Buyer Personas do a great job finding and reaching probable buyers, while positioning messages and providing data. But it’s possible to make them even more efficient. Here’s a question to start thinking about Buyer Personas from a different angle: Do you want to sell/market? Or have someone buy?
You need both, of course. But right now your Personas just seek to ensure those with a need have optimal data to choose your solution, believing that if you can sell/market appropriately – the right campaign to the right buyer with the right solution, messaged the right way at the right time – buyers will buy. But you could be closing a lot more.
DEVELOPING BUYER PERSONAS
Currently your targeted campaigns are only reaching the low hanging fruit. It’s possible to enter earlier and facilitate (and influence) the hidden portion of the buying journey that the sales model, profiling, positioning, or messaging doesn’t address.
As an outsider, you can never have intimate knowledge of how any particular buyer buys and your generic profiles and categories are not only restricting your audience but missing the opportunity to influence them earlier by
- providing them help traversing the confusing decision path they must travel to
- assemble the entire set of voices that will collaboratively uncover the specifics of a need, and
- get the consensus and manage the change to be ready and able to buy. [i.e. Pre-Sales].
Doing a Google search, I found this definition from Hubspot: “Personas are fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your real and potential customers.” And herein lies the problem: while Personas can generalize the range of needs or buying criteria along a generic standard there’s no way to facilitate any individual user or influence the systemic decision issues they need to resolve before they can consider buying anything. In other words, the very definition of the term (fictional, generalized) excludes the full range of possibility for people who may be buyers, or those seeking data from a site.
But that’s only one of the problems. The other is that you’re missing an opportunity to expand your buyer base and recognize and touch those who need you but aren’t yet prepared to buy, and actually facilitate Buyer Readiness. By shifting the types of information you offer to influence each stage of the Pre-Sales decision path and any Personas that are uniquely involved in a specific buying decision, you can close more.
DATA PROVIDED LIMITS FULL RANGE OF POSSIBILITY
Populating data to attract Buyer Personas assumes you know who is buying and the specific information they need to make a buying decision. But there are inherent problems with this assumption:
- INFORMATION: Information is the very last thing anyone needs as they make a decision, so your data may not be reaching the full range of Buyer Personas until too late. Until buyers get all the right voices on board, know the risks of bringing anything new in to their status quo, and have consensus, they don’t even have a complete description of their needs. So the information you offer will only be read by those who have completed their change work and know they need to buy something, (and then you’re fighting against your competition), and your important data may not be used. Knowing what Personas are doing with your data is important to consider: Do they need research data for a meeting with their regular vendors? Do they want comparisons against their own capability – and use it to enhance themselves without ever buying your solutions? Or are they among the relative few who have already gotten consensus and buy-in, and ready to make a purchase? Until then, even if you have an appropriate solution they cannot buy.
- A PURCHASE LAST: Every buyer group must traverse a 13 step systemic, unique, and personal change-based Buying Decision Path before they are ready, willing, or able to buy. Indeed, buyers don’t want to buy anything, they merely want to resolve a problem and the last thing they do, when all else fails, is consider buying. By offering data to those you consider Buyer Personas, you may influence those who have completed their Pre-Sales buying journey and determined a willingness to buy, but miss the opportunity to facilitate the greater number of prospective buyers who actually need you but aren’t yet ready.
- NEED TO BUY: A buying decision is a change management problem, not a solution choice issue. Until they determine they canNOT congruently fix a problem themselves with familiar resources, buyers aren’t even seeking to buy anything regardless if they have a need for our solution. Getting solution data to these folks at the wrong time is moot and ignores the chance to help potential buyers get to the point of willingness and ability to buy.
- CHANGE MANAGEMENT: As an outsider you can’t know how a specific group, Buyer Persona, or community agrees to change as a purchase is a systems/change/resistance issue. Until or unless the group understands the entire set of givens they must confront, they don’t even know if they will buy anything, regardless of their ‘need’ or the efficacy of your solution.
- UNDERSTANDING: It’s not possible to ‘know’ or understand your buyer specifically, or what they’re thinking. All buyers live in a unique ‘system’ of relationships and rules, history and habits that no one outside their system can understand. When it’s time, of course you’ll need to understand in order to sell. But I’m suggesting you first put your consulting/coaching hat on first to get all of the approriate Personas on board and help them facilitate change – and THEN sell, gather data, and understand.
- SEQUENCE OF CHANGE: There are very specific steps buyers must take en route to finally deciding if a purchase is the way to go. Making information available to those folks you believe to be the Buyer Persona may not be read if it’s out of sequence with their decision/change steps, or not passed on to the group at the right time, or not explained properly in a meeting, or used with other vendors. Anything – anything – that comes from the outside will be used uniquely and out of your control.
- RECOGNIZING BUYING DECISION TEAM: Not only can outsiders never know for sure exactly who is on a buyer’s Buying Decision Team, it takes a while for our buyers to recognize their full complement of decision makers and influencers as it’s not always obvious. Everyone routinely forgets ‘Joe’ in accounting, or fails to bring in HR until the very end when she enters an almost-completed decision process and throws oil on the fire. But until everyone is on-board, they can’t even know their needs let alone know if they want to buy anything.
If you knew how to truly influence, or find the full set of Buyer Personas, you’d be closing more sales. Currently, you continue to attempt to push your content out, hoping – hoping is the operative word – it lands where you want it to land, but face an unnecessary failure factor when your only tool is to ‘understand need’ or ‘offer’ good, relevant information that may get to them at the wrong time or in the wrong way for them. Why not put on a Coach/Consultant hat on first, enter during the decision/change phase first, become part of the change-based decision path, discover ALL of the Buyer Personas, and actually lead them through their Buyer’s Journey and facilitate Buyer Readiness?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER FACILITATING THE BUYING DECISION PATH
To get the right information to the right people (i.e. the full complement Buyer Personas) at the right time, the following things must occur for a buyer before they can consider what solution or vendor to choose:
- Assemble the full Buying Decision Team: since buyers cannot consider or even have the accurate fact pattern for any potential need until the entire complement of folks is assembled, how can you use the Buyer Persona model to help your particular buyer universe discover how to know if they have collected ALL of those who will be affected by a change (which might include your solution)?
- Discern the givens: until ALL of the givens – the people, policies, history, relationships – are recognized and understood, buyers cannot know how ready for change they are. They would rather maintain their status quo than face disruption, and can’t know the parameters of possibility until then. How can Buyer Personas help them?
- Workarounds: to avoid disruption, buyers will attempt to use familiar resource to fix their issues. They will contact old/current vendors, try to have current teams fix the problem, etc. The last thing they’ll do is buy anything as the process is too disruptive. Can Buyer Personas help here?
- Change management: until or unless buyers can be certain that a purchase will not lead to disruption, and they have figured out how to get buy-in/consensus and manage change, they cannot buy. What would it look like if you added change management to your informatin the Buyer Personas will read?
All of these issues are Pre-Sales, do NOT include seeking to make a purchase, and are focused on maintaining Systems Congruence. Until all of the above is handled your focus on getting ‘good’ data to them ignores the change management portion of the Buyer’s Journey and only finds the low hanging fruit.
Let’s come up with additional profiles and categories for the types of issues buyers need to handle as they traverse their decision and change issues by entering early with a different focus and using Buyer Personas to facilitate the buyer’s change issues first. Use your knowledge of the buying environment to create different types of content to focus on each Pre-Sales decision factor and an expanded set of Buyer Personas. Become part of the Buying Decision Team, be there are they traverse their change, and be ready and prepared to sell when it’s time….with the prospects who will/can buy.
I’ve developed a change facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) that enables buyers to involve all the right people very quickly, fully understand the complexities of their situation, discover how to test workarounds, get consensus, and manage change. It employs a specific guided approach to coach buyers through their internal politics, consensus, and change processes, with profoundly different results from using sales and marketing alone. With a focus on addressing the path of congruent change, it employs a new form of question, a different type of listening, and a systems-thinking role consistent with true consulting. Once you’ve facilitated buyers to the point they recognize they need to make a purchase, you’re already on their Buying Decision Team – and then you can sell or market earlier and faster, to the right people.
I can teach your sales team how to become facilitators, show your marketing team ways to design the right questions to help buyers traverse each stage of their unique buying journey, and help you write the content to find and influence the full range of Buyer Personas. See more articles on www.sharondrewmorgen.com.