By Matt Heinz, Founder and President of Heinz Marketing
Don’t get me wrong, customer personas are a great start. If you have documentation on who your customers are – their roles, their objectives, their tendencies and needs – that’s a solid foundation. Unfortunately, many personas just aren’t actionable.
In other words, looking at many one-page personas we see on a regular basis, there isn’t a clear next step. How do you bring them to life? How do you convert documented personas into content, into engagement, into commitment from the people behind those personas to work with you?
With your personas as a starting point, you can convert them into actionable insights by thinking about your buyer three different ways:
- The buying committee
Perhaps you have a single persona developed that represents the decision maker. She may make the ultimate decision, but I bet she has a team of people around her that help with that decision. This includes influencers, other decision makers with a vested interest in the outcome, as well as teammates who will be responsible for implementing the new solution once it’s in place.
All of these people make up what’s often called the “buying committee”. In nearly every B2B purchase, there’s a committee involved that, together, needs to reach consensus and a commitment to change if you’re going to get your product or service bought.
Therefore, knowing who’s typically included in that committee and enumerating each of their personas separately is critical. Knowing their role in the buying process (as well as when they’re actively involved and when/where they are not) is a critical element to guide your marketing and sales efforts moving forward.
- The buying journey
Unless you expect those buyers to make a snap buying decision today, it’s also critical you map out their buying journey. This isn’t your sales stages, though I highly recommend your sales process tightly map to the way your customers buy.
A buying journey is typically made up of several smaller decisions that move the process forward, that help increase customer commitment, velocity and likelihood to buy. And that journey starts well before they’re aware of your product, let alone have seen (or even committed to) a demo.
Most successful buying journeys begin with pain, an understanding that there may be a problem. This understanding shakes up the status quo, and (over time) may compel the prospect to commit to some kind of change to resolve the problem.
Of course, you don’t need to sit around and wait for this journey to occur on its own. Your content strategy should directly address stages of the buying journey for each member of the buying committee, helping them understand the cost of a problem, the opportunity of resolving it, as well as the opportunity cost of not addressing it.
A simple spreadsheet combining your buying committee and buying journey can serve as a basic content map to be translated into numerous formats – marketing content, sales talking points and more. You can get a copy of the spreadsheet (which is prepopulated with an example of buying committee and buying journey detail) here.
- Buying committee cohorts
This is a key component of complex B2B sales and marketing, especially with account-based marketing (ABM) that too often gets ignored.
Simply put, not every member of the buying committee needs to be involved in every stage of the buying journey. And in some cases, subsets of the buying committee are needed at various stages to reach consensus to move forward.
Sometimes these cohorts already work together. Other times, cohorts of buying committee subsets have a similar vested interest in solving a problem but don’t regularly interact. So it’s your job as the seller/marketer to not only precisely communicate to the individuals and cohorts, but find ways to encourage them to get together to discuss the problem, outcome and solution.
Easier said than done! But recognizing and addressing these cohorts is a missing link for many B2B sales and marketing programs, and can dramatically accelerate your impact, velocity and close rates.