B2B Buyer Persona: Understanding How to Think About B2B Buyers

October 1, 2012 by

b2b buyer personaLast week, I shared a post explaining what a buyer persona framework is and its purpose in a B2B sales environment. This week, I will discuss how to think about B2B buyers and walk you through a model for identifying B2B buyer personas.

What Makes B2B Buyers Different? 

B2B buyers are different from B2C buyers, as they are making decisions for their organizations and consequently their demographics (age, ethnicity, family type) and/or geography (region) might not have any bearings on the way they think about or purchase B2B products or services.

Similarly, firmographics characteristics such as company size, industry, or role may not define the way the buyer acts, either. This is because many of the buyers’ objectives are representative of their occupation, responsibilities, and industries, and their personal business goals and objectives are also influenced by other factors that do not always correlate with the firmographics.

So, How Can We Make Sense of B2B Buyers?

In order to effectively profile customers in complex B2B buying cycles you need a multi-faceted framework that brings together the most salient characteristics of the buyers that are relevant to how the company can interact with and serve the needs of those buyers at every stage in the buying cycle.

The key to this process is synthesizing the different factors that impact the way your sales and marketing team should interact, deal, and communicate with the various players involved in the buying process. Each of these factors can be used as a lens to view the buyers. Putting yourself in the eyes of the marketing and sales team can help you gain new perspective in understanding the factors that determine why one buyer is treated differently than another and ensure that the factors truly are differentiating characteristics.

B2B Buyer Persona Paradigms

Below is a list of the most commonly used B2B buyer persona lenses:

  1. Role in Buying Process: This is defined by the point or stage when the buyer gets involved in the buying process, who they influence or are influenced by, and their decision making authority. This factor can be used to divide buyers into specific, commonly known archetypes such as gatekeepers, influencers, champions, and technical or business decision makers or some combination of those categories.
  2. Role in Business/Function: This is the role that the buyers play in their organizations or their functional areas in the business. This factor will sometimes impact a buyer’s knowledge about the specific products or services and how they perceive their value to their business. For example, a market researcher will know more about the ins and outs of surveying and survey methods than a brand manager, but both could still be interested in purchasing a survey platform. However, the buying criteria that these individuals may be looking to fulfill could be very different.
  3. How Their Organizations use the Products or Services: This is how the buyer or his/her team will use or currently use these types of products or services. Note that there are meaningful experiences even if the buyers profiled are not actually users of the products, because as team members or managers of the users, the buyers will at least share some of the concerns or business goals of the users. For example, market researchers and customer experience managers both use survey platform, but they use it for completely different purposes, so they will have different product functionality needs and benefits they are looking for. Market researchers may be looking for access to sample while customer experience managers may be looking for automated follow-up functionalities that will enable them to better perform their role. This factor affects how buyers perceive a product and its value to their business.
  4. How They Benefit from Products or Services: These are the benefits that a buyer associates with the adoption of a product or service, and how they can help that individual achieve his or her goals. This can differentiate between technical and economic buyers or different types of buyers within each of these categories. For example, architects are focused on how infrastructure products can help them improve the performance of a product and reduce the total cost of ownership. A head of product, meanwhile, will be more concerned with how infrastructure products will improve the customer experience and impact the bottom line. This factor will affect the messaging and way that a product needs to be positioned for a group of buyers.
  5. How They Previously Fulfilled Needs: This is the incumbent solution to the buyers’ needs, or where they turn to resolve a problem. This will influence the buyers’ needs and the messaging that will resonate with these individuals.

Depending on the target market of the research project, other lenses that might be relevant are: Technology adoption level, attitude towards innovation, organizational strategy, and culture.

Now you have a model for thinking about B2B Buyers in a systematic manner. In next week’s post, I will share how to use these B2B buyer persona lenses to make sense of your buyers and build a B2B buyer persona framework.