The key to targeting and satisfying customers in any market is understanding who they are, what they need and how a product or service is going to affect their lives. That’s exactly the one thing that B2B and B2C businesses have in common.
To fully understand a demographic or a particular audience in marketing, we create something called a “persona” to help highlight various traits and interests they might have. User personas are much more than an educated guess, however.
They’re an incredibly detailed and thorough profile, designed to answer anything and everything about that subset of customers. Some large-scale businesses have multiple personas they deal with and target, while others might have a more exclusive profile.
Some 90 percent of companies that use personas have been able to create a clearer understanding of their buyers, while 82 percent have created an improved value proposition. Furthermore, the use of personas helps make websites two-to-five-times more effective and easier to use by targeted audiences.
The pertinent question is what sets the two markets apart from one another when building these customer personas.
B2B Customers vs. B2C Customers: Understanding the Difference
Typically, B2B customers are part of a larger group or team working for the same company, as opposed to individuals. B2C customers, on the other hand, are the exact opposite and make individual decisions within their own lives and based on their own experiences. This monumentally changes how each persona should be developed and approached.
The nature of B2B relationships means that not only are the customers looking for something different, but they’re also going to react differently.
For instance, a B2C customer might be more inclined to make an impulse purchase, as they tend to make emotion-based decisions rather than logical or strategic ones. That doesn’t mean B2C customers never do research, but it does mean they’re more likely to buy a product or service in the spur of the moment.
A middle-aged stay-at-home mom, for instance, is more likely to snatch up a product or item that promises to help alleviate some of the stresses of her daily routine.
A B2B customer, on the other hand, would invest time researching the product and collecting referrals from past customers, and may even request a trial before buying anything. Again, that doesn’t mean the stay-at-home mom isn’t doing any research. This example merely highlights the different mindsets of each buyer.
Spur-of-the-moment and emotional purchases are rare in the B2B space. Why? Because companies are looking to make value-driven decisions backed by research and experience.
Unlike B2C customers, a team may “want” a particular product more than another, but they’ll still go with the more valuable option for the team or company, rather than themselves. This also means that when making a sale with a B2B company, providers must build trust and establish full credibility.
These characteristics change the reflective persona because they indicate different motivators, needs, and challenges — all elements of a proper persona or profile.
Building the Persona(s)
To start any persona or profile, it makes sense that one would need a subject. This is fairly easy with B2C customers because you’re targeting an individual. For B2B personas, however, you’re likely targeting an entire organization made up of hundreds or thousands of workers.
The best way to build a B2B persona, then, is to model it after one of the company’s core users — generally the CEO or purchasing manager — and then factor in various elements from the larger team as opposed to just that one contact.
From there, you compile the basic information, including names, contact photos, job titles and a brief background. For the B2B persona, you must include the background of the company as a whole, and not just the CEO or core user that was chosen.
Next, identify and transcribe the following details:
- Motivators: This includes information about the core user’s goals and, specifically, what they’re trying to accomplish. Which duties or responsibilities do they have? Which milestones must they reach?
- Needs: This deals with the tools and content the core user might need to accomplish their mission. What do they need? Do they have access to those support points, and can you give it to them?
- Challenges or Pain Points: What regular hurdles or challenges do they face in their day-to-day operations? What can your products or services do to help alleviate these problems?
- Deterrence: What would prevent them from going forward with a relationship with your business? When would they turn down your product, and is there a way to reverse that decision?
- History: What history or experience do they have with your company and your rivals? How long have they been using a comparable product, and why? What does that mean for your potential relationship?
You’ll notice that with many of these traits, hashing out a B2C persona is going to be much simpler, at least when the information is available. That’s because, again, a B2C persona explicitly models one individual or type of customer, whereas a B2B persona is meant to include an entire organization.
Additional factors to consider for B2C personas include:
- Financial Situation: What are their spending habits? Does their income support those habits, and how will that affect their relationship with your business? What is their preferred method of payment, and do you support it?
- Brand Affinities: Naturally, consumers tend to adhere to brand loyalty, especially in established markets. What brands do they love most? What would make them walk away from their favorite brand?
- Major Influences: Whether it’s family and friend recommendations, online reviews, influencers or another source entirely, something usually has a significant impact on the decisions people make. Find out what those influences are and how you can leverage them.
- Online Behavior: Are your core users active on social media? Are they likely to share and discuss your products or services? Will they be purchasing online or in-store?
All of this information should be compiled into a single profile to complete the persona listing or report. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how you structure that profile, as each business or marketing team is going to have something a little different. There are all kinds of buyer personas out in the wild, and what you focus on most is not necessarily going to be what other businesses or brands focus on.
Also, it’s important to note that you can do the opposite with personas you compile by looking at traits you don’t want in your customers. This is called a negative persona. As opposed to highlighting characteristics you might want to leverage, a negative persona can point out things that serve as red flags, allowing you to properly identify a non-prospect.
Customize the Personas
Even after you have the complete buyer personas in hand, you’re not necessarily finished. You could make use of those personas as-is. But they would be more effective to your business and mission if you optimized and maintained them. You should continue shaping the persona so it matches exactly what you need. Consider this:
You’ve compiled a profile for a customer that details their professional background, personal interests, history with your brand and all the other necessary basic details. Previously, you had that customer pegged for a basic or lower-tier plan, but you learn that they recently received a paid upgrade. This information can be added to their persona and at some point leveraged to introduce a higher-tier product or service.
More importantly, even if they don’t make any changes or upgrades, the information stays attached to their persona, easily referenced later. The same can be done if that customer were to downgrade their pay, such as moving to a new position.
While incredibly basic in scope, this example helps to show how buyer personas should remain dynamic. There should be processes in place to review and update information regularly, whether it’s automated or not. It means that a customer persona is never truly complete, which is not unlike the goals or mission of business itself.
You may reach a particular milestone, but you’re always going to be chasing after a goal — it’s the nature of business.
Credit: Feature Image by Malachi Witt from Pixabay.com.