Putting Buyer Personas into Context

The Bigger Picture: Putting Buyer Personas into Context

Image courtesy of F Delventhal

Learn the key questions to ask to put your buyer personas into context — a key step in understanding their buyer’s journey and associated buying behavior.

As my colleague Brandon Hickie has written about previously, buyer personas in B2B markets are multifaceted and multi-layered. Developing such personas from the mass of buyer insights data collected from primary research and secondary analysis is always very challenging because there will always seem to be more variance than homogeneity in the data. At times, you may even ask yourself if accurately capturing a typical persona of an individual buyer whose needs and buying behavior can be consistently described is truly possible. The key to addressing this challenge is to understand which insights are relevant and which observed characteristics are the differentiating factors between groups of buyers and the distinct personas within those groups.

Putting Buyer Personas into Context

True understanding of your buyers and their buying journey does not come with the raw data that you collect in buyer insight research. You have to be purposeful in your research and analysis in order to get to a frame of reference for all that data. In other words, you need to analyze your insights in the context of the buyer’s journey — from your buyer being unaware of the product and its potential benefits to being a devoted customer.

So what is the “context” of the buyer’s journey? At each stage in a buyer’s journey, there is a unique combination of internal and external conditions that might influence the buyer: their issues, aspirations, personal and professional needs, as well as their environment and network of contacts. Some of these factors may not be unique to individual buyers or even groups of buyers with similar personas. Unless you’re looking for them specifically, they may also not always be easily observable in the sales or buyer research process — buyers, themselves, sometimes do not make the connection between the context of their decisions and their decisions.

Why Context is So Critical to Effective Marketing

Understanding the context is extremely important because it provides the first level of background for logically explaining the observed stages of the buyer’s journey and associated buying behavior. Moreover, this context provides very rich background for making decisions on the appropriate marketing approach to reach each buyer persona at each stage of their buyer’s journey. After all, the individual environment, needs, and behavior of the buyer are crucial considerations for determining the most appropriate and effective points of contact, marketing content topics and formats, and mode of delivery of that content to the buyers at each particular stage. This ties in directly to the “4 C’s of Go-to-Market Design” that our founder Scott Maxwell has written about recently.

So how can we make sure we are putting our buyers insights research into the proper context?

Questions to Ask to Put Your Buyer Personas into Context

For each potential step in a buyer’s journey, consider the following questions from the buyer’s perspective:

  • What do they care about, personally and professionally?
  • What kind of environment do they find themselves in?
  • What are their motivations and aspirations?
  • What personal and professional networks do they belong to?
  • What are their comfort zones?
  • What is their perception and opinions about technology solutions like yours and your competitors’?

Specific Questions to Ask Your Buyers

You can consider the list of questions below as starting points:

  • What makes your buyer sit up and pay attention to products and solutions?
  • What words and images do they use to describe these things?
  • What is this buyer’s perspective of your company and products?
  • What is this buyer’s perspective of your key competitors’ companies and products?
  • What are this person’s key buying criteria in general? (What do they typically look at to evaluate?)
  • What are this person’s personal priorities?
  • What are this person’s values, hopes, wishes, dreams, and expectations?
  • What does this person worry about the most at this stage?
  • What are this person’s professional priorities?
  • Where does this person spend most of their time?
  • How does this person typically spend their days?
  • Does this person have fundamental beliefs (that may or may not be aligned with yours) that you need to consider?
  • What kind of network of contacts is this person a part of?
  • Who do they typically turn to for advice or information?
  • How do they typically contact/interact with people?
  • What previous experience does this person have that is relevant to their perception or reception of your product or services?
  • What time will this person be most accessible?
  • How does this person like to make their decision?
  • What would be the closest product or services that person can relate your product or services to?
  • Are there special occasion or events that are important to this person?
  • What obstacles/objections does this person have in each stage of the buying process?

There are of course many more questions, but to avoid getting bogged down in analysis paralysis, focus your attention on the characteristics or insights that are important and unique to describing each of your individual buyers. After you have stripped out the non-essential characteristics, what is left forms the relevant context for each of your buyers and their unique buyer’s journey.

Ready to Take the Next Step? Download our Free eBook

For more ideas on doing research on buyers and understanding buyers insights, check out our eBook on this topic:

Buyer Insights Research: How to Understand Your Buyers So You can Eliminate the Guesswork outlines a step-by-step approach to conducting the kind of research your company needs to:

  • Introduce a more customer-centric way of thinking across the organizationbuyer insights research
  • Improve customer acquisition effectiveness
  • Focus on the decision-makers within a target company and their key influencers
  • Understand the subtle distinctions between different roles in the buying process
  • Build a pipeline with more targeted and effective messaging
  • Create compelling product packaging and pricing schemes
  • Enhance customer success and retention with improved product and service delivery


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