September 21, 2021
Go-to-market

B2B buyer personas: The whole process, tools, and templates

Creating effective B2B buyer personas can seem like a daunting task – keeping them current, even more so. But they’re a sure way to keep your buyers at the heart of your business and to stay at the forefront of market trends. So what tools do you need to get started in creating leading-edge personas?

Do you really know your target buyers? 

B2B buyer personas are all about understanding your target audience — how they think and what they want. 

But, creating a successful B2B marketing strategy isn’t just about stockpiling buyer personas. It’s about staying on top of trends, keeping those conversations open, and making sure your buyer personas don’t stagnate.

It’s a long process, but we’ve got some tips to help you learn how audiences think about the problems you solve.

Plus, you can also download a free B2B buyer persona template below. 

But first…

What are B2B buyer personas?

Picture your ideal buyer. Who are they? Where are they? What are their behaviors and habits? What motivates them? What frustrates them?

Got them?

Great, you’ve taken the first steps in creating a B2B buyer persona. 

A B2B persona is a representation of your ideal buyer. It details a buyer’s roles, responsibilities, aspirations, challenges, habits, and hobbies. It’s not about speculation. A strong B2B buyer persona is informed by data, customer research, and qualitative and quantitative analysis of your audience. 

Knowing this information will help you understand your buyer. What motivates them? What challenges do they face? It will put the buyer at the heart of the decision-making process and help you shape your content, product, offer, or message so that it’s unique and relevant.

By really understanding your B2B buyer personas, you’ll find it easier to know what you should be saying and why, where, and when you should be saying it. 

Why you need B2B buyer personas

B2B buyer personas help us to know more about our target buyers, and those who know more about their target buyers, win. Here are some of the big benefits:

  • Effective and personalized marketing
  • The whole company understands your audience
  • Identify gaps in those being marketed to 
  • Detailed understanding of different customer journeys
  • Decision-making is made easier
  • Your messages cut through the noise

Once you’ve established clear B2B buyer personas, you can begin to use tools like message maps to frame your product as exactly the solution they’ve been looking for, and create marketing GTM strategies that resonate with your target customers.

Using Jobs-to-be-Done to understand your buyers

The Jobs-to-be-Done framework helps you understand what your customers are trying to do with your product or content. Using this method will show you key patterns that tell you why your customers buy. 

For example, think about:

  • What is your buyer’s goal?
  • What might get in their way of achieving that goal?
  • What decisions and thought processes might lead them to choosing your product or service?

As you get more of this data, you’ll see patterns emerge — in behaviors, emotions, actions — which you can use to build your buyer personas. 

So, where do you get this data?

Talking to your customers is the first step. According to HubSpot, 42% of companies don't survey customers or collect feedback. The information is out there, you just need to ask. 

Here are some ways you could start a conversation with your audience:

Surveys 

Efficient, scalable, great for reaching large numbers. You can also easily segment and analyze survey data using the right tools. Different types of surveys will help you get insights into your buyer personas' pain points, needs, and even their jobs-to-be-done. These can help you stay in tune with your audiences’ current challenges, and ahead of buyer trends.

TIP

When creating your survey, think carefully about its purpose. Make sure each question has a clear focus for getting you the data you need.

Comments sections

Including comments sections on your pages is great for getting regular, up-to-date feedback directly from your customers. Whether they love it or hate it, your customers will tell you, and it’s all valuable information. 

TIP

Respond to those who give feedback, even if it’s just by adding an FAQ page to your website. This will help customers feel valued and encourage them to continue giving feedback.

Focus groups 

Focus groups can be really helpful for finding common issues and ideas amongst buyers. They give insight into where buyers have shared experiences.

But be careful — your B2B personas should represent individuals, and each buyer will have a very different experience. Focus groups can pressure members to share opinions, drown out quieter voices, and prevent people from giving honest feedback.

TIP

ake a big effort to help your buyers feel comfortable in your focus groups — start with an icebreaker, establish ground rules, encourage participants to respect one another, practice active listening, don’t dominate the conversation, remain neutral, encourage responses from those who may naturally be a little quiet. This will all help facilitate open and honest conversation.

One-to-one customer interviews

One-to-one interviews are the most helpful for building personas, because they give the best insights into customers’ personal experience: what makes them tick, what they want to achieve, and what they’re not interested in hearing.

Here are our biggest tips for conducting one-to-one interviews:

1. Choose which customers to interview

There are three types of customer you should target:

  • Biggest Fans: They will make sure the things they love about you are the things you are communicating in your messaging. Their words of praise will also help provide golden nuggets for new messaging!
  • Greatest Enemies: They don’t like you. They leave one-star or zero-star reviews. They demanded a refund. 
  • Meh Customers: They don’t know if they love you or they hate you. They’re early in their relationship with you.

Although it’s tempting to focus on your Biggest Fans, aim to talk to 10-15 people for each type of customer.

In fact, your Greatest Enemies can often be the most important people to listen to. Figure out why they bought your product and why it didn’t work for them.

2. Decide how you’re going to interview them

Once you’ve succeeded in getting a customer to agree to an interview, any questions you ask should be open-ended and invite them to freely tell their story. Make sure you listen. If your voice is dominating the interview, you won’t leave any room for organic, customer-driven insights. 

Remember to record your conversation. A pen and paper can feel like trustworthy companions, but you want your customer to feel that you’re present. Trust modern technology — programs like Zoom can easily record and transcribe your entire conversation. You can also use popular transcription tools like Rev that will quickly and efficiently turn your audio or video assets into transcripts.

Don’t forget to ask ‘why’! If you do interrupt your customer to ask a question, be sure that it’s the most powerful question you can ask: why? Asking ‘why’ at key moments in the conversation will help you dig deeper into your customer’s psychology.

3. Organize your interview data

Now it’s time to turn your data into something meaningful and tease out patterns. It’s time-consuming, but it’ll show you trends across your customer interviews. Something that might help with this stage is to put information into buckets. By ‘buckets’, we mean a group or list of data that has a common theme, or relates to a certain area of your business, or steps in your buyer journey. You can compile these in any way that works for you.

For example, buckets might include phases like:

  • The pre-purchase phase
  • The decision phase
  • The user phase

Once you’ve decided your buckets, it’s a case of Read, Highlight, Copy, Paste, Repeat — read back over your data, highlight anything important you may have missed the first time, copy it from your raw data file, paste into a bucket… and do it again!

4. Create your B2B buyer personas

You’ve just spent time teasing out patterns and trends from your interviews, so don’t fixate on creating personas based on things like job titles.

What has the data revealed? Your answers lie in where customers are struggling with the same problems. Create your buyer personas according to pain points — this is the stuff that will really resonate with your buyer.

What to take into account when creating your personas

Here are five key tips for you to consider when creating your B2B buyer personas:

1. Know your Rs

What are the Roles, Responsibilities, Rituals, and Relationships of your buyers? 

Use your data to build a picture of your buyer — what their role is, what they are responsible for, what a typical day looks for them, and who their team members are.

As we’ve just explored, the best way of finding this information is to speak to them — one-to-one if possible!

But, you could also have a look at online community groups where your customers might be discussing their experiences. Think about their ‘watering holes’ — where they are likely to consume information — and observe what messages they are seeing and how.

2. Leave the headshots out of it

Don’t give your personas a fake headshot to make them feel more human. 

B2B personas are accurate, intentional and based on real data. Using pictures can introduce bias where there shouldn’t be any.

Instead of focusing on what your customer looks like, put your efforts into understanding their experiences — those aspirations and pain points. Speak to their passions, or help tackle a challenge. This is what will resonate with your buyer and make your product or service the thing they can’t live without.

3. What content would help this B2B buyer persona?

It’s time to think strategically. What content types would help the individuals represented by your buyer persona? Really learn how your customers think.

Think about the type of information they need, the channels they will find it through, and the ways they might consume content.

And, yes, it does help to get personal! If your buyer is consuming content on their phone, during a 10-minute window, while they wait outside the school gates, that’s important to know. 

Some things to consider:

  • Does your buyer prefer written, verbal, aural, or visual communication?
  • How much time can they commit to consuming your content?
  • Do they prefer facts and figures, or personal reviews and anecdotes?
  • Are they a newsletter person, a report person, or a blog person?
  • Are they active on social media? If so, which platforms?
  • Are they more likely to watch a video, or read an article?
  • Do they need to see testimonials to be convinced?
  • Do they belong to any online networks that could help share your message?
  • Which communication channels do they trust?

4. Never stop iterating

There’s no such thing as too much customer data. Don’t let your B2B buyer personas get stale and outdated — keep them fresh, accurate and useful.

Look for ways to continue gathering feedback from your customers and use this to update your buyer personas.

Give your audiences various ways to feedback, keep the conversation open and stay current. By building your personas according to pain points, you’ll have already made them more sustainable. Job roles don’t often change, but challenges, barriers and market trends do. 

You could also build in a good old SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to your iteration process. For example:

  • How has this buyer persona helped you so far?
  • Where has it not been helpful?
  • What opportunities are there for developing the persona?
  • What might be stopping this persona from continuing to be useful?

5. Share with the entire company

Share the knowledge! Having your whole company know and understand your B2B buyer personas will make sure customers stay at the heart of decision-making.

Stop talking about your ‘audience’ and start mentioning specific buyer personas in your meetings. Print your B2B buyer personas and stick them on the office wall. 

Ask colleagues to map their targets against buyer personas. Include regular reminders and updates in internal communications. ‘Launch’ any new personas or persona changes in all-staff meetings or communication channels.

Use our free B2B buyer persona template

Use our free B2B buyer persona template to help you get started. Our template focuses on frustration and motivations — the things that will help most when deciding how to market to your persona.

b2b buyer persona template

You could also add:

  • Their career journey to date
  • What networks they belong to
  • How and where they might interact with your brand
  • Your elevator pitch
  • How you could help this persona tackle their frustration / reach their goals
  • Analysis of their buyer journey
  • Their information sources
  • Their favorite influencers and trusted brands

B2B buyer persona examples

Once you’ve conducted your interviews, sent out your surveys and gathered all your intel, you can start creating your B2B buyer personas. 

Remember, it doesn’t always help to lead with a job role. Find common themes and pain points, then see which job roles these crop up in most often. Build your buyer personas around the stuff you can do something about. For example:

You're selling a recruitment tool to a CEO, whose biggest pain point is keeping employees invested in the organization and its goals:

b2b buyer persona for a CEO

You're selling a project management tool to a Head of IT, whose biggest pain point is driving innovation across the whole company:

b2b buyer persona for a head of IT

Creating your B2B buyer personas around their frustrations, pain points, goals and motivations will help you respond to emerging market trends. While personas based primarily on job roles may run the risk of being too static, those based on industry trends can be constantly iterated. 

Keep talking to your buyers. Find out what they are dealing with right now and update your buyer personas to reflect that by running surveys on a regular basis.

What’s next?

We get it, creating effective B2B buyer personas takes time. But it’s so important to get right! And, once you’ve got those conversations with your customers going, they’ll start writing your B2B marketing strategy for you.

Once you’ve built up a portfolio of buyer personas, you can start using them to: 

  • Create messaging and content with real purpose
  • Stop making the same mistakes
  • Identify risks, by seeing where you audience is not satisfied with your product or service
  • Get your teams on the same page and working towards a common goal
  • Segment your buyers so they receive relevant, personalized communications
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Make bold decisions based on a real understanding of your audience
  • Increase buyer engagement by knowing what excites them and over delivering
  • Build a sustainable and scalable marketing strategy, based in customer data
  • Reduce content production time, by knowing exactly what your buyers want to hear
  • Accelerate decision-making processes
  • Find potential advocates — your ‘Biggest Fans’ — the people who’ll start spreading your message for you

And the golden rule? Never stop iterating

Just because you’ve created a high quality buyer persona, doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. Markets change and so do buyers. 

Keep those conversations going, and make sure your B2B buyer personas are always an accurate representation of your current buyers.


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