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Buyer Personas – A Journey Into the Mind of Your Customer

You’ve heard it time and time again… Know Your Customer!  The importance of deepening your knowledge of your customer is being reinforced by almost every business thought-leader these days. Any successful entrepreneur, willing to share their secret sauce, will tell you this has been a critical success factor.

But the fact remains that today, most marketers are channel-centric and not customer-centric. Marketing strategies focus on campaigns and how much the company is going to interact with customers by channels. Marketers are making spending decisions on website development, Google search, online campaigns, and other advertising tools. But as outlined by Frank Cespedes in his Harvard Business review article The Customer Has Escaped, channel-centric approaches that serve static segments are no longer sensible or sustainable options, for a variety of reasons. Customers have become detached from the channels that used to claim them, and the average marketing program is looking at the average customer, failing to recognize that there are no average customers. Nobody is the average.>

At a recent event in Vancouver, I engaged in a conversation with a CEO involved with ACETECH. When I mentioned that Adele Revella, author, founder & CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute is coming to speak at the ACETECH Whistler Summit this year, he told me that his company just went through an extensive four-month customer discovery exercise based primarily on the Buyer Personas methodology.

Of course, I had to enquire about the reasons behind this initiative.  What was the trigger for the company to embark on this journey and invest so much resources into it?

In short, he explained how about a year ago, the company invested heavily on a new website designed to increase conversion with powerful calls to action based on what he believed were the three top pain points of their target customer.

Later that year, he landed a large customer, and when he went to pay a courtesy visit to the buyer to solidify the relationship he asked him if there was a particular trigger on the website that impacted his decision to buy.

The customer looked at him, smiled and responded: “It’s interesting you say that, the truth is that my decision was already made long before I went to your website. I only went there to get details and contact information. In fact, what I saw there didn’t really speak to me. But I already knew enough about your product from other sources to proceed with the transaction.”

This hit the CEO hard. This whole time he’d been driving marketing based on assumptions, not facts. At the end, if you do not understand your customers’ buying personas, you are shooting in the dark.

CEOs often rely on the advice and expertise of their marketing and sales teams to provide critical information on customer profiling and purchase behaviour. However, what really matters to the customer can only be articulated by the customer.

Tracing back the buyer’s decision process from the very beginning of the relationships, understanding the first interactions and the customer’s disposition every steps along the way will  shed light on the actual triggers including often overlooked emotional dimensions. Buying isn’t strictly a rational act. Buyer personas help you see the purchase process through the eyes of customers.

Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are representations of your actual customers. It’s an in-depth analysis that takes into account who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, what their goals are, and how they behave throughout the buying cycle.

Personas should include a full portrait of your ideal buyer — including information like:

  • Demographic/background information:
    • Job title, career, roles and responsibilities
    • Family/life outside work, household income
    • Company size, location and industry
    • Budget
  • Behavioral information:
    • What keeps them up at night
    • Pain points and challenges
    • Role in purchasing
    • Content consumption

Gaining deep insights into buyer personas provides the foundations for effective content marketing that relates to each buyer persona’s pain points and to the customer’s journey.

Another important outcome outlined by Bridget C. Bisnette, Senior Director, Cisco Systems is the fact that this approach allows you to understand why buyers don’t choose your solutions, providing the marketing team with an opportunity to turn objections into key selling points.

5 Rings of Buying Insights

Among the many valuable lessons in Buyer Personas, there are the 5 Rings of Buying Insights. As you interview buyers to create buyer personas, these insights are the nut – what you’re really going after. These insights into your buyer cannot be provided by sales people, distributors or product developers. This needs to come directly from the buyers with as little filter as possible

  1. Priority Initiatives: Gain perspectives into the customer’s decision to buy
    What are the pain points and what were the triggering events that led to the purchase? What happened to push the buyer to explore options? Why did the buyer move from status quo and set out on a buying journey?
  2. Success Factors: Understand what keeps your buyer going
    What positive changes did buyers expect to gain? Or, which scenarios did buyers believe would change after the purchase? What were the expected outcomes?
  3. Perceived Barriers: Identify the obstacles that buyers encounter – and must resolve.
    What prevented buyers from addressing the problem(s) sooner? Did certain people get in the way of change? Did previous negative experiences cause buyers to shy away? Were there missing elements in other solutions that buyers considered?
  4. Decision Criteria: Get into the “what and how” of buying decisions. Which specific features or capabilities were most important to buyers during the buying journey? What exactly was the buyer looking for?
  5. Buyer’s Journey: Observe the internal workings of teams behind buying decisions. This insight reveals details about who and what impacts your buyer as they evaluate their options and select one.

Want to learn more about Buyer Personas, and how to build your own? Attend our Annual Whistler Summit, and hear from Adele Revella herself on how you can develop your buyer personas.

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