Getting in alignment with buyers today is no easy feat. Every time there is a quarterly review, a pipeline review, and just any kind of review – there is the lingering wish to know more about your buyers.
Insight into buyers is harder to come by. The business world has been flipped upside down when it comes to the buyer-seller relationship. I believe it is a good thing. It is good for business, good for sellers, and good for buyers. What we all are striving for is the common good of getting to know each other more deeply.
In my article, What is a Buyer Persona? Why the Original Definition Still Matters to B2B, I covered the foundations of buyer persona development. To know today’s B2B buyers more deeply involves the use of qualitative contextual inquiry. Contextual inquiry has served the fields of social science, qualitative research, and journalism very well. It can serve B2B Marketing and Sales very well also.
Buyer persona development is an exercise in formulating customer and buyer strategies. To formulate strategies requires informed knowledge about your customers and buyers. One way to characterize buyer persona development is to call it a strategic modeling initiative. An initiative every level of management should go through to make informed decisions. One piece of advice I can give after being at this for a dozen years – do not skip strategy and jump to tactics. You are going to miss out on plenty about your buyers.
Strategic Modeling Tool: The Buyer Persona Canvas™
I am introducing a strategic modeling tool designed for buyer persona development: the Buyer Persona Canvas™. (I drew inspiration for the canvas from Alex Osterwalder’s, founder of Business Model Generation, wonderful creation of the Business Model Canvas commonly used in start-ups.) It is designed to serve as a strategic guide for understanding your buyers more deeply. The model highlights ten (10) areas where we need in-depth knowledge about buyers to make informed strategy decisions.
The Big Ten
The ten areas identified for in-depth knowledge are in synch with the points made in the above-mentioned article. We want to know the: who, what, how, where, when, and why of our buyers. Enabling us to fully understand as well as share the story of our buyers. Let us take a brief look at each element of the Buyer Persona Canvas™:
1. Buyer Persona
The focus here is on understanding the archetype of our buyers. This is tougher than it looks. Especially when going into new markets or launching new products.
Goals are a cornerstone principle in persona research and development. A buyer persona attempts to understand goal-directed buying behavior. Goals are very powerful. They are a motivating force, which shape behavior. Today we are seeing business and personal goals mingle in ways you cannot distinguish easily anymore.
Every industry will display patterns of initiatives and strategies. The purpose here is to gain an archetypal representation of the key initiatives relevant to your buyers and industry. This is factual business intelligence your sales teams needs. They are going to need to talk about them.
4. Buying Team
Influencers, stakeholders, approvers, and etc. can each work independently or in unison. There are patterns, which form for certain industries. Knowing the role your buyer persona plays in the scheme of processes and policies related to buying is critical. Knowing the full story of how people and team members interact in the buying process is just as critical.
5. Buying Process
As in initiatives, we seek an archetypal representation, through mapping, of the buying processes. Modeling the buying cycle and the buyer’s journey end-to-end is important for it gives you the map you need to create the experience buyers seek.
Certain types of buyers, as well as industries, display specific patterns of timing. Gaining insight into this aspect of buying can lead to powerful content as well as sales interaction at the right time. If nurturing is to succeed, then this intelligence is important.
7. Buyer Thinking
This area can often use 3rd party qualitative research help. Understanding how buyers form what we call mental models, a collective merging of attitudes and perceptions, takes some work. Often times, in this area, buyers will do all they can – not to reveal these directly to a selling organization’s marketing or sales personnel. This is an area where buyers struggle to articulate as well.
It is easy to say buyers want to use multiple channels. However, more work needs to be done in the how and why of where buyers are going to make purchases as well as decide. How is this affecting buying behavior in the new digital age?
9. Why Buy
Why buyers buy is another tough element, which may require 3rd party expertise. Especially when this is the area buyers are most reluctant to reveal directly. The attempt is to unlock the not so obvious and the often unarticulated reasons for making decisions.
10. Content and Information
The information and content needs of buyers are shifting much like sand in the wind. What we seek here is not only mapping content to a buying process but understanding the meaning, usage, and sharing of content. More importantly, we seek to know which information directly affects positive buying behavior.
Using this model will help us to know buyers deeply and to make informed decisions. Through the research and the development process, we can gain profound buyer insight. The challenge heading into the next few years is how B2B organizations can turn buyer insight into buyer foresight.
Buyer foresight and predictability cannot happen without knowing the full story of your buyers.
(I have made this model available here for you at this resource: Buyer Persona Canvas™. Specific tools have been developed for each of the 10 elements over the past dozen years. I welcome further conversation if I can be of help in how to begin using the canvas. Please share widely – this view helps us all.)