Alibaba: B2B Buyer Personas: The Ultimate Guide

Article credit: Alibaba.com

Being able to reach more qualified leads and sell more products is a priority for most B2B sellers. After launching your online storefront and meeting your first rash of customer orders, your attention should ideally turn next to get more orders in. But how do you do this? A good first step is to create B2B buyer personas for your business.

When used the right way, buyer personas can give you incredible insight into strategies you can implement to supercharge your marketing and attract more qualified buyers.

In this comprehensive guide by Alibaba, we’ll explain all you should know about creating buyer personas, including what they mean, why they are important, and how to get started. We’ll also provide several templates and examples so you can get started right away on creating the perfect buyer persona for your business.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of a business’s ideal customer. It is a detailed description of the type of customer that finds your product valuable and is likely to buy from you.

For B2B businesses, buyer personas are like living representations of your ideal target market. Every seller has a specific kind of customer they want to sell to – this could be a firm with a specific range in turnover, or a business with specific needs and goals. Creating a buyer persona involves breaking this target market down into specifics that help you get a better idea of who you want to sell to.

Usually, buyer personas are created with the aid of extensive research and data about a business’ customers. The goal of the research is to create a document that details the motivations, goals, hobbies, family, frustrations, and challenges of your ideal customer. If this sounds like a description of a real person, that’s because it is, in a way. The goal of creating a buyer persona is to get into the head of your target customer so you know exactly how to sell to them.

Sample of a buyer persona

For example, assume XYZ Limited supplies wholesale textiles to businesses in the clothing industry. Here’s what their buyer persona will look like:

Sample of a buyer persona

You may be wondering why are we talking about creating detailed profiles on individuals when you’re selling to businesses. It’s simple really. As businesses, your B2B buyers are made up of individuals, some of whom will be vital to making the decision whether the business buys from you. A well-researched buyer persona helps you know this individual or individuals better so you know how to nudge their buying decision in your favour.

You may have more than one buyer persona, depending on the type and complexity of your target market. Some sellers have such a wide market that they need 10 or more buyer personas, while others only need to create two or three buyer personas. It doesn’t really matter how many you have. The important thing is knowing you have covered all the types of buyer personas your business wants or is likely to sell to.

What are the types of buyer personas?

In general, there are no specific types of buyer personas. Instead, each business identifies the types of customers they want to sell to in their own way, and create detailed descriptions of these customers.

Certain businesses like to also create negative buyer personas and micro buyer personas. A negative buyer persona is a representation of customers you don’t want to sell to. This may be because selling to that market is not a financially sound decision, or because you’re unlikely to make much headway with such buyers. For whatever reason you create them, negative personas can help you better refine your idea of who your ideal customer is.

micro buyer persona works like an extension of an initial persona. Micro personas allow businesses to provide more depth as they identify different-type customers falling under the initial persona. For example, assume your initial buyer persona, Mitchell, is someone who likes to find products online. You can then segment this description into micro personas based on the specific online channels where these customers like to shop.

Why should sellers create B2B buyer personas?

Although creating buyer personas is a valuable step for any seller, you arguably stand to benefit more from doing this as a B2B seller. This is because B2B buyers are unique in how they interact with products and suppliers.

B2B buyers typically spend more time in your sales pipeline before they finally convert. There is usually a team of people who are responsible for identifying procurement needs, prospecting for suitable suppliers, and determining if the opportunity is acceptable. In addition, there will also usually be a separate decision-maker who has the final say on whether the purchase goes ahead or not. All of this means that selling to B2B buyers takes more time and involves more effort than with other buyers.

To be certain that this investment of time and effort is not wasted, you want to ensure that you are speaking to leads who are likely to make a purchase in the first place. Creating buyer personas helps direct your sales and marketing efforts so that you can attract leads such as these. Here are other reasons why buyer personas are important:

Why buyer personas are important

Buyer personas help businesses start thinking about their products from the customer’s perspective. This is super important for several reasons. Sellers can often make the mistake of “selling to themselves”. This means they create their products and market them as if their customers have similar tastes, preferences, and motivations to themselves.

But as is often the case, this can turn out to be flat out wrong. If you find that you’re making fewer sales than you expect, or your marketing efforts are not providing results, this may be the problem. Having well-researched buyer personas helps you know your customers better so you can accurately anticipate their needs, then position your sale accordingly. Considering the valuable insight this provides, it’s no wonder that 71% of businesses that have detailed personas exceed their goals for revenue and marketing leads1.

With the information about consumer behaviour that buyer personas afford you, it’s easier to develop strategies to market and sell your products.

How buyer personas are used in marketing

Marketers use buyer personas to prospect and find qualified leads. In marketing terms, a lead is a potential customer who has an interest in your products. When a lead is qualified, it means that potential customer is more likely to buy from your business than other leads.

Inefficient marketing efforts often result in many leads who eventually fail to exhibit a real and sustained interest in the company’s products. That can cost you time and money that could have been better spent elsewhere.

In addition, marketers use buyer personas to personalize their messaging and content. This allows them to target customers with content that is relevant to their stage in the buying pipeline and is more likely to move them on to the next stage. As statistics indicate, this is a winning strategy, as personalized content and offers are more likely to result in a sale.

Now, let’s turn to the task of creating buyer personas for B2B clients. Here’s your step by step guide.

Step by step guide on how to create B2B buyer personas

Creating detailed buyer personas is no small task. It relies on collecting enough information about your target buyers through research, interviews, and hard data. You then have to put all of this data together before distilling the essence of what makes up your ideal customer.

All of this will involve massive amounts of time and resources. But it will be worth it. Let’s get into the process below.

Step 1: Questions to ask

To really get into the minds of your customers and identify their motivations, challenges, and pain points, you need to learn all you can about them. A good buyer persona should be able to answer the following questions:

Personal questions

  • What is the buyer’s age?
  • What is their gender?
  • What is their marital status?
  • Do they have children? How many?
  • Where do they live?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • What communication channels are most comfortable for them?
  • What is their education level?
  • What social networks do they prefer?

Industry-specific questions

  • What type of company do they work for?
  • What is their title or role at work?
  • What are their career goals?
  • What does a typical day at work look like for them?
  • How do they define success in the workplace?
  • What are the challenges to achieving this success?
  • What are their biggest fears or pain points?
  • What are their most common objections to possible solutions?
  • How do they prefer to communicate over work-related matters?

Product-specific information

  • Have they ever used your product or a similar product before?
  • How do they choose vendors or suppliers?
  • What is most important for them when making a buying decision?
  • What are their most common objections to your products or similar products?
  • How do they use your product or similar products to achieve success at work?
  • What are the typical success factors when making a buying decision?

You would notice that these questions are of a general nature. You can dig down into specifics as you modify them for your specific target market or industry. But the most important thing is to understand how customers behave in relation to your products, and the context behind that behaviour.

As a result, you must be ready to follow up on each question with other questions that let you understand the context. When you ask “what is most important for you when making a buying decision?”, your next question should be “why?”

Step 2: Conduct customer research

The next step is to find answers to all of these questions via your experience of buyers, interviews, and data from various sources. In carrying out this research, you want to ensure that everyone you work with is on the same page. This is because you will require input from all parts of your business, including marketing, sales, and customer relations, to get an accurate picture of your buyer persona. Here’s how you can conduct the research:

Conduct internal interviews

If your business has started selling already, your best indication of your ideal customer will come from your existing buyers. Your different departments will have unique and helpful information about who your ideal customer is. For instance, sales typically know what products B2B clients like to order, and how they like to order. Marketing understands where buyers came on board, the content they responded to, and other similar trends. Customer relations know what complaints they typically get from customers about product satisfaction etc. All of this information gives you a good start.

Survey your existing customers

Don’t stop at what you think you know internally within your business. Go further to contact your existing, and even previous customers. Learn what attracted them to your business, what motivated them to buy, and how they used your product to solve their business challenges. Keep in mind that you will have the most success with your responses if you can provide some sort of incentive for customers to participate in the survey. You may offer a discount on future orders or a free sample of your product to get them interested. There are several ways you can conduct your survey here. These include:

  • Phone call interviews
  • Online surveys using tools like Survey Monkey or Google Forms
  • Physical questionnaires (although this might not be practical for a large customer base)

Interview other real people

Another source of information about consumer behaviour that you can utilize are your business prospects or leads. These are individuals who did not become customers or buy anything from you. They are useful to add here because you want as many views as possible, including from those who decided not to purchase your product. You can use similar tactics to the interview with existing customers to survey these individuals.

Confirm what you know with online data

This comes last for an important reason. All of the interviews you have conducted so far would have given you a good picture of what your customers look like. But data will help you clarify and refine that picture. It may also help you debunk incorrect assumptions you may have made. What are the data sources you should be considering?

  • Google Analytics is always a great place to start. This free tool can tell you everything you need to know about those that visit your website. This includes data about where they come from, how they find your website, what areas of your website they interact with, and so on.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce will also give you vital information. But this is only useful if you already use the software. Every CRM includes analytics that tells you more about your customers, including their industry and every aspect of their buyer journey.
  • Social listening is another great way to find data about your audience. You can use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to monitor conversations that are relevant to your product. These social networks also have tools, like Facebook’s Audience Insights, that let you dig deep into how people interact with your product on the platform. Reddit and Quora are also great places where you can see questions that people ask about products in your industry and how they behave in relation to these products.
  • Alibaba.com also provides analytics resources that you can employ to find out where your buyers come from, what they buy from you, and so much more.

Step 3: Segment your customers

Now that you have collected a rich pool of data about your customers, it’s time to segment them into relevant groups. You’ll likely find that the answers you received are not all the same. Not all your customers work in the same type of company, or even industry. Your data could indicate that many people find your business over disparate online channels, or they often have very different challenges and pain points.

Segmentation lets you group these customers separately according to their responses so you can begin to get a general idea of your buyer groups. This is also great because you can immediately begin to see how many buyer personas you may need to create from this point.

For example, XYZ Limited has carried out its research, and from the responses they received, they find that they have three types of customers:

  • Mid-sized clothing companies that focus on creating generic clothing. They typically interact with management-level individuals from these businesses, such as a procurement manager;
  • Small to mid-sized original fashion labels typically staffed by three to eight people and run by a single owner;
  • Large-scale fashion labels with multiple supply channels and factories in various countries. They typically interact with a procurement team led by a mid-level manager but buying decisions come from the chief operating officer.

XYZ Limited will need to create three separate buyer personas for these customers, as their goals, challenges, and success factors will all be different.

Don’t be surprised if you are able to find less than four customer segments from your responses. Research indicates that businesses will typically make 90% of their sales from just three to four buyer personas2. The important thing is to ensure that your data and the personas you create are as accurate and detailed as possible.

Step 4: Define your buyer persona

Great work so far. Up to this point, you have all of your research about your ideal customer, and you have hopefully identified the most common segments these customers fall within. Now, it’s time to craft your B2B buyer persona.

Start by understanding what elements you need to include in each profile. You will have already noted several of these from the sample buyer persona we shared above. Here’s a list of those elements you should include. Keep in mind that these elements are not necessarily based on any single customer. Instead, they should be representative of common characteristics you have found in a group of customers.

  • Name: Many businesses like to use descriptive names for this purpose. Above, we used Founder Francine to indicate that the customer is typically an owner of a small to mid-sized fashion label.
  • Personal data / description: This should include demographic data about the buyer, including a summary of their interests, daily life, education level, family, income level, etc.
  • Identifiers: This is a list of traits that help you identify which buyer persona you are communicating with. For instance, identifiers can include the persona’s demeanor, how they prefer to communicate, whether they are likely to have an assistant, etc.
  • Role at work: This helps you understand the title of the buyer persona and whether they are a decision-maker. Ideally, you want to be able to reach decision-makers because they have a large say on whether the business buys from you.
  • Work / industry-related data: This includes the goals of the business, their challenges, pain points, experience with similar products, how they source suppliers, etc.
  • Success factors: Here, you should record what makes a difference when the buyer is choosing suppliers. What do they want from a good product, and how does the product help them achieve success?
  • Action points / messaging: Lastly, each persona should include a description of how you would approach the customer, and what messaging they are likely to respond to for a successful sale.

Conclusion

As you have seen, buyer personas can be the catalyst for serious sales and revenue growth once you employ them the right way. The inside knowledge they give you about your customers will help you better structure your products and marketing for maximum effect.

As you proceed on this journey, Alibaba.com supports you with all the resources you require to find, reach, and sell to B2B buyers from all over the world. Learn about how Alibaba.com can help your business close more B2B sales. Speak to an expert here.

Article credit: Alibaba.com

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Janice is a creative content creator who lives for coffee and cakes! She is a passionate baker, believes in unicorns, dreams to be a fashion consultant and loves to float in the sea.
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