This blog post analyses our checklist for creating B2B technology personas. Understanding your audience is critical to success in B2B marketing. Unlike consumer marketing, however, a lot of the fluff and colour has limited value when creating a B2B persona. What is critical is understanding what drives each persona’s decision. Drivers can be things that cause problems, or pain, as well as things that raise their status with their boss or within their organisation.

Before you can start creating personas, you should understand the different people who might be involved in the decision-making unit (DMU). Or if you’re American, you’ll probably call this the “buying committee”. Understanding the different people involved when a purchase is made is the first step to building personas. You then need to take these different people and group them together: for example, gatekeepers are often similar personas, as are the senior executives who will approve the purchase. If you are selling a technical product, however, you might have two or more engineer personas as they are the people that understand the product have disproportionately high influence on which supplier is chose.

Once you have understood the DMU, follow this checklist to make sure that you create the most useful personas possible.

Persona Checklist
  • ✓  Consider everyone. It’s important to make sure you consider everyone who is involved in the purchase, whether they select the product, approve it, or are simply influencers.
  • ✓  Gather information. Talk to sales teams and if possible customers to find out how decisions are made and who is involved.
  • ✓  Identify the role that everyone plays in the DMU. The Marketing Teacher website has a great guide to the roles in a DMU. Note that one persona might cover several people who play different roles in the DMU
  • For each persona you create, ask:
    • ✓  What are their firmographics/demographics? It’s useful to know some basic information such as industry, company size, education, age (or time in business) seniority, job title(s) etc.
    • ✓  How are they measured? Are their KPIs tied to their job role?
    • ✓  What are their pain points? You need to understand what keeps them awake at night. For example, do they care about system uptime,  running costs, quality or something else?
    • ✓  How do they look good? What can they do to look good to their boss and ultimately further their career?
    • ✓  What is their attitude to risk? Are they likely to want to try new products and suppliers or are they more likely to stick with what works? What do they perceive as safe and what do they think is risky?
    • ✓  Confirm their role. In particular are they a decision-maker, approver or influencer?
    • ✓  Why do they care about the products or services you are selling? How does your product help them achieve their goals?
    • ✓  Messaging: what do you need to say to them?
  • ✓  Reduce the number of personas. Once you have created the personas, look to see if you can combine personas together to reduce the number. You’re looking for the “Goldilocks number” – not too many and not too few. Normally the best campaigns use 3-6 personas
  • ✓  Validate your personas. Go back and ask the sales teams or customers you talked to earlier to see if what you have created is right

There are a huge number of different persona templates available, which all have pros and cons. We recommend concentrating on the actionable data: for example, although whether the persona is likely to own a dog or not is an interesting bit of colour, it isn’t something that you can easily use in a B2B campaign. So focus on the work-related details, and in particular the things that will motivate the persona to choose your product.