What Does a Good B2B Buyer Persona Look Like?

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA, jschwartz@itsma.com

Part of what makes buyer personas such a powerful tool in shaping marketing messages and content development is in the “personal” aspect.  A buyer persona puts a name and a face onto a composite or archetype of key buyers, making it much easier to connect with the audience as human beings and cater to their needs.

But while many of the demographic and personal details are important in the B2C space, they risk becoming a trap in building B2B personas.  It can be all too easy to yield to the temptation of debating the name, gender, age, education level, marital status, or home life of your personas and give short shrift to the most important areas.

Persona Beliefs_sm

What you really need to articulate in each of your personas – in the voice of the buyer – are statements that address the Five Rings of Buying InsightTM: Priority Initiatives, Success Factors, Perceived Barriers, Decision Criteria, and Buyer’s Journey.

This decision process information is the insight gleaned from in-depth research with buyers.  These are the hidden drivers that offer real competitive advantage and the kind of buyer intelligence that your competitors won’t have.

Beware of templates that are designed to meet B2C needs.  They won’t have the appropriate emphasis on why, when, how, and where B2B buyers make their decisions.  Tony Zambito and the Buyer Persona Institute both offer some good examples of what B2B personas should look like.

Here’s an online example from Adele Revella at the Buyer Persona Institute.  Tony Zambito’s Buyer Persona Canvas is available here.

Yes, there’s a tremendous amount of insight into the things that matter to the buyer on his or her journey.  There’s also still just enough of the “personal” to really make this buyer come alive.  Our advice?  Devote the vast majority of your time to interpreting the research to identify the really useful insights.  But you can still debate the name, if you must.

One comment

  1. Tony Zambito

    Hi Julie,

    Thank you Julie for the mention and for highlighting a very crucial aspect of buyer insights research and buyer persona development. Since originating the concept and the methodology over a dozen years ago, the emphasis has been on buyer insights and telling the story of buyers through the platform of buyer personas. The art and science of buyer persona development is in the translation of qualitative buyer research, which moves well beyond perfunctory sales-centric and product-centric intelligence and into the deeper buyer insights as noted in the definition of a buyer insight you noted in the graphic in your post. This aspect is what makes buyer personas valuable. Thanks again for articulating an essential point.


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