There is a lot of hype at the moment in B2B around developing buyer personas. This is actually a good thing. We are increasingly aware that B2B marketing can only be successful when we know our buyer well, so that we can connect marketing activities to specific buyer/customer needs.
With the growing popularity of buyer personas we are seeing many new methods for developing these personas. Unfortunately, many of these new methods lack proven results. Sometimes the buyer persona profiles are completely ineffective. Here are 3 common mistakes in buyer persona development.
“Relying exclusively or primarily on quantitative research”
When your buyer persona research consists of quantitative research only, you’re missing out on vital insights. How can you really know your customer’s goals, success factors, challenges and information needs, if you submit a standard questionnaire with pre-filled response options?
Let me give you an example. When I asked a respondent a while ago what information he reads on a weekly basis and he said “I google a lot” I took the opportunity to ask him what exactly he searches for when he googles, which online platforms he then visits. I took the liberty to ask the question again, but in a slightly different way. This gave me more insights than I expected in the first place. I always try to let respondents talk about their professional lives, instead of me asking them a set of fixed questions, I let them do the talking and I do the listening.
When you perform a quantitative survey there’s limited opportunities for asking probing questions. Most buyer persona experts strongly recommend creating buyer persona insights based on qualitative research. By executing 12 to 15 qualitative person-to-person in-depth interviews, you’ll be able to retrieve valuable information and you will understand better how to connect to your customers.
“Interviewing only existing customers”
A buyer persona should represent a group of buyers and not just buyers who have already chosen you or your solutions. By interviewing a mix of existing customers, prospects, suspects and lost deals, you collect more valuable insights. Wouldn’t you like to know why a prospect chose the competitor and not you? And wouldn’t you like to know what other criteria in the buying process were important to them?
Often organisations think it will be difficult to connect to lost prospects for participating in a survey. In the past years however we’ve found that very often this group of lost prospects is quite willing to talk about their buying process experience.
“Not mapping the buying process, using only a personal profile”
“My name is John and I am an IT manager in a healthcare facility. I’m 43, I am married and have three children. I drive a Mercedes and in my free time I like sports.”
This could be a typical generic profile of a buyer. However when generic profile information is all you collect and when you don’t pay attention to the actual buying process of your buyer, you can be sure that your buyer persona project will not reach its goal. Ideally you build the foundation for your marketing activities and buyer persona profile insights can help but you need more.
Insights into the buying process is the most important part of a buyer persona exercise and help you understand:
- What questions does he/she need answered during the various phases of the buying process?
- What criteria does the buyer use to evaluate the options on the shortlist?
- Which sources are consulted at each stage?
- Does a business case need to be built and presented to management or colleagues?
Only when you have an accurate idea of your buyer’s buying process, can you create an effective content map for each phase of the buying process. In order to develop effective marketing campaigns you need to understand each step and concern of the buyer in buying a B2B product or service.
Avoiding these 3 mistakes
If you can develop your buyer persona without making these three mistakes, you have a great chance for success and have built a solid foundation for effective marketing campaigns. It is crucial to work with well-developed buyer personas, especially as your content strategy and all your next steps will rely on it.
If you would like help or advice in the development of buyer personas, SPOTONVISION is a certified party that assists in setting up effective buyer persona profiles and content maps. We invite you to reach out to us for assistance.