Built from the real words of real buyers, a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves. Much more than a one-dimensional profile of the PEOPLE you need to influence, actionable buyer personas reveal insights about your BUYERS’ DECISIONS — the specific attitudes, concerns, criteria and purchase journey that drive prospective customers to choose you, your competitor or the status quo.
Simply profiling people that influence the buying decision results in too many personas and not nearly enough marketing guidance. By comparison, a buyer persona focused on the purchase decision provides insights into what your buyers need to know and experience before they will buy from you. Our clients often tell us that personas developed from the authentic voice of real-life buyers is like a “cheat sheet” that informs every marketing and sales decision they make, from positioning and messaging through content marketing and sales enablement.
The logic and ROI behind this are simple – when you know how to help buyers evaluate your solution on their own terms, you build a bond of trust that competitors can’t match.
Buyer Personas Are Ideally Suited for Medium-To-Complex Purchase Decisions
Think about a time when you were involved in a medium-to-complex purchase decision whether in your personal or professional life. Not something inconsequential or that takes moments to decide (like buying a pack of gum) – I mean a purchase decision that takes days, months, or even years to evaluate and likely includes multiple decision influencers.
Examples of personal decisions that meet these criteria might include buying a home or deciding on a college for your child to attend. Business examples could include purchasing a new technology solution, selecting insurance benefits to offer employees, or choosing a consulting firm to advise you on an important issue your company is wrestling with.
Solutions that involve medium-to-complex purchase decisions share certain characteristics that have important implications for those developing marketing and sales strategies:
- There’s a lot at stake – the decision has important ramifications for the customer
- It’s often a purchase decision the buyer has never made before or does so infrequently
- The customer is probably going to have to live with the decision for a meaningful period of time (or incur high switching costs)
- Fear is a driving force in the customer’s decision – i.e., the fear of making the wrong decision is often as powerful as the enthusiasm of making the right one
- The customer will be weighing multiple options – and is likely struggling to make apples-to-apples comparisons across these alternatives (as we’ve learned from conducting thousands of buyer interviews)
- There are several “moments of truth” in the purchase decision – at multiple points during the sales process a solution or provider can be dismissed as an option simply because they are not meeting the prospective customer on their own terms
5 Rings of Buying InsightTM for Buyer Personas
In this context, it’s easy to understand why medium-to-complex purchase decisions require more from marketing and sales than simply articulating the key features and benefits of your particular solution (everyone does that) or trying to connect with a certain buyer role through demographic, psychographic, or firmographic profiles (with no authentic connection to the specific solution they’re considering). There is simply too much at stake in the customer’s decision for these surface tactics to influence their behavior.
If you doubt this, think back to a time when you were involved in a medium-to-complex purchase decision. I’m willing to bet the provider you chose did better than other alternatives you considered on several fronts:
- They fostered a genuine appreciation for your situation – in particular, what caused you to allocate time, budget, and resources to resolve a particular situation now (this is Priority Initiatives, the 1st Ring of Buying Insight used to develop a buyer persona)
- They understood how you defined “success” in very specific terms and were able to credibly demonstrate or convince you that their solution would enable you to achieve them (this is Success Factors, the 2ndRing of Buying Insight)
- They alleviated fears or concerns you had about the purchase, whether personal or professional (this is Perceived Barriers, the 3rd Ring of Buying Insight)
- They sufficiently addressed all of the factors most important to you in your purchase decision (this is Decision Criteria, the 4th Ring of Buying Insight)
- They knew how to best reach and communicate with you and other key decision influencers (this is Buyers Journey, the 5th Ring of Buying Insight)
When it All Works
A buyer persona, developed from the 5 Rings of Buying InsightTM and sourced from interviews with real-life buyers of your solution improves the ROI of all your marketing and sales activities including thought leadership, demand generation, lead nurturing, and sales plays. It provides the insights that guide every one of these decisions creating authentic connection with the buyers you need to influence.
If you want to know how to conduct interviews with your buyers, attend our online Buyer Persona Masterclass or contact us, we would be happy to interview buyers and reveal everything you need to know about their buying decisions.