Knowing me, knowing you – The science of understanding buyer personas

Knowing me, Knowing you – The science of understanding buyer personas

As the famous Abba lyrics go “knowing me, knowing you, it’s the best I can do”. Perhaps like me, you’re not an Abba fan, so how about this instead from Alan Partridge “Knowing me. Knowing you A-Ha”.

The key to any successful sales strategy starts with understanding your buyer. B2B selling in 2018 is as much about building insight into the personality of your buyer as it is about insight into their business/market.

Once you understand “who” your buyer is, you will be in a much better position to interact with them, address the issues they face, and build solid relationships. But many companies still miss this all-important step. They don’t do their research, they don’t harness insight about behaviours and sentiments, and they don’t model buyer preferences.

Even the world’s biggest clothing brands have fallen foul of this mistake. In 2010 clothing retailer GAP rebranded in order to appeal to a younger audience.

But they missed the mark, failing to fully understand their current audience profile they suffered a backlash from customers that valued their brand for what it already represented – good, well-made, classic, timeless clothing.

GAP’s mistake was that they attempted to find a new audience without first understanding their existing audience and brand perception – they hadn’t done their buyer persona due diligence and it cost them both financially and in terms of customer loyalty.

So what is a buyer persona and how can you harness insight in order to avoid such costly mistakes.

Defining Buyer Personas

I recently read this description:

Buyer Personas are semi-fictional characters designed to mimic behaviour patterns shared by your customers. Good buyer personas will highlight pain points, universal goals, wishes, or dreams, and general demographic and biographic information. The intent is to accurately personify your ideal customer (the person you’re trying to help with your product or service).  Buyer personas are fictional representations and generalisations of your real-world customers.

Understanding buyer personas has been a long sought after ambition in the world of sales.

Looking as far back as 1964, Merrill and Reid attempted to help sellers define buyer personas, with their research to create a model to predict success in selling and management careers. They developed the Social Style Theory and identified the typical behaviours a person exhibits when interacting with others.

They identified four key buyer personalities:

The Assertive Buyer or Driver

This buyer is looking for results. They are to the point, busy people who like tangible benefits, and are willing to take a risk in order to get maximum reward. They do not easily relent power, they are independent thinkers, but they are also excited by opportunities and positive about meeting challenges.

The Analytical Buyer

This buyer works intangibles. They like data, they respond well to facts, figures and bottom-line impact. They are organised, independent thinkers, who like to take their time when making a decision. They are risk-averse and will not jump in; instead, they ask a lot of questions and conduct significant amounts of research before making decisions.

The Amiable Buyer

This friendly buyer is a true relationship builder. They are not big risk-takers, but are open to suggestion. They tend to be calm, careful and thoughtful, making considered decisions. Typically they are chatty and willing to share information.

The Expressive Buyer

The emotionally-driven buyer. This feelings-driven people person can be an impulsive risk-taker, but their chatty nature means they are keen to engage and share.  They like to look at the bigger picture and understand the long term benefits.

Of course, no buyer is ever going to fit completely into one personality type or another. They may be amiable and assertive, or expressive and analytical, but in general, people tend to operate broadly within their over-riding personality type.

As the definition points out, the intent in defining buyer personas is to accurately personify your ideal customer i.e. the person you’re trying to help with your product or service.

So if these generalisations still hold true, what has changed since the days of Merrill & Reid?

The science of how to develop buyer personas

The big difference today is that understanding buyer personas is a science, and we have a far greater ranges of tools available when it comes to getting beyond generalisations and personifications and instead truly understanding individual buyer personas.

Thanks to big data we can harness insight into the personality, sentiments, needs and goals and pain of our customers.

Furthermore, with the development of advanced analytics and cognitive-based AI solutions that utilise machine learning and natural language processing, we can use this insight to construct predictive models based on customer attributes, understand experiential factors based on the news, views and opinions of the prospect or customer to perfect segmentation, lead generation and execution, and augment approaches and campaigns with a far deeper understanding of how each buyer likes to engage.

4 ways science is helping to define buyer persona and improve sales strategy:

Lead Generation: AI systems that help sellers understand leads better are mining, filtering and delivering insights from billions of data sources to compile a clear picture of buyer personas.

This can include in-depth details on job role and responsibilities, tenure and background, relevant news stories, content prospects post and share, intelligence on brands they follow or what they post about most often, their preferences, sentiments and interests, their needs, goals and aspirations, their pain points and challenges.

These insights into the personality and behaviours of buyers improve real-time understanding of what’s driving them at any given moment for improved lead generation and execution.

Segmentation: AI systems can delve deep to pull out both the qualitative (descriptive buyer-level insights, attributes and sentiments) and quantitative (firmographic) data points that will really help you understand buyer personas and what matters most in their world for improved segmentation.

But more than this in a world where customer behaviour is dynamic true excellence comes from having the power to determine in advance what audiences in each segment need, and predict which actions will have the greatest impact tomorrow, next week, next month or even next year.

Mathematical modelling, predictive analytics and machine are enabling sellers to find new patterns of event types, market challenges and opportunities even in the most well-defined of segments, as well which delivery mechanism will work best for each segment, and predict the most likely buyer response to any engagement.

Account-Based Marketing: Predictive analytics are feeding the ABM process with never-before-seen real-time insight into customer personas, needs and goals, pain points, market dynamics and competitor activity, sentiments and buying triggers.

No longer do sellers and marketers have to produce generic mass broadcast communications, spamming customers and prospects with untargeted, untimely and irrelevant messages.

Instead, they can generate personalised 1:1 emails, customised website experiences and hyper-personalised brand interactions at scale with laser-targeted relevance and pinpoint timing accuracy.

Active content engagement: AI and machine learning techniques correlating patterns of sharing with different buyer personas with actual open rates will predict how likely it is that each customer or prospect will be interested in receiving content, and they type of content most likely to resonate, the best time to act, and how to capture and hold their attention.

Don’t be like GAP

Understanding buyer personas can contribute a great deal to sales strategy. The key is developing a depth of intelligence and insight and actually putting that knowledge to work. This is where Artesian can help.

Artesian makes defining and understanding buyer personas, finding your audience, and delivering personalised engagement easy.