For any business to thrive, knowing the target audience well, having a deep understanding of who their customer is and what they want, is key. That is one of the most important pieces of information a business can hold and use to succeed. It’s crucial that you take time to answer the following questions: Whose problems are we solving? Who are we making happy with our products or services?
Defining Buyer Personas
If you’re having trouble answering these questions, start by defining your buyer personas: Marketing Mark, Sales Sarah, IT Isaac, Accounting Ashley. But – aside from being silly, alliterating names – what are these?
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research. They help you find qualified prospects, allowing you to focus time and resources on them, guide product development to suit the needs of your target customers, and align all work across your organization: from marketing through sales to service.
With the help of buyer personas, you will attract high-value visitors, leads, and customers to your business. The quality of these customers can also be measured in the fact that it is far more likely that you retain them over time, as opposed to those who were not found via and enticed via the application of buyer personas.
More specifically, having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow-up, and virtually anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.
The Importance of Buyer Personas
Buyer personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. When you are aware of the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of your target audience, your work of tailoring your content, messaging, product development, and services to their taste becomes a lot easier.
The stronger buyer personas you wish to establish, the more market research is needed. You will have to gather insights from your existing customer base through survey, interviews, and other forms of feedback provision.
Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20. But if you are new to personas, start small — you can always develop more personas later if needed.
At the most basic level, developing personas allows you to create content and messaging that appeals to your target audience. It also makes it possible to efficiently target or personalize your marketing for different segments of your audience.
For instance, instead of sending the same lead-nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and customize your messaging according to your knowledge about those different personas.
Furthermore, when combined with lifecycle stage – that is, how far along someone is in your sales cycle – buyer personas also allow you to map out and create highly targeted content.
Creating Buyer Personas
You can create buyer personas through research, surveys, and interviews but you will need to involve your customers, prospects, as well as those outside your contacts database who might align with your target audience.
We have gathered some practical methods for collecting the data you need to develop personas:
- Look through your contacts database to uncover the trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.
- When creating forms on your website, use those fields that capture important personal information. For example, if all your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size on the forms.
- Consider the feedback your sales team provides on the leads they are interacting with the most. What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?
- Interview customers and prospects to discover what they like about your product or service.
Once you feel like you are done with the research, you will have large amounts of raw data at hand. It is all about your current and potential customers but first they must be processed and organized. So, the next steps are to identify patterns within the gathered information, and then develop at least one primary persona that you will share with your company.
Here are a few more helpful steps you should take when creating your first buyer persona in detail:
- Fill in your persona’s basic demographic information: when asking questions pertaining to this topic, do it over the phone, in person, or via online surveys. People are more likely to disclose personal information like this.
- Share what you have learned about your persona’s motivations: Your persona’s needs, wants, concerns, and behavior. End this step by figuring out how your company will help the persona with the problems you can solve for them.
- Help your sales team prepare for conversations with your persona: Include some real quotes from your interviews that show what your personas are concerned about, who they are, and what they want. Then create a list of the objections the prospects might raise so your sales team is prepared to address those during their conversations with them.
- Craft messaging for your persona: Tell people how to talk about your products/ services with your persona. This will help you ensure everyone in your company is speaking the same language when they’re having conversations with leads and customers.
Finally, give your persona a name! Something like Developer Dave, Manager Mary, HR Harry. This way everyone internally refers to each persona the same way, allowing for cross-team consistency – and a bit of bonding, too.
Employing Buyer Personas
However, it is nowhere near enough to merely think or talk about these personas in sales meetings. If you just write down who your buyer personas are and then put that document in the drawer or a folder to collect dust without ever reaching out to said personas through a well-implemented marketing strategy, then all that time spent on researching them was in vain.
Instead, the documents detailing the buyer personas should be some of the most worn out documents in your sales and marketing arsenal. Fortunately, there has been a meaningful increase in the adoption and use of personas on the marketing side, yet the sales side of most organizations still seem to be lagging in this field.
Using the personas to map out a content marketing strategy and then crafting that very content is not only necessary, but a key step towards success for any business. However, it is not sufficient in achieving overall success in sales. As we have discussed this in our previous blog post, if your marketing and sales teams are misaligned, if they are not committed to using the personas in their daily course of actions in a unified, cooperative manner, then not only will the marketing strategy grind to a halt, but the fracture between the two teams will widen. Consequently, the sales momentum will stagnate, which leads to a huge uptick in customer acquisition costs (CAC).
The benefits of using personas to guide the operations of an organization are many, but let’s focus on the most obvious ones: through the proper use of personas, all teams have a clarity in vision as to what they are doing and why, bringing sales and marketing closer together. Furthermore, it enables a business to materially shorten the sales cycle.
How can you achieve this? The answers are short, sweet, and actionable. Let’s take a look at the three primary means of bringing clarity and harnessing buyer personas to accelerate sales cycles!
A Detailed Map to Your Customers
Through our experiences of working with salespeople, we have often seen that they waste huge amounts of time dealing with the wrong audience, or delivering the wrong message to the right audience.
Now add the use of detailed buyer personas to the equation. Once they are available and used across an entire organization in a synchronized way, salespeople will also know who to target, what to say, and generally be able to connect the dots between all role players. In short, their mission of seeking – and finding – the customers your business should aim for will be a lot easier and rewarding for the customer, the salesperson, and the businesses alike.
Synchronizing Sales and Marketing
We know; we have talked about this before, but this point just cannot be stressed enough! Leave the two teams misaligned and in disarray, and costs will shoot up, while revenue will plunge.
According to recent statistics by MarketingProfs, 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, despite only 27% of those leads actually being qualified. That means a huge loss of time and a tremendous amount of resources and opportunities wasted. For both teams. For the entire organization.
The logic is quite simple, frankly. If the two teams do not have clearly agreed upon buyer personas, then it is guaranteed that there will be no effective lead funneling and scoring mechanism available either. In simpler terms, salespeople will have less time to deal with the actually promising leads, thus decreasing the chance of success, and they will probably approach them with the wrong messages and tactics (like pushing sales agendas, alienating younger B2B reps). On the contrary, if we turn the logic around (the teams are in alignment and they have worked out together who the perfect targets are), funneling those leads towards sales will become a task that is easier, quicker and more rewarding.
In summary, there will be no real alignment between sales and marketing until there is actual clarity for both on the matter of who your organization is trying to attract – and that is impossible without clearly defined buyer personas. That should serve as the center for their alignment.
Let’s take just a glimpse at the results that organizations with highly synchronized sales and marketing cooperation achieved. According to The Aberdeen Group, companies where the two departments had all the requirements for enabling alignment, and thus worked in strong cohesion, attained a 32% year-over-year revenue growth, while their less aligned competitors saw only a 7% decrease in revenue.
Sales Call Planning
An area where we also recommend our clients’ sales teams to use buyer personas generously is sales strategy. Their colleagues focusing on sales development become informed and prepared through clearly defined personas, giving them the edge to see who they should be connecting with.
Keep in mind that buyer personas are “only” a fictional representation of what the best leads could look like, how they behave, and what they want. There is never going to be a perfect match between a persona and an existing prospect. Yet personas – if we haven’t convinced you so far – are also great tools for working out strategies and actions when managing opportunities. They can be transformed into flowcharts for sales teams to help them guide their actions towards success.
Buyer personas can also be used to highlight similarities and differences with the actual prospect. Comparing the concept to reality. It provides another great, intuitive way for developing the sales strategy concerning the specific opportunity.
Coming back from sales call, the team can get together and discuss in detail where the prospect matches the persona, and where it doesn’t. It allows the team to get on the same page and start developing the sales tactics that will be used – quickly, efficiently, and with complete clarity.
In certain cases, using this approach can reduce the analysis time by a factor of 10, while ensuring that the sales team can maintain a proactive posture throughout the entire sales process – which will also shorten the sales cycle time.
It’s important to mention that buyer personas should never be considered complete or flawless. They are always a work in progress, in constant need of updating and polishing. Besides doing the necessary maintenance work on the personas, what is crucial is that they are clearly communicated throughout your organization. Once that is established, they can be deployed to aid both marketing and sales teams. And again: if those two are aligned on the personas, they will keep them up-to-date themselves, while making marketing, lead generation, and lead funneling efforts more effective, further reducing cycle times and sales costs.
Have any questions regarding buyer personas or their utilization for the optimal outcome? Contact us, and we will discuss the specifics of defining your target audience, identifying their specific members, and reaching out to them with targeted messaging for high-quality lead generation!