• PMC

Buyer Personas and the Buyer Journey

By Kris Schulze and Rowan Noronha

B2B buying isn’t as linear as it used to be. Instead, it’s evolved into a more circular pattern of touchpoints. Customers research, evaluate, select, and share experiences about products and services. They don’t just perform research and make an immediate decision. Due to this, the path to closing sales has become more complicated and longer. This has made it increasingly important for marketing and sales teams to get to know their buyers in terms of their interests, pain points, goals, and preferred solutions. This will allow the ability to create more user-focused content that will inform, remove doubts, and answer pressing questions.

Buyer personas are key to making sense of the complicated B2B buying journey. Let’s look at how to create them so that you can learn what your buyers want, need, and expect.

Creating Buyer Personas In order to better understand your buyers, it’s important to develop buyer personas. Buyer personas include lots of information about your ideal customer such as their age, gender, education, company size, job title, income, and perhaps most importantly their worries, concerns, and goals. What are your potential buyers most worried about? What are they trying to achieve?

You can get data for your buyer personas from:

  • Sales input

  • Customer interviews

  • Surveys

Ask buyers how they realized their newly-discovered need. Ask them specifically what happened. What changed? What problem sparked this change? Then, ask buyers what steps they took to research a solution to their problem. What did they learn from the resource? What did they do after that? During their evaluation step, ask buyers what they did to exclude certain solutions from consideration. Determine how your buyer and their team decided on their choice. What steps did they have to take to get everything approved by all stakeholders?

When you have access to buying experience insight, you have a competitive advantage over other companies in your industry that offer solutions similar to yours.

Understanding How Your Business Customers Buy B2B buying behaviors have significantly changed. According to Seismic, 65% of B2B buyers are more educated than they were in the past. Also, more and more buyers are becoming stakeholders. They also go through many more touchpoints. Marketing experts believe the customer journey is linear in that it strictly goes from start to awareness to interest to consideration to purchase, all the way to adoption. But it’s much more complicated than that. The buyer often goes back and forth between each stage of the buying journey. When they take steps towards the finish line, they often take steps back. This is making it harder for marketers to understand the buyer’s journey. As a result, sales teams are finding it increasingly difficult to meet buyer needs and drive revenue.

What buyers are saying:

  • 65% of buyers say that assets aren’t relevant.

  • 77% of buyers say that their latest purchase was difficult or complex.

  • 85% say that buying cycles are delayed.

Buyers are having trouble moving through the sales cycle because they’re receiving overwhelming information about solutions, have to consider multiple products, and must go through multiple stages before their purchase is complete. This complexity gets even worse as your company grows. According to Seismic, the problem is that much of the B2B marketing budget (25%) is going towards creating more content, but the sales team only uses about 30% of that content, which means a majority of the content is going to waste.

The solution is to not create more value — because that’s just overkill — but to reinforce it through a sales enablement platform. As the buyer moves through the funnel, provide differentiating content that’s tailored to their place in the buyer’s journey. This means that you’re delivering the right content at the right time, every time. Your sales and marketing teams should be on the same page to fully and successfully execute this.

Customer Acquisition and Expansion Once your buyers have made a purchase, don’t just stop there. Get them to renew their contracts and even expand their subscriptions to other services you offer. And just because you’ve converted that potential buyer into an actual customer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on creating content to promote renewal.

Your messaging and content for demand generation/customer acquisition strategies should differ from your messaging for the retention/renewal business. Yet, according to Corporate Visions, 58% of companies use the same messaging for existing customers. They believe that a demand generation message should still be applicable in a renewal scenario. The same research shows that companies using the same message for a renewal decreased renewal likelihood by 10%.

A Focus on Renewal Messaging When acquiring new clients, you want to encourage them to change and do something different than what they’d normally do. Essentially, you’re helping them overcome the status quo bias, in which they’re content and resistant to change. They haven’t discovered a need or a problem yet. They don’t want to deal with the costs of change as well as the possible regret and blame associated with that change. The type of messaging you create to acquire customers should be specifically tailored to the awareness stage of the buying journey. Types of content to get buyers on your side include infographics, whitepapers, ebooks, and buyer’s guides.

70–80% of existing customers will end their journey at the decision stage. This means that most of them won’t renew their contracts. When you’re trying to get a client to renew their contract with your company, it’s your marketing and sales teams’ duty to defend the status quo. Why? Because you are the staus quo.

To defend status quo bias, you must do the following:

  • Reinforce their preferences. Reassure them of the accuracy and wisdom of their worldview.

  • Amplify the risk. Show them how dangerous and risky change can be.

  • Minimize their plans. Show them that the pain of change is greater than the pain of the status quo.

  • Blur contrast. Show them that there is no difference between you and alternatives — your competitors.

The type of content you need to push for customer renewal and expansion includes newsletters and proprietary experiences, quarterly business reviews, industry briefs, and capabilities updates.

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