Is it Time to Re-Visit Your Buyer Personas for Marketing After COVID-19?
by Deb Harrsch
If you haven’t created buyer personas for your marketing campaigns, this is the perfect opportunity to start working through the process of what your buyer looks like. If you have created customer personas, have you considered what about your buyer has changed in the post-coronavirus lockdown world?
What is a buyer persona?
Let’s take a step back for a second and start with what a buyer persona is and why you need one. It’s a phrase that’s tossed around a lot, but what does it really mean?
A customer (or buyer) persona is an archetypal representation of every individual in your customer’s buying process.
Many of our clients are very technical business-to-business companies selling software, contract pharma services, or lab equipment. In cases like these, there are always multiple people involved in the buying process.
For example, let’s explore a lab. If the company needs an informatics solution, you’ll need to sell to the person at the bench (or the person who will use the product), their manager, the IT manager, and the person who makes the financial decision. Each of those people is a “persona” you need to create. You’re going to build a fictional character around each of those four individuals.
The reason you create these personas is to have a crystal-clear idea of who you are marketing to and what each of those people needs in order to choose your product. Personas allow you to focus on the customer’s perspective as you take them through the buying journey. If you create them correctly, you’ll be able to develop successful collateral marketing materials, campaigns, and a value proposition that is specific to them. The ultimate goal is to close the sale and make them a buyer of your product.
Before we dive into what you need to have in a buyer persona, let’s talk about who should be building these profiles.
Who builds the buyer persona?
Is it all on marketing’s shoulders? Or does sales need to do the heavy lifting? This may surprise you, but the answer is both. There is zero value to sales and marketing arguing about anything. In fact, sales and marketing should be best friends (here’s why sales and marketing should be partners).
Both sales and marketing should be in the room when you build your customer personas. Sales is key to the process, since they are calling on your customers all of the time.
What comes first when building customer personas?
The first thing I do when building a customer persona is identify all the decision-makers in the buying process. I ask about who we need to target with our marketing:
- Is there an influencer?
- Is there a gatekeeper?
- Is there a finance person?
- Is there an IT lead?
- Is there anyone else involved in the process?
Once you identify the key people along the buying process and their titles, you’ll need to build out the persona for each of those positions.
What’s in a persona?
Our next move is to build composite models of the positions you have identified.
What does that mean? It means we’re going to create a fictionalized summary of each individual. We will mine the sales team for information on each customer and summarize it to build those models.
Here is a good example of a blank customer persona. This your starting point.
We always begin by giving each individual a name. We also like to use pictures, because it’s so much easier to visualize our customer with a face attached to a name.
Then, we fill out the demographic information:
- What are the job titles associated with the position in the buying process? For example, our influencer Isabella could be a lab tech or research scientist. This tells you what they are responsible for and what they do every day.
- What is the age of the typical influencer? You may want to include an age range. Age range is particularly important, because we find this – in many cases – drives the techniques they use to get data on a product or service.
- What is their educational background?
- What size company do they work for? This would be the size of your target clients.
- What is the size of the budget they control? Or do they control budget at all?
The next set of questions goes deeper into your customers to provide a more detailed and thorough understanding of everyone in the decision-making process for your product or service.
Here is where you’ll identify their situational profile. It includes how they function, what’s important to them, what their daily challenges are, their goals, and motivation.
Some folks like to include information about whether they are female or male, tend to be married or single, and whether they have kids or not. I would argue that that information isn’t critical to a buyer persona in most business-to-business industry spaces.
With all that said, this is our next set of questions:
- What characteristics do they have in common? Do they have an assistant? Do they tend to have a certain personality or behavioral commonalities? How do they research products?
- What motivates them? What are their goals and what problems do they need to solve?
- Buying influences? This is a two-fold question. What level of influence do they hold over the buying process and who/what influences their purchasing decisions?
- What is their buying timeline? Is it urgent – in the next month? A year? 18 months?
- What are their challenges? What do they need to know and what hurdles do they need to overcome to buy your product?
- What is their digital footprint? I would expand this question to include how much print material they consume.
These are the details that will drive the type of marketing collateral and campaigns your marketing team will create for your product or service. This information will also drive where your marketing campaigns will run – whether it’s digital or print – how much needs to be published in third-party publications, on your website, on your social media channels, etc.
While it’s possible to do a “quick-and-dirty” buyer persona, it’s always better to take your time and dive deeper for a more meaningful understanding of your customer.
I promise you, your marketing will be better and more successful if you do.
If, however, you want to create a fast persona, ask these questions:
- How would you describe your target buyer?
- What is their technical and personal demographic information?
- How do they describe their job title?
- What education level have they completed?
- What special skills do they need to have to do their job?
The value of targeted buyer personas throughout the buying process
A buyer persona exercise also allows your organization to zero-in on your target audience. Your sales team won’t waste time on outliers which are unlikely to become your customer. A deep dive into your customers and their buying process will always produce valuable information – and your marketing team will be more successful.
When you understand your customer on this level, it allows you to create marketing materials that help your customer understand how you can solve their pain points and the value you provide.
Next month, I’ll be talking about how to build marketing campaigns based on your new customer personas. Stay tuned!
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.