Welcome back to the Inbound Sunshine Podcast.
Today we’re going to dive into B2B buyer personas, as compared to B2C and B2G, to set the stage for effective inbound marketing and inbound sales including segmentation of your leads, lead nurturing, sales cycle acceleration, and customer satisfaction.
Now, one of the things that's important to keep in mind: buyer personas are buyer personas, regardless of whether we're talking about selling to a certain kind of buyer persona or another kind of buyer persona.
We're also going to go back, make sure that everyone’s on the same page, and define what a buyer persona is and what a buyer persona is not.
We'll talk about how buyer personas can be used to guide product and service development and the overall business strategy.
We're also going to spend a few minutes talking about what can interfere with buyer personas if left unchecked. We want to make sure that you set yourself up for success by getting rid of some of the detractors and some of the quicksand that can get you off track with being able to more effectively Implement buyer personas into your company and to put together a more effective sales funnel.
We’ll look at research techniques that you can use to build your buyer personas. And we’ll help you set priorities, so you know what to spend your efforts on and don't get stuck on tangents and just spinning your wheels.
Buyer Personas as the Foundation for Solid Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales
So first up, when it comes to B2B buyer personas, let's talk about how business to business buyer personas compare to business to consumer (B2C) buyer personas, as well as business to government (B2G) buyer personas.
I think what's really important to keep in mind: Buyer personas set the stage for effective inbound marketing and effective inbound sales -- meaning that: if you dive right into inbound marketing and inbound sales, and you do not have effective buyer personas, it's like jumping into the pool with both hands tied behind your back, your legs tied together, and blindfolded. You're going to have an uphill battle.
So we want to make sure that we recognize just how foundational, just how critical, it is to make buyer personas your focal point for all of your strategy going forward.
Buyer Personas Aren’t Just for Marketing
Another big thing to keep in mind: a lot of times people think that buyer personas are just a marketing thing. But they're not just a marketing thing. Buyer personas are used at all stages of the inbound marketing methodology and at all stages of the inbound sales methodology.
In other words, when it comes to inbound marketing -- and the inbound marketing methodology: attract, convert, close, and delight -- your buyer personas need to be front-and-center, regardless of whether we're talking about attracting strangers to visitors, converting visitors to leads, closing leads to clients, or delighting clients into promoters. That's the inbound marketing methodology.
With the inbound sales methodology, buyer personas need to be front-and-center as well -- with identifying potential opportunities, identifying potential prospects to talk with, connecting with those prospects, exploring those prospects’ needs, and advising what those potential clients ultimately are going to want to do as their best course of action.
So regardless of whether we’re talking about the inbound marketing methodology or the inbound sales methodology, buyer personas are super important.
And again, all of this applies regardless of whether your company is focused on B2B (business to business), B2C (business to consumer), or B2G (business to government).
All of this sets the stage for proper segmentation, proper lead nurturing, proper sales cycle acceleration, and proper customer satisfaction.
Defining Buyer Personas
But just to make sure everyone's on the same page: a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your ideal clients -- one of your ideal customer -- based on real data and some select educated speculation about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.
Where people get off track, where people get really off the rails, is that part about some select educated speculation. Why? They allow the co-founder’s or the CEO’s years of or decades of experience to make them think that some select educated speculation means that they can speculate about everything.
The select, educated speculation needs to be balanced with real data, with real research.
So we're looking for common behavior patterns, shared pain points -- both professional pain points and personal pain points, common universal goals wishes, and dreams.
Common Rookie Mistakes with Buyer Personas
We need to also understand some general demographics and biographic information. But all too often, people that are new to buyer personas -- especially marketers that are new to buyer personas -- only do demographic and biographic compilations here, and they completely overlook the other 80% of what's important about buyer personas: the behavior patterns, the pain, and understanding their goals. Demographics and biographic data alone are not going to cut it when it comes to putting together effective buyer personas.
Remember buyer personas are not target markets. They’re not job titles and not job roles. They're not technology-dependent. And most of all: your buyer personas should not be specific people.
If when you talk about a particular buyer persona internally, it refers to a specific client that your company has, you may not be doing buyer personas the right way. It's not a specific person. It's a category or type of person that's modeled on the kind of amalgamation and aggregation of a bunch of people that are just like that.
And when you start to see that things are like, “Oh yeah. They all are worried about this. They all navigate the buyer’s journey this way. They all have these goals. They’re all around the same age. They're all the same gender. They all have the same degree.They're all from the same part of the state or the country,” whatever it is. When you start to see these common things line up, that is when you know that you're on the right track with your buyer persona.
The Impact of Buyer Personas on Content Strategy
Buyer personas need to drive one hundred percent of your content strategy; in other words, the right kind of content that attracts the right people, the right to strangers that've never heard of your company before, that converts those visitors those relatively new strangers into leads for your company's -- people that are basically raising their hands and saying, “Oh yeah, that looks pretty good. I want to hear more. I'll give you my information. I'll give you my business card for what's on the other side of the landing page.”
Buyer personas are also super-critical for sale cycle acceleration for you to better understand how to segment different kinds of leads that you have, how to score them, how to put them into different kinds of pipelines, different kinds of sales funnels.
How Buyer Personas Help Sales Teams
It's super effective as well for your sales team to make sure that they're talking to the right kind of person.
One of the fastest ways for your salespeople to be a lot more effective is to stop wasting time talking with potential clients that really would not be a good fit. And buyer personas can be enormously helpful with your sales team to identify who exactly is a good fit.
Buyer personas also really line up very closely with the idea product/market fit (PMF) as well.
Product/market fit refers to the degree to which you know exactly who your best clients are, exactly what products and services they buy, what quantities and durations they purchase them at, and what price points they purchase them at.
So many companies struggle to answer those very basic questions. But buyer personas are a huge part of getting it right.
Buyer personas will also help you identify where your best customers are spending their time, both online and offline.
Why Buyer Personas Dictate Priorities
Why is it so important for you to know where your best customers are spending their time?
Because if it's important for those folks, you want to be there too -- and even better if you can be there in a value-added way, as opposed to an interruptive way.
Yeah, any company can write a check to be a sponsor or to do an email blast. (I hate that word.) Or interrupt them while they’re walking around the floor of a trade show.
But if you can get to where they are and intercept them at the point where they're asking questions about their biggest problems and about their biggest goals, and you can provide solutions, it’s a game changer for how your company is perceived.
But it's very difficult to build that short list to narrow down and prioritize things if you skip developing buyer personas, or you do a crappy job of creating buyer personas, and they're not very thorough.
Your buyer personas should help to identify where your best customers are spending their time on the internet, so that you can be there as well.
Another big application for buyer personas that a lot of people overlook:
The Impact of Buyer Personas on Product Development
In larger companies, there are product managers, product marketers, program managers, and program marketers -- and these folks devour buyer personas and love to spend a lot of time doing things that are even in more detail than most marketing and sales teams and CEOs would do for buyer personas.
Buyer personas done right, especially in small companies, are super important for guiding your product and service development.
If you know what your buyer personas are trying to achieve, you can make sure that you're creating products and services that help them reach their goals and overcome their challenges.
So buyer personas aren't just a marketing thing.
Buyer personas also help with product development and engineering, to make sure that what you're creating aligns with their goals, plans, challenges, behaviors, and preferences.
Two Common Pitfalls and Organizational Barriers That Interfere with Buyer Personas
Understand that implementing buyer personas in your company is not always going to be a walk in the park. It's not always going to be super easy, and I don't want you to see this from just behind rose-colored glasses. What are some of the things that can interfere with rolling out buyer personas effectively in your company?
- Lack of product/market fit. Again product/market fit is the degree to which a product or service satisfies a strong market demand. It has its roots in the venture-capital world. You often hear people like Marc Andreessen talk about PMF. Any investor, any VC firm, is always going to be intensely interested in hearing about if your company has achieved product/market fit and who your primary, main buyer personas are. Product/market fit is the first step to building a successful venture, where your company meets its early adopters, gathers feedback, and can gauge interest.
- The HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion). This is not like a hippopotamus that you see in the zoo or animal safari. But it's the same thing in some ways. The HIPPO is the highest paid person's opinion. It's sometimes an acronym for also the highest paid person in your organization. And the problem with the hippo is, and it's not just that they're big, and they're not that attractive, and they're kind of stinky, and they make a lot of noise, the HIPPO can be the biggest and ugliest arch enemy of buyer personas and of investing in inbound marketing and inbound sales the right way. Why? Because the HIPPO is certain that their years of experience, or decades of experience, is smarter than the market. The HIPPO is certain that he has all the answers. And that ignorance and arrogance, coupled together in a disgusting brew of a cocktail, set your entire company up for failure. So be super careful that the HIPPO does not screw over your buyer persona program before it gets out of the gate.
You need to talk to real end customers. You need to talk to the people in your company that talk to real end customers. You need to capture their exact words, their jargon, their terminology, not what you think that is -- but what it actually is.
All too often, the HIPPO’s preferences, dictates, mandates, and their dictatorship completely screws over any chance you have of being successful in developing the right kind of buyer personas and implementing them in your company.
How Buyer Personas Impact Inbound Marketing, Inbound Sales, and HubSpot Implementations
Another cautionary note: if you do not nail down your buyer personas, every aspect of your inbound marketing, inbound sales, and HubSpot implementation will suffer.
If you do not get your buyer personas right, everything that you do going forward with your email marketing, inbound sales, your HubSpot portal, your HubSpot implementation on the marketing and sales side will suffer.
Skipping buyer persona development tends to lead to crappy content that nobody wants to read. You usually end up with a whole bunch of ego-driven, self-serving crap that just pats you and your company on your back. It doesn't focus on their problems. It focuses on your problem.
So if you skip personas and churn out that crappy content, nobody's going to want to share that contents. You're not going to get leads from that content. That content is not going to be successful in being able to advance leads into sales opportunities. And it's not going to succeed in delighting your customers, by helping them get more out of your products and services.
We absolutely, positively must get buyer personas right. And it's okay if it takes a little longer than you expect. It's okay if it cost a little more than you expect because it's so critical and so foundationally important to everything that's built on top of that.
4 Ways to Research Your Buyer Personas
What are some of the ways that you can research your buyer personas?
- Interview customers. One of the most important and powerful ways is to get as close to customers as possible. If you can interview customers face-to-face, in their environment (their office), that is the absolute best. Second-best would be talking to those same people. But if geographic limitations or travel budget are issues, the next best might be using video conferencing, like GoToMeeting or Skype. Or if all else fails at least a phone call.
- Survey customers. Another thing that you can do at scale if you want to get more than just 5, 10, 15, or 20 people like that, is to survey your customers. When you survey your customers, use both quantitative questions -- asking them to pick things from like a drop-down list, a checkbox, or a radio button. You can also ask qualitative questions to have them describe things in their own words.
- Use HubSpot lead intelligence. If you already have HubSpot marketing software, you have access to contact timelines. Study the lead intelligence. When you have a Smart List of a particular buyer persona, look at the contact timelines for a few dozen different leads. And see if you notice trends or common themes for what's bringing them in the door, what's advancing the sales conversation, and what are some of the things they look at right before they become customers.
- Talk to coworkers (especially customer service and sales). Besides customer interviews, surveys, and HubSpot lead intelligence, finally make sure that you talk to your coworkers, especially those in customer service and sales.
The Bottom Line: Using Buyer Personas to Build Trust in B2B, B2C, and B2G
Regardless of whether your company is focused on business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), or business to government (B2G) -- or is an educational institution or a non-profit organization, it’s the same basic issue. Buyer personas are the foundation for remarkable content creation.
Make sure that you let your buyer personas -- especially your primary and secondary buyer personas -- help set priorities. And once again, just in case it's not clear, your primary buyer is the most important economic buyer of your company's products or services. Your secondary buyer persona is your second most important economic buyer of your company's products or services.
And yes, you could have a third place or fourth place if you have tangential buyer personas. But if your company has limited resources, start with the first and second most important.
Spend the first six months to a year nailing the buyer persona and content creation, putting together conversion paths, content clusters, blogging content, and multimedia content -- everything that answers their questions, provides them with additional educational resources that help to solve their problems.
We talked about
- The differences in buyer personas between B2B, B2C, and B2G
- How critical buyer personas are for setting the stage for all inbound marketing and inbound sales going forward
- Getting everyone on the same page with the definition of buyer personas
- How buyer personas have tremendous influence on your content strategy
- How it's so critical to use buyer personas to help guide your product and service development -- and help set priorities
- The hidden quicksand, some of the gotchas that can get in the way of being able to effectively develop and Implement buyer personas within your company
- Techniques that you can use to research to build your buyer personas
- How critical it is to use your buyer personas, especially understanding who your primary and secondary buyer personas are, to set all of your priorities going forward
I’m so glad to have you with us for this episode of the Inbound Sunshine Podcast.
I’m Joshua Feinberg. And we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
If you learned something valuable from this episode, please subscribe to the Inbound Sunshine Podcast on iTunes and leave us a review.
To get notified about upcoming episodes, be sure to visit www.sphomerun.com/inbound.