Live from MarketingProfs B2B: Buyer Persona Best Practices to Make your Marketing More Effective

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Oct 4, 2012
More Articles by Janet

Today I attended a GREAT session by Adele Revella, President, Buyer Persona Institute, focused on how to create and use buyer personas.

Marketing is now part of the entire buyer process, not just the beginning of the process. By the time buyers talk to a sales rep, they have narrowed their decision to 2-3 choices, based on decisions they’ve made through marketing content.

Our job is more urgent as marketers now. Our pieces must fit the gap of what buyers are missing. The point of buyer personas is to find that right piece that is missing.

There are two parts to the buyer persona: Core Buyer Persona and Product, Service or Solution Connection. In the Core Buyer Persona, the information remains the same for all buying decisions and incorporates data from analytics, quantitative studies and online observations. The Product, Service or Solution Connection relies on information specific to a particular buying decision. The insights are not obvious and are a source of competitive advantage. The discovery requires qualitative interviews.

Adele had five items that tie into buyer persona, which she called the “Five Rings of Insight”:

  • Priority Initiatives
  • Success Factors
  • Perceived Barriers
  • Buying Process
  • Decision Criteria

1. Priority Initiatives
Priority Initiatives are essentially the pain points. Pain points are usually reverse-engineered – with marketers essentially relying first on the product experts to determine the pain points. We rely on our own thoughts first. However, this isn’t the correct beginning to the process. We need to know how buyers think, and this requires a culture shift. The Priority Initiative starts with the buyer’s story by asking: “Take me back to the day when you first started looking for a _________ solution. What happened?”

Priority Initiatives help with targeting, messaging and sales enablement.

2. Success Factors
Success Factors may seem obvious, but it’s how the BUYER defines success. It’s very specific. To find the perfect fit, you need details. We know, for instance, that perhaps the answer will reduce costs, but why? How much? Adele shared a sample example. If someone said they were going to paint their apartment, you might first ask, “What color?”. However, the better, more informative question is, “How did you decide what color to paint your apartment?”. You want to know as a seller what helped buyers make a choice.

3. Perceived Barriers
Marketing seems to understand this the least, but salespeople know this daily. Perceived barriers are the reasons that people reject your product. Perceptions get built around your product and they last. Even if your product has improved, buyers may have an old perception of your product and negative things that happened in the past. Marketing *may* need to focus on objections. Adele shared an example from Symantec, whose message was “increase productivity with security software that won’t slow you down, get in your way, or swallow up system resources.” Symantec focused on the negative thoughts around virus protection and addressed them through a marketing message.

4. Buying Process
What steps did the buyer take to make a decision? Adele shared a table featuring the five steps of the buyer process: trigger, research, assess, negotiate and implement. How many solutions were evaluated at each step? Who are the key buyer personas during that step? What were the key rings of insight at each step? Which resources were consulted (such as articles, blog posts, etc.) at each step?
Stamp out checklist marketing. Instead, create a buying process map. Think about how to help buyers choose. Focus on investments in key personas and prioritize assets that improve conversion.

5. Decision Criteria
Decision Criteria tells you how your buyers compare their options. Which criteria factor into the decision? What competitive differences count? List your own assessment of your differences and see how they match up with the assessment of the buyer. Are they the same? Never settle for the buyer’s first answer – it’s usually an answer you already know. For instance, if the buyer says that the solution was easy to use, follow up with a question like, “What aspect of ease-of-use was most critical?”.

Building Buyer Personas
To build a buyer persona, focus on goals, frustrations and the person’s approach to gathering new ideas and information. Personas are a tool. Don’t try to impress others with them, but rather use them as a tool for decision making. She suggested starting with 6-8 interviews of 30 minutes apiece, and try to do one a month thereafter, to gain this information.

Present your buyer persona in context using these steps:

  1. Segmentation and targeting
  2. Prioritizing and marketing investments
  3. Messaging/content strategy
  4. Persuasive marketing content. Write content that shows:
    1. Buyers believe they will achieve their success factors
    2. and overcome their perceived barriers
    3. they can easily navigate their buying process
    4. with straight answers about their decision criteria
  5. Sales enablement/alignment
    1. Don’t share personas with sales. Instead, focus on:
      1. Which type of buyer will agree to meet and how to get that meeting
      2. Positives to emphasize and objections to overcome
      3. What buyers say about competitive solutions
      4. Which buyers are critical at each buying process step
      5. How sales tools are targeted for distinct buyer types

Adele left us with a great quote: “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent, and not enough time on what is important.” Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

You can also download buyer persona resources at Adele’s site at:

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