Who are your customers? It seems like an easy question—especially if you’re one of the 44% of enlightened B2B marketers who has developed detailed buyer personas. You may have even given those personas avatars, like Techy Terri or Finance Fran, complete with demographic profiles and personality quirks.
That’s great, because according to research by the B2B Marketing Institute, 71% of companies who exceeded revenue and lead goals have documented personas and 47% of companies who exceeded sales and revenue goals consistently maintain their personas. As importantly, a study by Cintell shows that 65% of companies that updated their personas within the last six months exceeded their lead and revenue goals. Wait, what is that about maintaining and updating buyer personas, you ask?
Maybe the real question is “Do you know who your current customers are?”
Update Buyer Personas for Better Results
Lots of companies have embraced the power of personas, but too many see the task as a “one and done” deal. That’s a big mistake, because people change, businesses change and as we’ve seen with recent events, the world can change dramatically overnight! Chances are, the current pandemic has altered the way you and your company works (Zoom overload, anybody?), which means it’s more than likely changed the way your customers are working, what they’re looking for and what type of messages resonate with them.
If you’re feeling frustrated that the same buyer personas you’ve used for years are no longer giving you the same results, it’s time to revisit them. Some signs that your customers have changed might include:
- You have customers who use a lot of extra resources because nothing is ever quite “right” (e.g., they want constant revisions to proposals and/or work, they request product/equipment retrofitting or changes or renegotiating has become a daily task). It may also indicate that they were never a great fit for your business from the get-go (see Avoid the Wrong Fit).
- You’re getting more order cancellations than usual.
- The time from engaging a lead to closing a sale is getting longer.
- Customers are doing more “shopping around” and not getting back to you in a timely manner.
- Visits to your websites or time spent on your website has declined.
Because accurate buyer personas help you to develop the right products and services, give your brand a voice, guide your sales strategies and create the right content for your audience, it’s worth the effort of keeping them up to date. When dusting off those buyer personas, be sure to include:
- Your current customers
- Target customers
- Competitor’s customers
- Market influencers
Avoid the Wrong Fit
If we’re honest, we can admit that certain things just don’t fit—like skinny jeans on people over a certain age or Shaq squeezing into a smart car. The same is true with customers. You can waste a lot of time and resources trying to keep customers that are not a good fit for your business, or you can focus those resources on attracting the right buyers. To do this, you need to also develop negative buyer personas.
It may seem counter-intuitive (or downright scary) to turn away any customers, especially when business is slow and times are uncertain, as we’re currently experiencing. However, customers who waste precious time and resources are not helping your business and will eventually leave. Isn’t it better to spend time nurturing customers who will become long-term relationships? Besides, working with these folks will be as comfortable as your favorite (appropriately fitted) jeans.
Use the Right Tools
Creating buyer personas is not a new idea. I once knew a sales rep for hydraulic equipment who kept a detailed journal (yes, using actual paper and pen) on every customer. In addition to the customer’s contact information and buying history, he noted the names of family members, likes and dislikes and personal notes, such as “Don’t call Joe before 11:00” (apparently Joe was not a morning person).
Today, however, we have much more sophisticated tools to help us create and update buyer personas.
Profile your BCF (that’s “Best Customer Forever”)
Start by creating a buyer persona from your ideal customer. After all, your goal is to attract more of these people. Analyzing the behavior of current customers can help you make a better connection with potential customers. Don’t be afraid to ask them why they chose your company/product, what type of research they did before contacting you and what they like and don’t like about your product/service.
Search Engine Optimization can help you develop accurate buyer personas by tracking which keywords the buyers in your industry are searching. This information can help you identify your target audience and craft messages that appeal to their needs. Tools like Google Insights and Trends can give you the qualitative data you need, but using SEO in conjunction, adds quantitative information so you can form a complete picture. You can track the analytical data of your website, discover popular keywords and determine which ones attract your best leads.
Take advantage of marketing automation tools
By tracking the behaviors of potential customers, you can tailor the right message to the right audience at the right time. Data shows that highly personalized messages are far more effective than generic communications. This may be true now, more than ever, as buyers are seeking more meaningful connections. This data will also help you personalize personas. For instance, we often use age as a key descriptor in buyer personas, but how does age impact the way you communicate? A younger customer may be more likely to listen to podcasts, while an older customer may be easier to reach through a blog on LinkedIn or email.
Follow the buyer’s journey
In the world of B2B marketing, the buyer’s journey is typically more complicated than deciding on which coffee shop to stop at or which jeans to buy. Understanding your customers’ buying process is key to developing accurate personas. First, buyers must realize there is a problem to solve or need to fill (awareness). Then, they must define the problem or need and research the options (consideration). Finally, they must determine which product/service is the best choice (decision). Knowing how your customers identify problems, how they educate themselves and what criteria they use to make decisions is essential to forming buyer personas.
Survey your audience
Asking your audience or potential buyers what they need, what they value, how they gather data and how they make decisions is still the most effective way to compile information. You can use market research, post a survey using SurveyMonkey or Google Surveys or take a poll on social media. It’s a good idea to consistently check in with your audience as industry trends, expectations and needs can quickly change.
Buyer personas can be highly effective tools, but only if they’re accurate. It’s important to remember that they’re not set in stone. Customer habits change naturally over time, but as we’ve learned recently, events may force more rapid and dramatic changes. If there was ever a time to revisit your buyer personas, this is it!
For more on developing buyer personas and creating marketing strategies that target your customers, contact Sean Hickey, Director of Strategic Growth, at 734-646-0713.