Stop Using B2C Personas To Guide Your B2B Marketing Strategy

Do you find yourself questioning the relevance of demographic data or personality information when focusing on B2B consumer? As a content strategist, I have. And it got me thinking – and researching – how to eliminate the needless B2C info seeping its way into B2B personas.

Common B2C data appearing in most of the B2B personas I’ve encountered include:

  • Distracting personality information: If you’re selling enterprise web hosting, does your clientele’s tendency toward video games really matter? Maybe if you’re an account manager developing client relationships. If you’re a content marketer, this bit of consumer info probably isn’t impacting your content strategy.
  • Trivial information: Demographic data such as race and income seem to appear in most personas. While this is important for consumer goods, it probably doesn’t affect a B2B purchasing decision. Would company information such as revenue and client budget be more relevant when building your B2B persona? (Hint: the answer is yes.)

So with demographic and personality information guiding many of the personas we interact with each day, where do we go from here? Making the shift to B2B data may take some time, but following the method recently implemented at Relevance is a great step in creating useful buyer and product personas for B2B businesses and clients.

Real discussion with real people

Adele Revella, founder of The Buyer Persona Institute and contributor at Content Marketing Institute, defines a buyer persona in her 2012 CMI Buyer Persona post “as an archetype; a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you market, based on what you’ve learned in direct interviews with real buyers.” More importantly, though, she goes on to say that “[t]he key point actually talking to buyers.”

Are you relying too much on the advice of sales or customer reps? What insider buyer insights are you missing out on by avoiding your or your customers’ clients?

While focus groups are ideal, time and budget might not always permit them. Consider finding someone you know from work or your personal life that fits the buyer persona, and interview him to get industry insights. Understanding the intricacies of why and how your customers are purchasing is invaluable – far outweighing personality and demographic we so often find in B2C personas.

Demographic tools

Not every demographic piece of information is obsolete. Being able to filter through fluff and get to the most useful B2B information can be difficult, but it’s worth the while to find actionable data.

Experian’s Hitwise is an excellent example of a wealth of demographic information. The tool provides granular details from age, income, gender and race down to the most common male and female name frequenting a website. Tools like this are great for offering a database of demographic information that would take you years to collect.

But what they don’t do – nor do they claim to – is analyze data. It’s up to us as marketers to find which data sets are best for us. Avoid the distracting B2C information or any formation that doesn’t impact your buyer’s interaction with your product. Here’s where to focus your energy:

Online Behavior

If demographic tools you use offer information about online or digital behavior, skip straight here. Collecting information such as whether your market segment is more receptive to email markeitng or display ads can directly impact your marketing efforts.

Clickstream reports are another important online data piece. What competitor and informational sites are your visitors viewing before they enter and after they leave your site? Examining these domains can help identify content patterns that reveal gaps in your content marketing funnel.

Templates

There is such a thing as too much data, so don’t over think your persona templates. Get to the point and highlight the data points most relevant to your buyer and product. If you need a little guidance, The Buyer Persona Institute has developed two templates through their in-depth research into building buyer personas. Start here and adjust to meet your needs. You can download the full templates here.

Applying your B2B knowledge

Once you’ve gathered B2B data about your buyers and fleshed out personas, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned. Use your personas to map out purchasing paths and fill in content gaps in your sales funnel.

The decision tree

One effective application of B2B buyer personas is the decision tree, which maps out each step in your purchasing process and each decision your potential customers have to make along the way. Say your company offers B2B data storage solutions, your decision tree may look something like this diagram I created:

b2b-decision-tree.jpg

Filling in the funnel

Comparing your decision tree to your current content, where do you have gaps? Use the decision tree to guide the development of support content that helps your customers make informed decisions along the path to purchase.

When you’ve decided on what content you need, refer back to your buyer personas to ensure you are answering specific buyer questions and concerns.

It may seem simple, but sifting through the fluff data can have a huge impact on your content strategy, keeping you focused on your buyer persona’s professional needs rather than your buyer’s other interests.

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