In our previous post, we guided you through the process of targeting. The information you obtain from targeting helps you pinpoint your best prospective market segments. However, targeting is just one piece in a much larger puzzle. It’s a technical, scientific process that helps you narrow down a huge group of prospects to select segments of top targets. Now, you need to bring those segments to life. The next step in the marketing process is creating personas, which prepares you for communicating with and winning over actual customers.
Why Develop Personas?
Even though we call our sector B2B (Business to Business), marketing and sales are still P2P (People to People). That is why it’s necessary to humanize your marketing tactics by creating personas. Personas are defined as hypothetical representations of your best prospective customers based on existing customer data and additional market research. A goal of every business is to grow, but to do so it’s essential to relate to and effectively communicate with people (ultimately the purchase decision maker). Who are the individuals in the most appealing segments you identified in the targeting process, and how do they think and behave? When you create personas, you are pretending to be those individuals so that you can determine the best ways to offer solutions and influence their purchase decisions.
How to Create Personas
The first thing to keep in mind when creating personas is that it’s not an individual exercise. It takes a team. When you begin the brainstorming process, collaboration is required between the sales team and marketing team. You will most likely need to develop multiple personas, and it’s helpful to have several different points of view to ensure thorough development.
There are two different kinds of personas to consider and create: Decision Makers and Influencers. Decision makers are the people who have the fiduciary responsibility. They have the final say on whether or not a purchase will be made. Influencers don’t make the final decision, but they still need to be considered because they provide input leading up to the final decision. Your team needs to think about anybody who could potentially use your product or service and have a say about its potential purchase.
The first step in creating personas is coming up with hypothetical job titles. Which job titles will your marketing need to influence? It could be: Purchasing Manager, HR Director, Sales Manager, Process Engineer … anyone, really. Just remember that multiple job titles means creating multiple personas.
After compiling job titles, the next step (potentially) is examining demographics. You may or may not need to go this in-depth. It all depends on whether or not you believe that demographics play a role in the decision-making process. Certain aspects of marketing, the channel selection process for example, may be influenced by demographics. Consider the Digital Age. You may determine that the internet and social media habits of Millennials in your preferred segment differ from those of Baby Boomers, which means varying marketing strategies to reach them. However, if you determine that the decision of an HR Director, for example, won’t vary based on their gender, age or race, then the demographics step can be omitted.
Finally, examine psychographics, which deal with personalities, values, etc. Why would each of your decision-makers or influencers purchase from you? What are their challenges, and why would your product or service benefit them better than your competitors’? What solutions would get their attention?
Bring Your Personas to Life
With personas, you aren’t just compiling information in a notebook or spreadsheet. In order to truly humanize your potential prospects, you need to be able to see them and call them out by name. In addition to compiling job titles, demographics and psychographics, assign photos and names to your personas. The more you develop your personas, the better prepared you’ll be when the time comes to market to real people.
Here’s an example persona from HubSpot:
Validate Your Personas
Once you have created all of your personas, you need to validate them. Until you do so, you just have working hypotheses about your prospective customers. There are a few different ways to determine whether or not you developed accurate personas.
You could test your assumptions with surveys (online, mail or phone). This responsibility could be assigned to your marketing team, or you could hire an outside entity like a telemarketing company if there’s room in your budget. If you really want to get some in-depth information, you could even use a research firm. But keep in mind that this would be a high-cost option.
Another way to get validation is by consulting with your current customers. Share your hypotheses with your connections and let them provide their opinions on whether or not they think you are on the right track.
Finally, you could put together an exploratory committee to test the waters in your potential growth markets. Reach out to individuals in those markets and try to set up meetings to gather information. This would likely have to be an incentivized approach where you take them out to lunch and reward them with something like a gift card for their time and insight.
Personas are important because they help you gain an understanding of the mindsets of all of your prospective customers, regardless of their roles. This makes the next steps in the marketing process more logical and effective. You’ve moved past industry codes and now have validated information about people, which means you’re getting closer and closer to actually deploying marketing materials. After you create personas and develop solid solutions for the challenges they face, you can begin to strategize when and how to reach out to prospects. Check back for our next post to learn about the buyer’s journey…