The Marketing Strategist:
Ask ITSMA: Using the Buy Cycle to Build Buyer Personas
Each month, ITSMA receives a number of queries through Ask ITSMA, a resource designed to give members a quick and easy way to get insight on important services and solutions marketing questions they face. In this column, we will publish some of our favorite questions, along with excerpts from our replies.
Question: We are looking to develop buyer personas and have focused on how they decide and deal with the decision-making process. Are we missing anything?
Answer: You raise an important question. For your customers, the buying process has multiple stages: exploring options, reviewing vendor capabilities and fit, building and evaluating a shortlist, negotiating the deal, and, following the contract, ensuring successful delivery. By focusing solely on the decision-making process you could miss some important insights about how different buyer types deal with earlier and later stages of the whole process. For example, what triggers customers to look for solutions and how do they look? How do they create and evaluate their top candidates? Who do they work with at different stages? And what defines a successful engagement?
ITSMA has adopted the approach outlined by the Buyer Persona Institute to capture this more complete outside-in perspective based on a comprehensive understanding of purchase drivers, expected outcomes, obstacles to conducting business with another, and specific evaluation criteria and their priorities, as well as the tactical process of tasks done alone, by others, or in conjunction. Focusing on the decision-making process is important but not sufficient. Without considering the different stages of the buying process you may unintentionally limit the value of your personas and undermine their utility in developing the most effective marketing content and programs.