I’ve mentioned buyer personas in previous posts, but let’s quickly go over their basic definition as a refresher. In short, they are a type of model that collects observations and research into an easily-digestible format. They read like fictional profiles of your most important customers, like archetypes. Ideally, a buyer persona increases your understanding of important prospects and helps you optimize your sales and marketing processes and messaging. A good buyer persona sharpens up your possibly vague understanding of customers based on experience, anecdote, and data.
One of the realities that you’ve shared with us is that many distributors don’t spend a lot of time and effort to market with the intent of attracting new contractors. Your targets are more often one level deeper: homeowners, facility managers, restaurant owners, etc. The goal, as you’ve shared with us, is to help generate leads on behalf of your very loyal customers – the contractor.
We call this technique of skipping one level on the marketing food chain leapfrogging. We’ll be developing this leapfrog concept a lot further in subsequent articles.
In the B2B world, the accepted approach to developing buyer personas is to survey outward facing people within your organization and external customers. This, along with independent research and face-to-face interviews, provides the raw information for the personas. Then, you summarize and compile your findings, and enter them into a matrix or table. Generally, the heading rows are labeled “Persona Title”, “Goals/Needs”, “Our Goals”, “Process”, and “Traits/Characteristics”.
Since we’re leapfrogging contractors and going straight to end-users, we need to consider restaurant owners, facility managers, home owners, etc. Labeling a persona as “homeowner” without further subdividing this large bucket into tighter segments is probably a mistake. Options for further refining this category might include dividing by age, income, or even size of the house. Ultimately, the effort you put into defining your personas should reflect the importance of that persona to your business. In other words, if you primarily serve homeowners, then you might get away with having just one broadly defined persona for restaurant owners. However, you had better make sure your analysis of homeowners is specific and penetrating.
In this column, you should list what your prospects hope to get out of their relationship with you. This could be as simple as “get my furnace working again” or “outfit my new home with the high quality, properly sized, and professionally installed A/C system.” Again, the focus here is on end users, so there will be a wide variety of options, but really drilling down to the most important, widely shared, and primary ones is key. Are they looking for a new system because they just added an addition, or are they just interested in servicing the AC unit prior to summer? You’ll need to decide what use cases are most important to your prospects, and thus for your buyer personas.
In the third column, you’ll list your own goals in this interaction. The obvious goal would be to win a new customer, but your contractor may have ancillary goals. They might also want to establish a long-term relationship, make the client aware of the full breadth of services, and/or share proof that they can do the job right at a fair price. Even though you’re leapfrogging the contractor in the marketing process, you’ll need to account for their needs within the process as a whole.
This column outlines the buying process of the prospect. If you can anticipate the process, you’ll be able to meet their needs before they hardly know they have them. For example, if reputation is indispensable to a certain kind of buyer, you can make that a key part of your selling and marketing effort. You’ll need testimonials from people that are similar to the persona you’re addressing. You might decide that this information is best displayed on your website, or the subject of an email blast, direct mailer, or sell sheet (leave behind).
This last column includes relevant demographic and psychographic information: age, gender, income level, etc. It also has related personal information like preferred channels of communication – web, email, direct mail, phone, text – and any other relevant information dealing with the sales process. This information will affect some of the other columns like Goals/Needs and even Persona Title, but this is a useful way to collect the relevant details.
Once your persona matrix is developed and you have buy-in within your organization, the next step is to turn the information about each persona into a written narrative. The written persona can even have embellishments like a photograph that represents the prospect. You should also give a descriptive name to your persona; a restaurant owner might be named “Restaurant Ralph” or “Oscar the Owner”. These little touches lend verisimilitude to your personas and hopefully improve their efficacy as sales and marketing tools.
In subsequent articles, we’ll be talking more about the personas we’re developing and about this concept of leapfrog marketing.