You wouldn’t try to catch a ten-foot Grizzly with a mousetrap, or a whiskered cheese-snatcher with a bear trap. Nor should you approach a legal firm specializing in tax law with marketing content designed for IT firms who specialize in security issues. It’s just not an effective B2B marketing strategy.

We all know this, of course. But there are next-level ways of appealing to particular demographics. Consider buyer personas. These are fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customers. When used properly, these personas can help us define and internalize the customers we want to attract—helping us craft our products and strategies to fit their needs.

In our example above, we might construct about Tax Law Toby, or Online Security Sally. But creating a buyer persona involves much more than slapping a name on a vague demographic category. They should be built on information gathered about—and from—real customers. And because they’re based on very real people and firms, buyer personas help inform product development and marketing decisions in a very real way.

Here’s How to Create a Buyer Persona:

1. Gather demographic info. You probably have quite a bit of this on hand already—basics like gender, income, occupation, and so forth. This data won’t tell you everything you need to know, but it makes a pretty sturdy skeleton on which to build your buyer persona.

2. Find customer and prospect pain points. What problems or concerns do your ideal customers face on an ongoing basis? If you’re going to be part of their solutions, you need to fully understand what they’re facing.

Note: You should be looking for the pain points of multiple types of buyers. It’s unlikely you’ll have a single buyer persona to cater to. If you work with different industries, specializations, etc., separate their data by appropriate category.  For example, Pharmaceutical Phil and Engineering Gina will have very different pain points and needs.

3. Set up interviews. You’ll want to talk to current clients, and prospects—even former prospects that went elsewhere for service solutions. Your customers can tell you what you’re doing right and how you fit their needs—as well as how you occasionally fall short. Prospects can offer insights into why they haven’t chosen you yet and what they’re looking for. And the ones that got away might have a lot to share about why they didn’t choose you. Maybe another firm has a deeper understanding of their challenges—or so it seemed at the time.

SEE ALSO: Mapping the Client Journey: A Model for Professional Services

4. Send out surveys. When facing time or availability constraints, surveys can collect a lot of valuable data. While an interview or discussion can lead to deeper discussion and insights, some respondents may be more willing to open up—especially about negative points—in a survey format.

But What to Ask?

You’re eager to develop your buyer personas. You’re collecting plenty of basic demographic data, and you have customers and prospects that you’re certain will supply you with valuable information. But what exactly should you ask? We’re glad you asked.

1. Role. Ask about titles, typical days, and what skills they use regularly. Find out what tools they needed to carry out tasks, and who reports to the interviewer—as well as who they report to.

2. Background. In addition to basic demographic information, ask respondents about their career path. Get background on their education, certifications, and special training.

3. Goals & Challenges. What are your interviewees responsible for? What do they hope to accomplish in their current role, as well as future positions? What are their primary challenges and how do they define success for their company and for themselves?

4. Networks. Where do your respondents get their industry news? What blogs, websites, or newspapers do they read? What online or industry groups and associations do they belong to and in what ways do they participate?

5. Vendor Interactions. What’s are their preferred methods of connecting with vendors? Email? Phone? Face-to-face? How do respondents research products or vendors? Online? Through social media? Colleague recommendations? Have them describe a recent purchase. How did they connect with the vendor or find out about the product? What was their evaluation process, and what factors tipped them in favor of their choice.

6. Why. Every question, whether about demographics, challenges, or recent purchases, should be followed up with a why. This one-word query will provide a world of context to help inform your buyer personas.

Make Them Real and Use Them

All of this data will paint a picture—or pictures—of your ideal customer(s). Use it to construct a detailed buyer persona. Give them names, faces, and bio built on everything you’ve discovered. And remember, buyer personas aren’t set in stone. Revisit customer needs periodically and adjust your personas as necessary—especially when making changes to your offerings or when pursuing a new industry.

When done right, these personas can help you relate to customers as real people with real interests and concerns. Keep them in mind when brainstorming a new product or B2B marketing strategy. Fictional or not, a well-researched buyer persona can be a marketing professional’s best friend.

Additional Resources:

How Hinge Can Help:

We do original research for professional services firms on topics such as your brand, clients’ experience and your competitive environment.  We also help investigate potential new products, services or markets. With our deep experience and unrivaled database, we can offer benchmarks and insightful recommendations.