How to Build a B2B Buyer Persona Framework

This is the third and final post in a series of blog entries on how to effectively develop and utilize a B2B buyer persona framework. In the first two installments, I shared posts explaining:

This week, I will share how to build a B2B buyer persona framework.

Buyer Persona Framework Cartoon

Step-by-Step Guide on Building a B2B Buyer Persona Framework:

To build an effective buyer persona framework, you will first want to familiarize yourself with the company’s current understanding of the buyers in its target segment(s). Depending on whether the company is exploring a new segment this can either be very rudimentary (perhaps even nonexistent) or — if the company has been selling to the segment for a long time and has accumulated a lot of knowledge on the buyers — very in-depth and detailed.

Companies can range from knowing the titles of individuals who have previously been involved in a purchase to having a sophisticated buyer profile framework of their own to make sense of their buyers as a whole.

You will now want to determine where you will collect buyer persona data from for this exercise. You will want to consider collecting data on buyers and the buying process from the following locations:

  • Your company’s CRM
  • Lost customer data
  • Lost deal data
  • Buyer insight interviews with current customers, lost customers, or prospective customers that you will conduct as part of this exercise

Next, you will want to review the buyer persona lenses identified in the previous post to identify which lens(es) if any that the company currently views its buyers through. Then, you will want to evaluate whether or not this is an intelligible way to look at the buyer data you have collected and draw interesting insights about groups of buyers, not just individual buyers. What you are looking for are distinct patterns in behavior and sales and marketing communication needs across the buyers.

Regardless of what you learn from this exercise, you will want to look at your buyers through all five of the lenses described in the previous entry to see which ones are intelligible ways to view the buyers and determine which lens or set of lenses enable you to extract the most interesting insights about the buyers from the perspective of your sales and marketing team and stakeholders. You will also want to identify the lenses that fail to identify commonalities across your buyers. These lenses are irrelevant.

Now you will want to look at the buyers through overlapping lenses to see if this enables you to draw even further generalizations about groups of buyers and more meaningful insights from the data. You will want to do this for each lens that was determined relevant in the previous step.

Once you are done viewing the buyers through each of these lenses you now know the different ways that you can categorize your buyers to logically draw insights from this data. Now you need to evaluate each buyer grouping in terms of a) the amount of insight that it allows you to draw about the buyers and b) whether or not the framework makes the buyer persona groups distinct in their behavior and the way that marketers and sales people need to interact with them during the sales process. An effective framework will serve both of these purposes.

If all other factors are equal or close to it, you will want to select a model that is anchored by existing and accepted buyer knowledge, as this will increase the likelihood of adoption by the go to market team.

Now you are ready to build a B2B buyer persona framework to make sense of the buying process and players involved in that process within each of your target market segments.

For more on how to create buyer personas, I recommend reading Karen Goldfarb’s blog post on 21 tips for creating buyer personas. I also recommend reading my colleague, Nick Petri’s post on differentiating between buyer personas and user personas to make sure you clearly understand the difference.

Brandon Hickie
Brandon Hickie
Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy

Brandon Hickie is Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy at LinkedIn. He previously worked at OpenView as Marketing Insights Manager. Prior to OpenView Brandon was an Associate in the competition practice at Charles River Associates where he focused on merger strategy, merger regulatory review, and antitrust litigation.
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