Here, Charlie Stewart, CEO of digital marketing agency Rogerwilco and co-author of Business-to-Business Marketing: A Step by Step Guide (Penguin) provides guidance on how businesses can map out their customers’ personas and improve their chances of selling to them.
As he explained in a previous article – Using The 6 Phases Of The B2B Buying Cycle To Improve Lead Generation – Stewart says creating quality content can speed up decision making. But the more you know about your customers and the factors that influence them, the better you’ll be able to tailor your content to their needs … and the faster you’ll be able to convince them to buy from you.
Who is your customer, and who influences them?
Regardless of whether you’re selling to businesses or to end consumers, there’s a strong likelihood that a number of different people will be involved in the purchasing decision. Knowing who they are and understanding their needs and wants can provide significant competitive advantage – and insight.
The most effective way of identifying everyone who contributes to a purchasing decision is to map them out on a concentric circle that places the buyer in the centre and those who influence the buyer in the outer rings.
Identifying the heavyweights
David Ogilvy, often referred to as the grandfather of advertising, once said:
“Don’t count the people that you reach, reach the people who count.”
As an example, women tend to do their household’s weekly grocery shop and, while they may take the decision as to which brand of toothpaste goes into the shopping cart, influencers such as their kids or partners can persuade them where they shop.
South African retailer Pick n Pay recognised this and ran a series of promotions targeting children – its 2015 Stickeez promotion reportedly grew sales by 12%. Take a leaf out of their book and be sure to cast a wide net when mapping out who’s likely to influence your buying decision maker.
Giving away cheap plastic toys is unlikely to resonate with senior managers in the B2B world, but the opinions of other influencers may sway their decisions. The media, analysts, regulators and existing customers can all play as significant a role in convincing a business to choose one vendor over another as any of the C-suite executive team sitting in the boardroom. So understanding their needs and wants is as key as understanding the CEO’s.
Building the persona
Once you’ve identified your customer and their influencers, build up detailed descriptions for each of them.
To ensure consistency across your personas, you’d be well advised to use a template to plot out your insights. HubSpot, the marketing automation software company, has a useful free tool that’ll help put proper structure around the exercise.
You can use this to map out everything from demographic data to insights on your target’s hobbies, details of their job to information about their family.
Specific questions you need to answer include:
- what are they trying to accomplish when buying your product or using your service
- what drives their behaviour
- where do they gather information
- how do they think
- how do they buy
- where else / from who else can they buy
- what might prevent them from buying
Finding the answers is actually easier than it might appear. For starters, your customer-facing employees and colleagues are likely to have a wealth of information on your audience.
You should also be able to glean insights from your website and social media analytics accounts – this will be particularly useful in helping you understand the content they engage with as part of their buying journey.
But the most effective way to build your personas will be to speak to real customers. If you have the budget, commission a research company to hold focus groups or one-on-one interviews with your target audience. If that’s not possible, you can gather a lot of information by simply sending questionnaires to your existing customer base – although you’ll probably want to incentivise these to improve response.
Once you’ve crafted your personas properly you’ll be able to refine your marketing activities, making sure that your messages resonate with each customer grouping within your target audience and, most importantly, increase the chance that they will buy from you versus from your competitor.