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What are buyer personas and why do you need them?

An image shows people with different buyer personas standing on a bridge while admiring the view and taking photos.

What is a buyer persona?

Buyer personas are one of the most important foundations of any company’s go-to-market. They can be described as generalised representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers better and tailor your messaging to their specific needs. The best buyer personas are based on insights from your customer base, combined with market research.

Buyer personas help you understand your customers better and tailor your messaging to their specific needs.

There are normally a number of key people in an organisation who are part of the buying process. You need to be able to identify who they are, and know what’s important to them. Buyer personas help you to understand who these people are and how they buy.

What does a Buyer Persona look like?

A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. There are no hard and fast rules for what should be contained in a persona, but a persona should answer the following questions about your buyer:

  • Who they are (job title(s), responsibilities, typical background and demographics)
  • How they are measured in their role (e.g. KPI’s)
  • How they currently address the pain points that you solve
  • Where they search for information (in relation to the problem that your product solves)
  • What will trigger their search for a solution (to a problem that your offering solves)
  • What their expected outcomes from the solution are
  • What their possible objections to buying are
  • Their role and the actions that they take in the buying process

Why do you need buyer personas?

Tech companies often focus on the solution that they are taking to market instead of their customer’s needs. If you align your go-to-market with the way that a customer buys, you can market and sell to them far more effectively, and will have much happier customers. Here are some reasons why you need buyer personas:

  • Personas create a foundation for your go-to-market that is centred around the buyer (and not your company or product)
  • They help to unify product management, marketing, and sales around the buyer and their needs
  • Personas help to create ”Institutionalised Knowledge” about your customer that is used throughout your organisation (and does not just reside in the heads of your sales and marketing people)
  • They equip sales which fore-knowledge of your buyers problems so that sales “knows the answers ahead of the exam”
  • They allow you to easily identify and focus on decision makers and key influencers at your target customers
  • They help you understand the different roles in the buying process
  • They allow you to create targeted and more effective sales and marketing messaging (positioning and value propositions) that are focussed on the buyer’s needs
  • You can use them to ensure that product packaging and pricing is better aligned to offer value for your buyer

Where and when will you use buyer personas?

  • Your outbound prospecting team will use personas to identify who to send cold emails to, and what messaging to use to maximise open rates and responses
  • Your marketing team will use personas to create content that will be of interest to your buyers, and aligns with specific stages of their buying journey. They will also know where to place and promote this content.
  • Your product marketing / sales enablement team will use personas to create sales materials and collateral that is tailored to specific roles in the buying process (e.g. a presentation or demo to an individual user will be quite different from a demo to a head of department, as they will have different needs and use cases)
  • Product marketing / sales enablement will also use personas to identify and create the content that sales people need to handle objections during the sales process (e.g. case studies, ROI calculations, etc)
  • Your sales team will use personas for identifying the key stakeholders that they need to reach a customer, they’ll know which pain points to speak about, and they’ll be prepared for objections before they receive them

How do you create buyer personas?

The best way to create personas is through workshops with your customer-facing teams, and then potentially follow this up with buyer research. You should have buy-in from marketing, sales, product management and customer success so that the buyer personas become widely used within your organisation. There are a lot of online resources and guides that provide a very good overview of how to develop personas. As a starting point we’d recommend this guide from Hubspot, and this article from Openview.

Creating buyer personas should be an iterative process. You should be continuously gathering data and refining your understanding of your customers. Personas start off as a hypothesis based on experience and insights into your existing customers and are refined as you gather data. When you hear an insight repeated multiple times by customers, you know you are getting your personas right. Personas should be living documents which are regularly reviewed as more data is collected.

When you hear an insight repeated multiple times by customers, you know you are getting your personas right.

You’ll also find that the process of creating personas will help to identify knowledge gaps about your customer which will result in homework such as informal questions to ask customers and/or formal buyer research. You’ll also have a much better understanding of your customer, and how to sell to them.

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Alex Gasson

Alex Gasson is the CEO and founder of Delta-v. We provide outsourced sales development teams to Enterprise Software and FinTech companies. Prior to founding Delta-v Alex founded and successfully exited a tech recruitment business, following which he had two successful stints as a revenue leader in high growth B2B tech startups. His approach is grounded in deep theoretical understanding of Go-to-Market best practices, combined with over 15 years of hands on experience setting up and running high performance B2B sales organisations. Alex’s writing focuses on expert sales advice focussed on B2B sales development and Go-to-Market activities.