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E-Book: Buyer Personas FAQs

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Understanding how B2B buyers search for solution options, short-list and evaluate vendors, and make their final purchasing decision is critical for developing persuasive messages that capture......

Understanding how B2B buyers search for solution options, short-list and evaluate vendors, and make their final purchasing decision is critical for developing persuasive messages that capture buyers’ attention and move them through the sales funnel. That’s why organizations are increasingly using buyer personas to take the guesswork and personal opinions out of what will work versus what won’t.

However, not all buyer personas are created equally. While some buyer personas contain deep insights that help marketers to make confident decisions about how to get the right message to the right people at the right time in the buying journey, other buyer personas never get put to use.

This e-book provides answers to frequently asked questions about buyer personas, including:

- What is a buyer persona and what insights does it contain?

- Our marketing team created buyer personas but they weren’t helpful. Why?

- Our sales team captures information about our buyers. Why do we need buyer personas?

- How off-course course could our marketing and sales strategy be if we don’t interview real buyers?

- What is the best methodology for creating insightful and actionable buyer personas?

- How many buyer personas do we need in order to be effective?

- And more

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  • 1. E-Book Buyer Persona FAQs by Gordana Stok Buyer Persona Institute Certified Practitioner
  • 2. “Your buyers are the source of the insights that will clarify all decisions. By channeling the buyer’s voice – clearly, accurately and persuasively – the buyer persona gives marketing the confidence to say, “This is what really matters to our buyers. So here’s the plan.” – Adele Revella, President, Buyer Persona Institute
  • 3. FAQs Menu Part 1: Creating the Case for Buyer Personas 1) What is a buyer persona and what is it used for? p. 5 2) Our marketing team created buyer personas but they weren’t helpful. Why? p. 6 3) Our sales team captures information about our customers. Why do we need buyer personas?   p. 7 4) How off-course could we possibly be if we don’t interview our customers?   p. 8 5) What buyer persona methodology do you use and recommend?   p. 9 6) How reliable is the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ methodology?   p.10 Part 2: Using the Insights to Create a Competitive Advantage 7) Click on the page number to jump to the answer. What insights are captured in the buyer persona?   p. 11 8) How can 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ generally be used?   p. 12 9) How, specifically, can the ‘BUYING JOURNEY’ insight be used?   p. 13 10) How, specifically, can the ‘PRIORITY INITIATIVE’ insight be used?   p. 14
  • 4. 11) How, specifically, can the ‘SUCCESS FACTORS’ initiative be used?   p. 15 12) How, specifically, can the ‘PERCEIVED BARRIERS’ initiative be used?   p. 16 13) How, specifically, can the ‘DECISION CRITERIA’ insight be used?   p. 17 Part 3: Interviewing Buyers: Who, How Many, How Often, etc. 14) p. 18 15) How many buyers do we need to interview?   p. 19 16) How do we find buyers to interview? p. 20 17) How long are the interviews?   p. 21 18) When and how often should we interview buyers?   p. 22 19) Click on the page number to jump to the answer. Do we need to interview every person involved in the decision-making process?   Do we need to create a separate buyer persona for each industry or target market?   p. 23 Part 4: Conclusion 20) What is the key take-away message? p. 24
  • 5. Q1. What is a buyer persona and what is it used for? “A buyer persona is an example of the real person who buys, or might buy, products like the ones you market based on what you learn from direct interviews with them.” - Buyer Persona Institute Buyer personas take the guess work and personal opinions out of your marketing decisions. They contain deep insights that help marketers to make more informed decisions on how to reach buyers and persuade them to purchase their product or service. 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ FAQs Menu Priority Initiative Success Factors Perceived Barriers Decision Criteria Buying Journey p.5
  • 6. Q2. Our marketing team already created buyer personas but they weren’t helpful. Why is that? The effectiveness of buyer personas depends on the methodology used. If your marketing team only used analyst reports and quantitative studies to collect information about your target buyers, then the buyer persona contains generic, demographic data, such as the buyer’s gender, age, role, responsibilities, top priorities and key challenges. This information is the same for all purchasing decisions, regardless of the product or service you sell. So even though you may know WHO your buyers are and what keeps them up at night, you don’t know WHAT they do to make a buying decision with regards to your SPECIFIC SOLUTION CATEGORY and why some choose to do nothing at all. FAQs Menu That’s why it’s important to create buyer personas based on interviews with real people who bought, or might buy, your type of product or service. p.6
  • 7. Q3. Our sales team already captures information about our buyers. Why do we need a buyer persona? The information captured by your sales team only tells part of the buyer’s story. 60% of the B2B buying decision is made BEFORE consulting with a vendor*. This means your sales team only engages with buyers at the later stages in the decision-making process and is only able to capture part of the information you need. Moreover, buyers are usually reluctant to share in-depth information about their buying journey with your sales team while they are considering and evaluating your product or service. FAQs Menu However, when you interview buyers after a deal is won or closed with the intent to capture deep insights about their buying journey, you’ll know exactly WHAT buyers do as they move from status quo to their final purchasing decision and WHY. * The End of Solution Sales, Harvard Business Review p.7
  • 8. Q4. How far off-course could we possibly be if we don’t interview buyers? You’d be surprised. Here’s a real-world example that was recently cited in Forbes Magazine: After interviewing their customers, the CMO of one company discovered that 70% of their marketing budget and 40% of their sales efforts were not being spent in places that actually had an influence on the buying decision. (McKinsey & Company, “The B2B Customer Decision Journey: The Route to Increased Sales”, Forbes Magazine, April 24, 2013) Imagine what your CEO would say if he or she discovered this about your marketing and sales efforts. FAQs Menu p.8
  • 9. Q5. What buyer persona methodology do you use and recommend? I use 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ developed by Adele Revella, the president and founder of Buyer Persona Institute. As a certified practitioner of this methodology, I interview the customers that you have won, as well as buyers that considered your solution but chose your competitor instead. Like an investigative reporter, I uncover the 5Ws of the buying journey: Who, What, When, Where, and – most importantly - Why. The goal of these interviews is to get buyers to tell a story about their buying journey from the moment your type of product or service became a strategic priority for their organization to the day they made a purchasing decision. I then aggregate and analyze the results and create a buyer persona profile that is a composite of the key findings from all interviews. FAQs Menu p.9
  • 10. Q6. How reliable is the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ methodology? 5 Rings of Buying Insight was developed by Adele Revella, the world’s leading authority on the subject and practice of buyer personas. Three out of the five largest software companies in the world rely on Adele’s private buyer persona workshops and custom research services, and more than 5,000 marketers have taken the two-day buyer persona seminar that Adele developed and led for Pragmatic Marketing. Adele has been named one of the top 50 B2B marketing influencers and is a regular speaker and buyer persona workshop leader at key marketing conferences, such as Content Marketing World, Marketing Profs B2B Forum and Ragan Communications Content Summit for PR, Social Media and Marketing Professionals. FAQs Menu p.10
  • 11. Q7. What insights are captured in the buyer persona? The buyer persona contains 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ : 1) PRIORITY INTIATIVE: What triggered buyers to look for your type of product or service and why it became a strategy priority for their organization. 2) SUCCESS FACTORS: What buyers expected to change within their organization once they implemented the product or service and why, and how they define a successful implementation. 3) PERCEIVED BARRIERS: What real or perceived barriers stalled the buying process or led the buyer to choose your competitor, and why. 4) DECISION CRITERIA: What specific product / service criteria or company attributes were most important to buyers as they made their final purchasing decision, and why. FAQs Menu 5) BUYING PROCESS: What steps buyers took to search for, short-list and evaluate solution options, and which marketing and sales assets buyers are most open to receiving from vendors. p.11
  • 12. Q8. How can the insights generally be used or applied? One of the greatest benefits of buyer personas created using 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ is that the insights are highly actionable. You’ll know exactly where to prioritize marketing and sales investments. More specifically, you’ll know when marketing campaigns and sales people should engage qualified buyers, and what information you need to include in your messaging strategy and assets in order to influence the decision-making process from the earliest stages in the buying cycle. So unlike buyers personas that are created using generic, demographic data and sit, unused, in your marketing department, 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ enables you to take immediate action. FAQs Menu p.12
  • 13. Q9. How, specifically, can the ‘BUYING JOURNEY’ insight be used? Once you know what steps buyers take to investigate solution options, you can then develop a marketing and sales strategy that aligns with the buying process. You will make more confident decisions with regards to what information should be addressed in your marketing and sales assets to help buyers make an educated purchasing decision. You’ll know when buyers need the information in the buying process and how to package the information (i.e. case study, white paper, web seminar, local event, etc.). And you’ll know which channels to use to make sure your message gets in front of buyers. By aligning your efforts with the buying process, you’ll get the right information, to the right people, at the right time in the decision-making process. FAQs Menu p.13
  • 14. Q10. How, specifically, can the ‘PRIORITY INITIATIVE’ insight be used? Once you know what triggers buyers to purchase your type of solution, you can use this insight to engage with target customers much earlier on in the buying process – even before they have an identified need. You can then proactively target new customers with a provocative insight as to why they should move away from the status quo and make your solution a strategic priority for their organization. You can create messaging and content marketing pieces that say, “You may not have experienced this yet, but it’s coming. This is how other organizations have dealt with a similar situation and these are the benefits they saw after implementing the solution.” By demonstrating your thought leadership and subject matter expertise in this manner, you’ll position your company as a trusted advisor to buyers and potentially bypass the RFP process altogether. FAQs Menu p.14
  • 15. Q11. How, specifically, can the ‘SUCCESS FACTORS’ insight be used? Once you know what buyers expect to change within their organization and how they define a successful implementation, you can use this insight to create relevant messages that truly resonate with buyers. This will enable you to capture the attention of buyers and communicate the value of your product or service using language that won’t annoy buyers. Rather than reverse-engineering the value of your solution based on its features and functionality, you’ll be able to tell your value story through the buyer’s perspective. By focusing on the outcomes that are most important to buyers using their own words (instead of sales-speak or marketing jargon), you’ll differentiate yourself from the competition, earn buyers’ trust, and persuade them to consider your product or service. FAQs Menu p.15
  • 16. Q12. How, specifically, can the ‘PERCEIVED BARRIERS’ insight be used? Once you know what barriers could potentially cause the buying process to grind to a halt or lead buyers to disqualify your company or solution, you can use this insight to proactively address buyers’ objections so that you stay in the game. You can create content marketing pieces around “frequently asked questions” or “common misconceptions”. For more sensitive topics, you can also create objection handlers for your sales team to use when engaging with prospects at key stages in the buying cycle. By proactively addressing your buyer’s real or perceived barriers, you’ll increase your chances of being short-listed for evaluation and potentially change the criteria buyers use to make their purchasing decision. FAQs Menu p.16
  • 17. Q13. How, specifically, can the ‘DECISION CRITERIA’ insight be used? Once you know what criteria buyers use to make their purchasing decision, you can use this insight to persuade buyers that your company and solution best meets their needs. You can create content for your website and marketing campaigns that speaks directly to what product features and company attributes are most important to buyers. You can equip buyers with the tools they need to more easily compare your solution with your competitors, while highlighting your key differentiators. And you can arm your sales team with a comprehensive and solid argument as to why buyers should buy your solution instead of the competition’s. By knowing how buyer’s make a purchasing decision with regards to your specific type of solution, you can get to the heart of matters well ahead of your competitors. FAQs Menu p.17
  • 18. Q14. Do we need to interview every person involved in the decision-making process? No, you do not. Only the person who was tasked with the responsibility of investigating and presenting solution options to the various decision-makers needs to be interviewed. As the person who did most of the work, this person holds all of the information you need. Information about which stakeholders were involved in the buying process, what concerns they raised, and who had the greatest influence on the final decision are captured when interviewing this person, so you don’t need to interview all stakeholders separately. This is one of the reasons why 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ is such an efficient and effective methodology. FAQs Menu p.18
  • 19. Q15. How many buyers do we need to interview? You can capture all of the insights you need in as few as 10 interviews. Further, five of your interviews should be with buyers representing deals that you won and five should be with buyers that you lost to a competitor. As you can imagine, the loss interviews are extremely valuable for uncovering insights about which product features or company attributes led buyers to choose your competitor, where your solution fell short, and why. For added insights into barriers to adoption, you can also interview prospects who stopped considering your type of product or service, and chose to return to the status quo. FAQs Menu p.19
  • 20. Q16. How do we find buyers to interview? The first place to look for buyers to interview is your CRM, sales or marketing database. Naturally, you should not interview buyers who are still in the process of considering your product or service because you don’t want to risk negatively impacting the decision-making process in any way. If you’re bringing a new product to market or you’re a start-up company and don’t have any or enough names in your database yet, you always have the option of recruiting buyers who never considered your solution or service. If you go this route, buyers must be remunerated for participating in the interviews. FAQs Menu p.20
  • 21. Q17. How long are the interviews? The length of the interview depends on the degree of consideration the buyer took to make the purchasing decision. The more time the buyer and other members of the decision-making team take to research and evaluate solution options, the more time you can request from the buyer. For high consideration products or services, it is acceptable to ask the buyer for 30 minutes of his or her time. For medium consideration products or services, 15 to 20 minutes is sufficient. A high consideration decision is one that takes weeks, months and even years to make and involves multiple stakeholders. This is typical of more complex B2B purchasing decisions, such a CRM or ERP system, where there is a risk involved in implementing the solution, or the cost ranges from tens of thousands of dollars to over a million dollars. FAQs Menu A medium consideration decision, on the other hand, is quicker to make, involves little or no risk to the organization, and / or is lower in cost. Examples include an industry event, training program or office equipment. p.21
  • 22. Q18. When and how often should we interview buyers? Ideally, you should conduct an interview as soon as possible after a deal is won or lost so that the information is fresh in the buyer’s mind. However, do not conduct an interview during the implementation phase of your product or service, otherwise the buyer may want to focus the discussion on issues that they may be facing. After your initial buyer persona is created, you’ll then want to interview one to two buyers each month in order to keep them as current as possible. This will enable you to stay on top of any changes in the market or your competitive standing that may occur. By keeping your buyers personas up to date, you’ll then be able to adjust your marketing and sales strategy on a more timely basis and remain one step ahead of your competitors. FAQs Menu p.22
  • 23. Q19. Do we need to create a separate buyer persona for each industry or target market? Not necessarily. Because you only need to focus on characteristics that tell you how to persuade the buyer, one buyer persona may be enough. Surprisingly, buyers share many similar needs and buying behavior - regardless of the industry, company size or other demographic data - so you may only need to create one buyer persona. If, however, you uncover differences that would necessitate a different marketing strategy, then you would need to create additional buyer personas. The decision to create additional buyer personas can be made after aggregating and analyzing the findings from your initial set of interviews. This is yet another reason why 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ is so efficient and effective. FAQs Menu p.23
  • 24. Q20. What is the key take-away message for buyer personas? “If you don’t engage directly with your target buyers for your persona development, there is no guarantee that it is the least bit accurate The buyer persona is a tool that can help you see way deeper than a scratch into the buyer’s thinking If crafted with skill and insight, the person who emerges in this picture may become as real to you as anyone you can ever remember meeting. In your mind’s eye, this person becomes three-dimensional to the point that you can see the world through his or her eyes.” - Adele Revella, President, Buyer Persona Institute FAQs Menu p.24
  • 25. Thank You Gordana Stok LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/gordanastok Twitter: twitter.com/ContentBridge_ Website: www.contentbridge.ca Gordana Stok is a Buyer Persona Institute Certified Practitioner and a content marketing consultant who specializes in B2B technology solutions. During her 20-year career, Gordana has had the privilege to work with many start-up, mid-size and large enterprise companies, both as a full-time marketing / communications manager and an independent consultant. Her responsibilities have consistently included developing powerful messaging strategies and persuasive content targeted at buyers, C-level executives and end-users in support of the pre-buying, buying and post-buying cycles.
  • 26. If you liked this e-book, you might also like these slide decks. Buyer Personas: The Key to Strategic B2B Marketing CLICK HERE to view the slide deck. Content: The Key to Influencing the B2B Buying Process CLICK HERE to view the slide deck.