Creating buyer personas takes work. Many B2B firms dive into past customer data and research prospects on social media in a bid to develop personas that make sense. The typical buyer research process is often haphazard, especially at smaller firms.
After all, there's only so much a one or two-person marketing team can achieve. Between managing social media posts, creating content calendars, and conducting outreach campaigns, developing highly-targeted buyer personas can take a backseat.
Contrary to popular perception, conducting buyer persona research doesn't have to involve complicated processes. Given a persona's central role in a B2B inbound marketing strategy, you need to nail the process. Here are 3 simple methods to create accurate buyer personas quickly.
Ask the Right Survey Questions
The average buyer persona survey has a ton of irrelevant questions. Given the wide availability of professional information out there, do companies need to ask a prospect's email and job title? Instead of hosting lengthy preambles, get to the point quickly!
Even companies that get to the good stuff quickly tend to ask the wrong questions. For instance, figuring out the buying process is often a priority. You'll often see companies ask this as a question, outright. "How do buying decisions take place at your company?" While some prospects will answer this question directly and provide insight, the large majority will provide cursory responses.
A buying process is complicated, and it's a bit like asking someone to explain how a watch works. The best thing to do is to get specific. Ask questions such as "Whose insight do you rely on when evaluating products?" or "Who signs off on purchase decisions?" instead of asking broad questions.
Another tip to increase the accuracy of the answers you receive is to provide your prospects with multiple choice answers. However, you must limit the number of choices. For instance, if you ask your prospects "How useful is XYZ feature?" don't give them a range from 0-10 to indicate usefulness.
Instead, give them 3 options at most. This will help you gauge their answers better and prevent you from falling into data analysis paralysis. Focusing on customer issues is also essential when conducting surveys. Again, asking a broad question like "What are the issues you face with XYZ process?" is unlikely to give you good results.
Instead, break that question down into smaller components. If your product addresses AR/AP automation, for instance, ask "What are your top 3 cash application challenges?" and "how much time do your employees spend on clerical work versus value-added work?" These questions force prospects to focus on their issues and give you deep insight.
Asking the right questions also helps convey the impression that you know what you're talking about instead of shooting blanks in the dark.
Leverage Free Data Sources
Data is everywhere these days, and you must collect as much of it as possible. You can do this by investing in tools that help you decipher buyer intent or analytics tools that tell you how prospects behave on your website.
Smaller firms will find that these tools push them against the upper limits of their budget. Let's assume the worst-case scenario here and say you can't afford any fancy data-gathering tools beyond Google Analytics (which is free.) How can you gather data in such circumstances?
Social media, especially LinkedIn, is your friend in such situations. While the platform's Sales Navigator is an excellent resource, we're assuming you can't afford it. Begin by joining groups and networking with people who fit your buyer persona. Follow them and engage with their comments.
Once you build a sizeable list of prospects, reach out to them and conduct an interview or request them to fill out your survey. Sure, it's a painstaking process, but it works. What's more, it works better if you narrow your prospect list down to the people to who you would like really to sell your product.
Every company has a list of ideal customers. Why not begin with them and laser-target them with your marketing strategy? Call it a cut-rate ABM method. Use LinkedIn to follow what they're working on and engage with them. You'll automatically understand what matters to them and following your survey, understand how to target them.
Don't ever believe that a lack of budget or tools is holding you back. While outreach and persona creation will take longer, it's worth the effort.
Pay Attention to What They Don't Say
Your prospects will always tell you what they want. The trick is to listen to the right things they're telling you. Prospects aren't placing themselves in your shoes in a bid to help you figure out their needs. You must listen actively to what they're telling you and figure out what the real issues are.
Think of it as addressing the disease instead of the symptoms. Your prospects will often tell you what the symptoms are, and you must diagnose the underlying issue. Sticking with the AR/AP automation examples, your prospects will tell you that checks takes a long time to clear, thereby increasing the company's DSO.
Is check clearing the issue or implementing a manual process to collect payment the problem? This is a simple example, but marketing teams often focus on the wrong issue and push products using less-than-attractive USPs. In this case, touting your product's ability to reduce the time it takes to clear checks is nonsensical.
Instead, eliminating the check is the way to go. As a certain Steve Jobs once said (while gently holding his chin between his index finger and thumb,) customers don't know what they want until you give it to them. Dive deep into the answer you receive and unearth the true cause of your prospect's issues.
Many Answers, More Data, Better Personas
By asking the right questions, not letting a lack of budget hamper you, and diving deep into prospect answers, you'll create better buyer personas. Creating accurate personas is both a science and an art, and the more you engage with the process, the better you'll become at it.
Spend time listening to what your prospects are telling you, and you'll have no problem delighting them with your product!