How to Create Real B2B Buyer Personas in 3 No-Nonsense Steps

Don’t just go through the motions with persona development. Learn how to create B2B buyer personas based on the real humans you want to do business with.

Personas are marketing code for “knowing your audience.” You’ve probably heard this phrase many times before and thought it sounded like a bunch of BS. But if it weren’t BS, what would “getting to know your audience” look like in the real world?

What most organizations get wrong with persona development is that they just go through the motions. They try to understand their audience, but they actually walk away from the exercise not knowing anything of substance about their buyers.

Buyers are 48% more likely to consider a product or service when marketing strategies are tailored to their needs. Your content should serve your buyer, not you. So, here’s how to create real B2B buyer personas based on the real humans you want to do business with.

1. Focus on the shit that matters.

You do not need to include your customer’s hobbies in buyer persona profiles. It doesn’t matter if Susie enjoys playing tennis on the weekend. Unless you’re selling tennis products or tickets to tournaments, which you definitely aren’t doing if you’re a B2B organization.

Each buyer persona should be an archetype of a decision-maker and include behavioral patterns that affect their purchasing behaviors. Skip the dilly-dallying and focus on the shit that matters when developing them.

Not-So-Basic Details

Your persona should include basic but important information:

  • Name
  • Title
  • Age

The name may seem insignificant, but it isn’t. You can make it significant by using the name of a customer your team knows in this exact role. This creates a stronger connection with each persona.

Over the years, I’ve had much more meaningful conversations with stakeholders when real-world names are used in persona development exercises (rather than John Smith, Susie Thompson, etc.). By skipping fictitious customers in persona development, stakeholders are able to visualize an actual customer and relate to their human experience.

Goals and Challenges

Next you’ll go into more detail about what each persona’s top goals and challenges are. Go beyond the surface-level questions and think about what an actual human would be dealing with.

  • To identify their goals, think about what gets them out of bed in the morning.
  • To identify their challenges, explore what keeps them up at night.

When you think about the forces that move someone forward or hold them back, you have something tangible to work with when presenting your solution.

The Impact of Your Solution

Lastly, consider how your solution helps these people—how did you solve their challenges and help them achieve their goals?

Since you picked a real-world name, reminisce on how you helped this person. What did they want to overcome? How did you help them prevail? Walk through their challenge, your solutions, and how you changed this person’s life for the better by conquering X, Y, and Z together.

2. Brainstorm with key stakeholders.

Now that you’re focused on the shit that matters with your personas, it’s time to develop these “main characters” in your business story.

To create well-rounded buyer personas that address your entire customer base, bring key stakeholders together to brainstorm. These stakeholders should be a mixture of those in leadership and others in customer-facing roles (sales, customer success, and/or subject matter experts).

Each stakeholder will provide a unique perspective on these customers—what motivates them and what they value.

I prefer to do an initial brainstorming session with key stakeholders to determine the number of personas (we typically recommend 3-5) and define their not-so-basic details (name, title, age). Then, we do breakout 1:1 sessions where each stakeholder takes a deep dive into the hopes and dreams of 1-2 personas they have interacted with in real life.

Taking a collaborative approach to persona development helps you avoid a one-dimensional content strategy that neglects your customers’ needs.

3. Talk to your customers.

Talking to your customers directly as part of your buyer persona development exercise is extremely valuable, buuuuuuuuuuuuut it’s not always feasible.

We all want to tread lightly when asking our customers to do little extras for us. But if you can swing it, you’ll get so many insightful stories to bolster your personas.

These are the exact people who chose to do business with you. It doesn’t get more relevant than this. A 1:1 customer interview is ideal because it provides a dedicated space to understand their personal journey toward your solution.

If you can’t schedule a separate interview, throw in a couple of persona-specific questions the next time you’re interviewing a customer for a case study. Another workaround: Forms and surveys make it easy to collect customer insights unobtrusively.

Remember That Your Personas Are People

None of these steps are particularly easy, but they are absolutely worth doing. Whether your organization is new or established, buyer personas will help ground your team in the reasons why your solution exists.

Your solution is here to help someone, right? You need to understand who that someone is so you can actually help them.

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