Buyer Personas have been around for more than a decade. As an industry, we have defined them as an archetype of who our ideal customer is. They have been used to turn preconceived assumptions into a relatable idea of who our customers are.
The problem is we’ve been doing buyer personas all wrong. A buyer persona shouldn’t be ideal or an assumption. It should be a real depiction of your buyer, built from primary research. It should tell you how they approach the buyer’s journey, the obstacles they face, the reasoning behind their decisions. And ultimately, what got them to buy your solution—or to run in the opposite direction.
After building B2B buyer personas, here are the top 4 lessons we’ve learned.
Number 1: You ALWAYS need a buyer persona. Having a buyer persona is essential to a marketing team. How can you have a tailored brand, message and product if you don’t know your audience? However, there can be grey areas. What if you’re transitioning to a new market? What if you’re going to target a new customer? The answer should always be to still do the research. You can’t do anything successfully without knowing your customer and their thoughts about you and your product. What resonates in one market might also resonate in another, but you won’t know if anything is resonating unless you ask.
Number 2: Journeys have expiration dates. Think about it: Has your sales process changed during the last five or 10 years? Absolutely. Because of that, you need to talk to people who have gone through this process recently. And, you need to continue to do so on a monthly basis. By continuing to do buyer research, you’ll be able to have an updated persona, and you can catch problems in your marketing or sales process and respond to them as they happen. Having an obsolete persona is as bad as not having one.
Number 3: Losses are just as important. Knowing why buyers didn’t choose you can help you step up your game, so it’s just as important to talk to the customers you lost as well as those you won. Don’t make assumptions about your losses or oversimplify their feedback. Price often comes up, and a common mistake is to assume buyers are talking about hard dollars. But you would be surprised how many times these customers are referring to how pricing is presented and when, the price not being readily available online, the pricing structure, etc.
Number 4: There isn’t such a thing as a cookie cutter interview guide. The only way to understand a customer’s or former prospect’s journey is by having an open-ended conversation, not a plotted out interview. Sure, you need to make sure you map the insights you want to capture, but the best way to do that is by actively listening, leaving your assumptions behind, and asking follow up questions. You can always ask direct questions, and you can validate feedback you’ve gotten before.
If you haven’t developed a buyer persona, get on with it. And if you’re still skeptical, just jump on the phone and talk to your customers regularly. You’ll see how much you learn just from listening. Trust me, they will have stuff to say.