Buyer personas are a critical marketing and sales tool that keeps your efforts aligned with target audiences and maximizes revenue potential. Their benefits are manifold — they help companies refine their strategies to:
- Generate the right leads
- Tailor the sales process to buyer needs
- Optimize times and resources
- Design customized buyer experiences
- Increase conversions and sales
But not all buyer personas are created equal. To have real strategic value, personas need to focus on the right things — namely, the pain points a potential customer is experiencing and the goals they want to achieve with your solution.
Read on to learn more about creating actionable personas that level up your marketing and sales efforts at every stage of the buyer journey.
- Smart buyer personas are focused first and foremost on buyer pain points and goals.
- Buyer personas are most valuable when they help you understand purchase motivations.
- A representative from every customer-facing team should help develop your personas.
- Shareable templates make personas more usable in everyday practice.
- Personas should be revisited and updated periodically to keep them current.
What is a buyer persona?
Buyer personas are detailed archetypes of your business’s target customers. They describe the goals, motivations, demographic traits, and other attributes that make them a good fit for your products and services.
Personas are a valuable strategic tool that help companies develop effective marketing and sales strategies, tailor content, make decisions about product development and service offerings, and maintain a strong understanding of their audience (and each segment within it).
Most businesses have several buyer personas, although the exact number depends on your company. For example, a large enterprise with an expansive product suite may develop dozens of personas, while a small business with a few primary offerings may only need one or two.
It’s important to make the distinction between buyer personas and ideal customer profiles, another strategic tool used by B2B businesses to describe customers.
In short, ideal customer profiles (ICPs) describe organizations that would be best-fit for a company’s offerings, while buyer personas describe the individuals within those organizations who will make final purchase decisions.
ICPs include things like company size, location, industry, budget, and maturity. Personas include descriptors like position title, experience level, goals, job responsibilities, and personality traits.
Good vs. Bad Buyer Personas: The Key Difference
There’s one common but critical misstep that many companies make as they develop their buyer personas: failing to make them actionable. Instead, they stick to arbitrary traits and fictional titles (i.e. Technical Tony or Busy Barbara) that take a long time to develop but don’t actually inform strategy.
The thing to keep in mind is this: personal traits do have a place in buyer personas, but they should never be the primary focus.
The most important part of a persona are the goals, pain points, and motivations that drive a particular decision maker to seek your solutions. Those are the things that you can use to craft the right marketing messages and sales strategies to capture their business.
Let’s consider an example of each:
- Bad persona: Technical Tony is a single 28-year-old software development manager who is introverted, prefers to work alone, and is extremely productive in his work. Has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Programming and is proficient in multiple programming languages.
- Better version: Mid-level IT managers (30-40 years old) responsible for overseeing the DevOps strategy at their organizations, but challenged by poor infrastructure support. Seeking a solution to streamline and centralize the software development lifecycle.
What’s the difference? The first persona describes an individual, but it gives no indication about why (or even if) they’re seeking a solution.
In the second example, the company sees the pain point they need to address: a solution that streamlines software development. This insight informs marketing and sales messaging so that it resonates with potential customers and motivates them to buy.
These examples, however, are only buyer persona summaries. Let’s walk through 7 steps to creating complete, strategy-driving personas that help you generate new leads and achieve revenue growth.
7 Steps to Create Your Buyer Persona
Build your team
Every customer-facing department in your company should play a role in building your buyer personas — their perspectives are important. If you’re concerned about having too many cooks in the kitchen, try inviting one representative from each team.
These teams most often include marketing, sales, and customer success, but could include others depending on the nature of your business.
Identify customer pain points
To identify your customers’ goals and motivations — the driving forces behind their purchase decisions — you must first understand their pain points. A pain point is the problem or need that drives someone to seek a solution in the first place.
Many companies make the mistake of focusing so much on their product and service features that they forget to first tap into their potential customers’ actual needs.
To really understand this concept, think of a simple example — like a person stuck in the rain. They don’t need an umbrella, they need protection from getting wet. A building overhang, a taxi, and yes, an umbrella, can all resolve the pain point of getting wet, but the optimal choice depends on the specific situation and individual.
Look to uncover pain points first so you can determine how your offerings can help buyers solve them better than other available solutions.
Turn to your data
If you have a modern marketing and sales strategy, you should be collecting customer data systematically through digital channels. Data from many sources — website browsing, official inquiries, conversations with sales and customer service teams, interactions on social media, and engagement with online content (among other sources) all generate insightful customer data that inform your buyer personas.
As you begin to develop your personas, gather, organize, and analyze this data so it can be used throughout the process. Be sure to include data on both current and prospective customers.
Look for demographic trends
Individual demographic data (think age, gender, location and the like) may not be as important as professional attributes and motivations, but as a whole it can be meaningful. For example, if you’re finding that most of your inquiries do come from professionals of a certain age, you can tailor your marketing messaging to people in that age group.
As you analyze your lead and customer datasets, look for larger demographic trends that may be important and/or warrant strategic attention.
Create persona templates
The best way to make buyer personas actionable is to make them shareable with the use of templates. Create your buyer personas consistently using the same format — it could be as simple as a PDF or other shared document — and put them in an accessible place where your teams can refer to them as needed.
Educate marketing and sales teams
Buyer personas are only valuable if your marketing and sales teams actually use them in practice. To be sure that they do, designate time and resources for educating employees on your buyer personas and training them to apply them.
If you’ve created and shared templates, that’s a start. It’s also a good idea to have an initial education session when you first develop your personas, and to include them in onboarding and professional development programs.
Revisit and refine
Don’t let your buyer personas get stale. Just like the business world evolves and changes, so do your buyers. Revisit your personas annually and update them to include new motivations and any other new information relevant to that buyer group. As always, share your updates widely so they become a part of everyday strategy.
Over to You
Sales management software levels up your ability to understand your target customer and build buyer personas that drive revenue. Learn more about how Xactly’s Strategic Sales Planning solution gives you command of your data or schedule your demo today!