The limits of buyer personas in B2B and what to keep in mind

More than 60% of B2B companies use buyer personas to target their communications to their customers. Studies show that this approach is not only on trend, but also effective. Using buyer personas allows sales organizations to not only reach their sales goals, but to exceed them. For more than 70% of top performers, buyer personas are an essential tool for tailoring their marketing activities. However, in order to successfully target and communicate with their customers on the basis of buyer personas, B2B companies need to keep a few particulars in mind.

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What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a fictional customer profile that represents a company’s ideal customer(s) or customer group(s). The basic idea is to achieve a better understanding of how this representative customer makes (purchasing) decisions. For this purpose, buyer personas include typical needs and preferences (e.g. personal vs. digital contact, the price the customer is willing to pay, affinity in numbers, etc.) as well as behaviors (e.g. use of communication channels). In B2B, these characteristics also generally include information about typical career paths, decision-making criteria, and management hierarchies. On the basis of this profile, sales organizations can draw valuable conclusions in order to most effectively target their marketing and sales activities.

What to watch for when creating B2B buyer personas

Until now, buyer personas have mainly been used by B2C businesses. In order to effectively use them in the B2B context, companies need to keep a few unique aspects in mind in terms of the behavior of B2B customers:

  1. Multi-person buying centers: In general, in B2B companies, purchase decisions are made by multiple individuals. For this reason, it is not enough to simply understand the underlying segments (e.g. industry or company size). Instead, it is more helpful to use buyer personas to depict the roles of the persons involved (e.g. decision-maker, purchasing manager, initiator, etc.).
  2. The dynamics of the roles: It is also important to keep in mind that the employees in the buying center may be responsible for multiple roles at once. Add to this the fact that roles can change over time. Sales organizations can react to these changes by identifying their customers’ typical patterns and combinations.
  3. Individual buyer journey: Another challenge lies in the fact that the procurement process is becoming increasingly individual and difficult to predict. Instead of working sequentially, customers are increasingly jumping back and forth between different phases of the buyer journey. This means it is important to provide the customer with the information relevant to them at the right time and at the right touchpoint.

Building blocks for effective customer communication

In order for customer communication to succeed and result in a sale, buyer personas are a key component, but not the only one. In practice, an interplay of the following three dimensions has proven to be most effective: company typology, buyer personas, and value proposition. In order for their content to effectively reach their desired target groups, companies need to master these three aspects and combine them in the way that best suits the customer’s unique procurement situation:

  1. Company typology: Which segments can customers be split up into? Which services are potentially interesting for the company and how does it procure these services? A number of basic procurement characteristics can be determined based on the industry or the company size, for example.
  2. Buyer personas: What are the needs of the people who are typically responsible for making certain purchases and what channels do they use to obtain information? The relevant individuals can usually be identified based on the company typology.
  3. Value proposition: The organizational needs of the company making the purchases (point 1) and the individual needs of the respective buyer persona (point 2) serve as the basis for how to target the relevant content. The most effective value propositions are those that address the top three needs with regard to a certain service and also elaborate the persona-specific added value.