You know about the new buyer’s journey – in 2017, customers are in control of the relationship. Today’s buyer’s journey is social, self-directed, trust-based and transparent. Brands must acknowledge this fact and realize that the path to the sale requires maximum understanding of and empathy for the customer. You need to know your audience.
The best way to do this is to build buyer persona profiles in order to ensure your marketing team understands its primary audience.
A buyer persona is a detailed profile of your company’s ideal customer.
When building buyer personas, we’re talking about the type of customers you want to work with, who can truly benefit from your product or service. Your organization must have a deep understanding of this ideal customer in order to maximize your marketing efforts.In order to build accurate persona profiles, you need to gather together customer-facing employees. They can be from the sales team, call center, marketing, as well as upper management. It’s helpful to have a cross section of the company so that you’re getting different voices coming from different angles; this will help you to build well-rounded personas.
Ideally, this is a full-day offsite session. You might think that sounds like an awful lot of time to spend on this exercise, but what could be more important than creating a deep organizational understanding of your customers?
The session needs to be facilitated by someone experienced at asking probing questions and pushing for the best answers. It requires questioning conventional wisdom. The facilitator doesn’t need to have all the answers; she needs to have all the questions.
Here are the areas you need to address in order to build your buyer persona profiles:
What are the demographics? These are the basic facts, including age, gender, job title and geographic information. B2B organizations should identify the basic facts about the business customers they’re targeting – size, verticals, etc.
What are their pain points? What keeps the customer up at night? What is the seemingly unsolvable problem they have that your solution addresses? Also consider whether they have a pain point that you might not address but that impacts their behavior and/or buying cycle. You should delve into the nature of the target’s typical job responsibilities – is their job frantic? Are they stuck in a slow-moving bureaucracy?
How do they buy? Do your ideal customers do a lot of online research? Do they base purchase decisions on word-of-mouth recommendations? Are they methodical or do they make decisions quickly? What other considerations come into play before they buy?
Why do they buy? What tips them into making a decision? Do they buy based upon price, or are they less price-sensitive? And what is the deciding factor for them – is it utility? Is it design?
What are their values? We want to identify both the individual’s values and the target company’s values. For instance, consider whether being environmentally conscious is important to them.
What makes them different? Sales should have a good handle on this if they’ve been in the game for a while. They should understand the difference between a prospect who doesn’t buy and one that does. What are the identifying traits of the prospects who becomes customers?
What is their personality? Here, you’re considering their psychographics, which means their likes, attitudes, and opinions. The purpose is to get at what drives their decision-making mentality. Your customer is probably a “certain type of person” – make sure that everyone on your team understands this personality type.
Unfortunately, that’s where most buyer personas templates stop.
And, yes, I mean templates in the least flattering way possible. What tends to happen is that marketers create buyer personas that look exactly like every other companies’ personas – think “busy people.”
To truly make this an effective exercise, we recommend digging in deeper and putting yourself in your customers’ shoes to create “user narratives.” User narratives are stories you create in which your customer is the star; you are explicitly detailing their experience when they’re considering buying your service or product, from their emotions they feel to the physical environment in which they’re making the decision. Creating user narratives is part storytelling, part psychology, and all empathy.
Here’s what Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey says about user narratives:
If you want to build a product that’s relevant to folks you need to put yourself in their shoes. And you need to write a story from their side… It reads like a play. It’s really, really beautiful.
If you do that story well, then all of the prioritization, all of the product, all of the design and all the coordination you need to do with these products just falls out naturally. Because you can edit the story and everyone can relate to the story at all levelsof the organization.
See more of Dorsey discussing the importance of taking the customer’s point of view in this brief video:
As you can see, identifying your buyer personas comes down to asking the right questions. It’s a matter of digging deep, asking follow-up questions, and having a willingness to question accepted industry truths. And then it’s a matter of imagining every nuance that the customer experiences. Facilitating this session in a way that pushes to create a deep understanding is a critical component in gaining understanding of the audience.
Take your time, do it right. And then do it again periodically – because you can be sure your customers are evolving, and you need to evolve with them.
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