Who Should Use Buyer Personas? (Part 3 of 7 Series)

Buyer Personas should be used by everyone who, to do their job, needs to become an expert on your buyers in your customer companies. For example every marketer developing marketing strategies or content and every sales person (up to and including the CEO) implementing sales strategies and tactics. The resulting improved marketing and sales should lead to more revenue or more customers or both.

Further benefits relate to efficiency and cost reductions resulting from common focus, understanding and alignment across all departments of the company; not just across sales and marketing departments but every department, from product management to product development, from services to technical support, from website development to executive management.  Here are a few examples.

  • Your sales people may be trained to emphasize your solution’s impact on cost reduction, but an insightful Buyer Persona would identify the cost category and degree of cost reduction that buyers should anticipate through use of your solution.
  • A buyer may want a solution that is “easy-to-use.” An insightful Buyer Persona would specify exactly which aspects of the solution this persona expects to be “easy to use” and how they determine in the buying process which solution is the easiest to use.
  • A website development department might be asked to produce and manage an appealing website that converts visitors to prospects to buyers. Understanding prospective customer mindset is obviously critical when developing site navigation and writing the page copy (and incidentally customer mindset is not typically part of a customer profile but is a key part of a Buyer Persona). Many website development teams mistakenly structure their website navigation and copy from an internal to the company perspective (such as the departmental structure of the company) rather than the potential customers’ perspective. That approach may even work for existing customers (who already know the company and product range well) but may well confuse prospective customers who’ll simply click or tap away to another site. A likely indicator that this has happened is an emphasis on features rather than benefits of products – the website (especially the home page) may brag about the company and features of its products but not address the customer’s issues in the way they think about them.
  • A technical support department of a software company might express a new product benefit as “automatically installs software updates.” This sounds fine but researching the Buyer Persona might reveal the insight that customers have in the past lost many days of productivity due to known software bugs. Perhaps those known bugs have already been fixed by the software supplier but not yet installed in the customer’s version. The customer’s mindset on the problem is the delay between fixing the bug and their access to the fixed version. The benefit might be better presented as, “Cloud version – customers always automatically use the latest updated version.” The point is awareness of the customer’s mindset so that product benefits, the navigation to them and the copy explaining them address customer’s current problem in their terms.
  • “Ten years ago sportswear makers were cramming ever more features and futuristic designs into their products … convinced that the consumer bought, say, training shoes based on their technical specification” (ref The Economist, ‘The adidas Method’ Aug 24, 2013). “Spending weeks with… divisions of Bayern Munich Football Club, … researchers asked not how long the studs on their boots should be, but what would determine the success of a footballer… the thing that could not be taught, and only to a small extent trained, was speed. So adidas adapted one of its track shoes into an exceptionally light football boot… it became an instant hit.”
  • A leading CAD vendor identified a new opportunity to use technology in the CAM market. From a user experience perspective CAM has not significantly changed in more than 20 years and many machinists continue to hand program machine tools. There was a need to become intimately familiar with machinists, CAM engineers and Managers to understand how to enable and encourage them to change from hand programming to the proposed new solution. A major focus was to understand the behaviours of the end users, such as their use of technology at work and at home, their activities on a day to day basis and their sources of frustration. 280 interviews with CAM engineers, Machinists and Managers in the UK, USA, Germany and Italy to gain insights and prepare personas of CAM users.

  • Sales and marketing departments are especially concerned with understanding buying behaviour. Consumer psychology studies (For example Larry Wilson’s book ‘The Social Styles Handbook’) have shown that there are four types of buying behaviour when it comes to making purchasing decisions: ‘assertive’, ‘analytical’, ‘social’,  and ‘amiable’. These buying behaviours are the driving force behind most purchasing decisions, regardless of how a customer fits in with more general customer profiles.
  • ‘Assertives’ want control and achievement of measurable goals and results.
  • ‘Analyticals’ want to know every detail of the product before they’ll make a purchase decision.
  • ‘Socials’ highly value the opinions of others and are strongly influenced by them when making a decision.
  • ‘ ’ appreciate relationships and are far more influenced by personal approach and appreciation of their individual circumstances than by technical details of the solution.

Buyer Persona discussion

Most people are a combination of two or more of these and sales people who have been successful have done so by learning to adapt to their customer whatever buying behaviour or combination of them they encounter.

But now imagine instead using the insights of the Buyer Persona to train all of your sales people in the best way to address the target customers.

The point is that through Buyer Personas your whole company can understand and anticipate issues from the customer perspective and  have a shared vocabulary to discuss them internally as well as externally in the customers’ phraseology.

As Peter Drucker put it, ‘the purpose of business is to obtain and serve customers’ – so everything your business does, can and should be tied back to your Buyer Personas; what your staff focus on, where they allocate their time, how your customer experience is designed, how your products are developed, how the website is navigated and the copy presented, how leads are nurtured and more.

See this AUTODESK® CASE STUDY on the creation and use of Buyer Personas (Autodesk® is a leading software supplier for the CAD, CAM, CAE, PLM, PDM and many other markets).

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Series Navigation<< What is a Buyer Persona? (Part 2 of 7 Series)How Do You Create Buyer Personas? (Part 4 of 7 Series) >>

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