Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you have an important message to share. Say, a B2B SaaS product you want to sell, for instance. Now, imagine that you’re trying to sell it to a room filled with people whom you know exactly nothing about. There you are, standing on the podium, ready to speak…what do you say? How do you sell your incredible product if you don’t know who you’re talking to?
Now imagine that you’re having that very same experience, but the room is filled with people you know a lot about. You know where they work, what their role is in that company. You know their pain points and their objectives. You know how many people they manage and who they report to. Suddenly, that sale doesn’t seem so far out of reach, right?
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal client. They’re created by asking questions of your existing clients and your ideal prospects so you can craft very real, very well rounded pretend individuals to target when you’re creating marketing and sales materials.
It’s not enough to think of your target as a whole demographic segment. In order to create effective marketing materials, you need to have a very tangible idea of who you’re speaking to in order to make the message resonate. It’s easier to sell to Bill, head of sales for a 500 employee company, who’s been there for 6 years, reports to Joe, who comes into the office every three months, but still holds the purse strings, than it is to a Sales Manager at a Mid-Level Company in the Midwest.
Steps to preparing buyer personas
It’s easier to craft great brand personas if you already have a roster of clients, but it’s a valuable exercise even if you’re just getting started. Follow these steps to get the ball rolling, and remember, this can be a fluid process. Just like actual clients evolve, your brand personas will need to grow and change with time.
Make a critical assessment of your database
Take a close look at the existing clients in your database. What trends emerge? Keep an open mind. You’re looking for all sorts of details, from where they went to school, what industry they’re in, what’s the size of their company, what’s their role, etc.
Look beyond your database
Some databases don’t contain enough of the information that you need. In that case, it can be helpful to go through your list of clients, pick out the ones you consider to be representative of the types of clients you’d like more of, and then go scout them out on LinkedIn. You’ll be amazed at how much information can be found there.
Talk to your sales team
Because they’re the ones most closely in contact with prospects and clients, your sales team knows many things that can help you craft your buyer personas. Ask them what they know about their top clients, what they wish they knew, or what they think could be helpful.
There are a number of things you need to know about your ideal client in order to craft a useful persona. You can ask questions bit by bit, adding them to forms on your website that people need to fill out in order to receive useful tidbits like white papers or infographics. You can have sales people ask questions when they’re pitching to prospects. You can even pick up the phone and call your ideal client and ask them a few. The key thing is to ask the questions, and track the answers.
Let yourself be inspired by the following questions to get yourself started:
- Who is your ideal client? Where do they live? Are they male or female? What level of education do they have?
- What industry are they in? What’s the size of their company?
- What’s their role in the company? Who do they report to? Who reports to them? Who are the decision makers? Who holds the purse strings?
- What knowledge and tools do they use?
- What are their biggest challenges and pain points?
- What are their goals? What are their business priorities?
- What do they need to be successful?
Crafting the buyer personas
With all of that information in hand, it’s time to create your personas. Sort through everything you have learned and tease out the trends and unifying information. Arm yourself with a template like this one, or this one, and start creating the unique persona who represents the client you’ll be marketing to. Give the persona a name. Assign it a picture. Make sure that you can really see the person so you know exactly who you’ll be talking to.
How many personas do you need?
Most often B2B SaaS companies will find that they have 3 Buyer Personas:
- the decision maker,
- the person who will pay for the service,
- and the brand evangelist who falls in love with your product and tells everyone to also use it.
You might find that your personal SaaS has a completely different set of buyer personas. You might find that you have a fourth, or only have two or one. It’s important for you to do the ground-work so you find what works best for you and your company’s marketing needs.