Customer Personas: Do You Know Whom You're Talking to?

Understanding the customer is essential to every touchpoint in any organisation, ensuring that marketing spending is intentionally directed rather than wasted. Using your knowledge of your target market to inform your sales and marketing strategy, then tailoring its execution is key to success. Customer personas can be a vital tool for establishing and outlining that process. 

Customer personas for B2B organisations

For B2C businesses, the concept of a customer persona is especially prevalent. While never simple, in the B2C market, identifying the customer persona and then communicating with the target market is comparatively straightforward as the individual you liaise with is invariably the same person approving the transaction. 
For B2B businesses, completing a sale can be more complex because of a multilayered process between sign-off, management, and end-user. For this reason, establishing the customer persona and understanding their motivations is all the more critical for achieving sales.
When people talk about customer personas, their understanding comes from the user journey - for example, the website. However, when we use the idea to help CEOs and their teams establish a B2B sales and marketing strategy, we use it to help them switch from an inward-facing perspective to a genuine customer focus. That means tailoring your message to the different people involved in the sales process, even if you're only liaising directly with one of them.

Five benefits of establishing customer personas in B2B organisations

  • It enables more practical and cost-effective marketing
  • It helps you identify anyone you shouldn’t be marketing to
  • It helps your team to understand your customers better
  • It allows you to understand the customer journey better
  • It enables you to better influence decision-makers

Five things to consider about B2B customer personas

  • Who are the decision-makers in the company?
  • What challenge/pain point is each stakeholder in the company trying to resolve?
  • Are those challenges the same for each stakeholder? 
  • What are the company goals?
  • How does the company liaise with its customers?

The three B2B customer personas

While deeper research can be done into understanding your target market, we have found that in B2B businesses, there are essentially three personas that can be typically identified in the sales process. Each of these personas needs to be considered in strategic discussions, with their role, challenges, and influence taken into consideration. 

Customer persona 1 

Customer persona 1 is the end-user, functioning at an operational level. For example, this might be a member of your client's customer service team. They are the people at the coalface of the organisation, handling customers/clients daily, fielding their inquiries and complaints, hearing their frustrations, and using the tool/product or service that you're selling into the business. 
Pain point: They are interested in whether or not your product will make their job easier.

Customer persona 2 

Customer persona 2 is who we refer to as the 'manager'. Depending on the organisation's size or the type of business you're in, this person could have a manager title o. This is arguably the most important person from a marketing strategy perspective. They are likely to be the person you communicate with; they will be the ones making decisions; they will also be making the case to Customer personas 1 and 3 as to why they should buy into your message. 
Pain point: Customer persona 2 is interested in products and services that will improve sales, profitability, operational success, and efficiency. However, they may not be the ultimate budget holder. 

Customer persona 3

Customer persona 3 is the ultimate budget holder. They are not involved in the daily use of the product or service, but they can be a blocker to sales if they cannot see its merit from a budgetary perspective. It may be a CTO, CFO or even the CEO in context.
Pain point: Customer persona three wants to see a clear return on investment. They want to understand how the purchase will earn the company more significant market share, profit, and perhaps brand perception.
Don’t forget that once a sale is complete, the customer relationship is not over. While you may be interested primarily in the person who signs off the budget to make the sale go through, the end-user will feedback information if the product or service doesn’t meet their needs in the long term. So in the interests of repeat sales, positive reviews, and recommendations, it’s important to make sure you’re informing each of these personas authentically.

From the CEO to the salesperson

While we outline three customer persona templates for CEOs and their teams to work to, this is a starting point from which companies work with our Fractional CMOs to refine their knowledge of their customers. Businesses may find several more individuals within organisations that contribute to the decision-making process. That’s one of the reasons we find that it’s helpful for all levels of your business to be involved in establishing an understanding of your customer personas. 

How your customers benefit  

For customers, these personas are all about turning the question 'why would I buy that?' into 'why wouldn't I buy that?' Creating them helps you understand their pain points and consciously develop your marketing to articulate how your product or service solves their problem.

How your team benefits

Customer personas are designed to help everyone in your business understand the customer perspective and tailor every interaction and touchpoint in the sales and marketing strategy with that understanding in mind. However, the CEO will have a different understanding of the customer journey to those on the ‘front line’ of the sales team, making everyone’s insights relevant and helpful and allowing for a greater understanding across the board. 
By establishing knowledge of these personas at each level of the team, individuals are no longer siloed in their roles. Still, they can develop a greater sense of purpose by seeing how the buyer is not a faceless individual but a series of influential individuals, each with their objectives. 

How your company benefits

Finally, having all company levels involved in establishing customer personas and ensuring everyone has a united understanding of them will support the company as a whole. It will help make sales more targeted, and it informs and reinforces every level of the marketing strategy.
It's in the language of leadership, it's in the copywriting on the website, it's in product descriptions, and it's in the one-to-one communications between the sales rep and the client. Whether a particular marketing campaign is speaking to one or all three customer personas, it needs to consider how the message and the brand story are tailored so that each one buys into it. The net result will be a better customer experience and more sales.

What happens if you don't think about the customer perspective? 

As with all industries, competition between companies is fierce. So, if you don't know how to grab an opportunity and meet your customer's needs, someone else will. Meeting those needs isn't just about having the right product or service; it's about communicating what that product or service can do, and doing that efficiently, effectively, and memorably.
It's worth remembering that as a B2B business, your clients are in that very same position. What happens if they don't buy into your problem-solving idea? Someone else will.
Does your team know how to speak to your target market? We can help.