s journey. Start with the basics—demographic research—and then move toward detailed questions about prospects’ needs, pain points, budgetary constraints and timelines. Get as much information as you can to flesh it out and have healthy sample sizes, then use all of that data as a strong foundation for your personas. Take a look at their LinkedIn profiles or their profiles on other industry sites. Pay attention to their work history and the path that they took to get to where they are today. Also, look into the groups they’ve joined and the types of and content of discussions among group members. This helps to identify pain points and insight into their day-to-day world.
2. Straying from your ideal prospects
The primary benefit of surveying leads as they move through the funnel is to gain new knowledge about them and how they fit into your definition of an ideal prospect. It can help immensely in finding the gaps in your personas—the needs, questions and concerns that are going unaddressed. But the key to getting meaningful information is having a clear idea of what makes an ideal prospect for your company in the first place.
Ensure that your content and sales conversations are on-message for those B2B buyers most apt to make a purchase. Buyer personas cannot help conversion rates if they’re focused on the wrong details or the wrong types of prospects. It’s common for companies to create too many differing personas, thus casting too wide of a net. Concentrate on recently-converted buyers and what worked for them, then extrapolate that information to apply to the ideal prospects you haven’t met yet.
3. Only considering the marketing element
Tailor B2B buyer personas to various positions involved in a purchase. From the millennial researcher gathering information about purchasing options to the CEO who wants to know the deeper benefits before giving the go-ahead, there are several unique parties you must cater to. But, too often, B2B companies assume that they only need to concentrate on the marketing content produced for the buyer’s journey.
Again, the goal is reliable conversion of sales-qualified leads. It should be obvious, then, that the sales department needs to be a part of the persona-crafting equation. They see firsthand the positive, negative and neutral effects that your marketing has on the leads they court. That information is vital for marketing to have the right topics to address and so sales can follow up seamlessly. Plus, your salespeople’s insights will give you indicators about whether you need to adjust your current personas. Which brings us to our next point:
4. Never updating
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the world whose preferences, interests and needs don’t change over time. With that being the case, why should your personas—which are meant to be functional models of real human beings—go unchanged?
Whether your ideal prospects are in the field of healthcare, manufacturing, technology or another industry, their tendencies change as new wisdom and methodologies alter the way business is done. Personas need periodic updating to ensure your communications are keeping pace with that change. The information constantly trickling in from your analytics, surveys and employee feedback is either going to verify the efficacy of your personas or reveal what deficiencies need to be addressed.
These mistakes are widespread and common, especially in the B2B world, but they’re not impossible to overcome. With some data gathering, collaborative strategizing between departments and attention to detail, you can create or improve your buyer personas to hit home with your ideal prospects. Just like any self-aware human being, personas are often a work in progress. When mistakes happen, it’s not an indictment of failure — just an opportunity to improve.