Building B2B personas that don’t sound like robots

Oliver Wilson

In B2B, there’s a silent misstep many businesses take: creating personas as lifeless as a shop mannequin. Crafting authentic personas is critical to a marketing strategy that not only resonates but also converts.

We usually avoid using the term B2B internally, because it often fails to acknowledge the people behind the businesses our work is reaching. Real people with real problems, gut feelings, attention spans, humour, pressures, and more.

That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to help your personas stay on the right track, avoid the trap of robotic copy, and make personas sound more human. 

Missing the mark: Examples of ineffective personas

Example 1: IT Ian 

Described as a 40-year-old IT manager who is fond of technology and seeks out solutions for smoother operations.

The problem? It’s too vague. There’s no real sense of who Ian is beyond his job title.

Ian is as generic as they come. Knowing he likes “technology” is hardly groundbreaking for an IT manager. Where’s the nuance?

Example 2: HR Hannah

An HR professional wanting efficient HR tools and appreciating good customer service.

The flaw? Hannah is painted with a broad brush. What kind of organisation does she work for? What challenges does she face daily? Hannah might be anyone in any HR department, anywhere. We need specifics about her unique challenges and goals.

Hitting the bullseye: Crafting effective personas

Example 1: The juggler – Tariq from IT

An IT director for a large e-commerce company, Tariq grapples with maintaining a robust tech infrastructure while the company scales rapidly. When he’s not troubleshooting, he’s juggling life as a dad of two, catching up on the latest tech trends via podcasts during his daily commute.

The strength? We get Tariq. We understand Tariq’s environment, pressures, and personal habits. We understand his professional challenges, his daily life, and how he stays updated.

Example 2: The champion – Liz from HR

As an HR manager for a mid-sized, dynamic consulting firm, Liz wrestles with the intricacies of establishing remote work policies, all while ensuring her team’s mental well-being isn’t compromised. A staunch advocate for work-life balance, Liz frequently enrols in workshops focussed on holistic employee welfare.

The win? Liz isn’t just an HR manager. She’s a champion for employee wellness, navigating the complexities of modern work cultures.

Gleaning insights from real individuals

This cannot be stressed enough: Base your personas on real-world insights. Instead of leaning on assumptions, collaborate with your sales and customer service teams. They’re in the trenches, interfacing with clients daily, and can offer a depth of understanding that’s hard to replicate.

Depth, detail, and dimension

While crafting a persona, it’s essential to strike a balance. How much should you reveal? Enough to make them relatable but not so much that they become fictional novellas.

Focus on:

  • Their specific job roles, real-world responsibilities and unique challenges.
  • The goals driving them and their intrinsic motivations.
  • Personal routines or habits that intersect with their professional role.
  • The ‘bigger picture’ challenge or opportunity their company faces and the subsequent pressure placed on them.

Versatile formats for varied audiences

How you deliver your personas will largely depend on your budget, time and resources, though the core content will be similar across the board. These fictional representations of your ideal customers help streamline your marketing strategies, product development, and sales processes. However, as diverse as businesses are, so are the ways in which you can present these personas. Here’s a closer look at some of the varied formats and approaches you can utilise.

#1 Written profiles or ‘Narrative personas’: 

  • Comprehensive and ideal for internal documentation.
  • Delivered in the form of a Word document or a slide deck.
  • The most common and look like short biographies. 
  • Typically include demographic information, professional background, goals, challenges, and preferred channels of communication.  
  • Should include much more than standard information and explore emotional pain points, motivations, and real-world insights.

#2 Infographics: 

  • For a snapshot view, perfect for quick briefings and visual prompting. 
  • These are great for quick references and for presentations. 
  • For teams who can lean on data, you can incorporate graphs, pie charts, and bar charts to quantify different persona attributes.
  • Or use your ‘Narrative Personas’ to build out an engaging one-pager so that teams are more likely to retain information. 

#3 Videos: 

  • To immerse your team into the persona’s world.
  • Excellent for in-depth training.
  • Can be delivered by someone talking about the persona or someone embodying the persona itself.
  • Showcases a typical day of your persona and offers insight into daily challenges and decision-making. 

Injecting humanity into your personas

There’s a lot of work that goes into ensuring your personas are based on real people and scenarios, but here are some quick wins that will set you off on the right path. 

  • Opt for authentic names and faces: Steer clear of alliterations and generic stock photos.
  • Incorporate direct customer quotes: Makes the persona grounded in reality.
  • Detail personal quirks or interests: Perhaps they’re an amateur artist who believes in working smarter not harder, or an over-achieving trekker? These nuances can help inform subtle marketing strategies.

In essence, for your B2B marketing strategy to resonate, it needs to be rooted in authenticity. By breathing life into your personas, you’re not just creating marketing collateral – you’re establishing genuine connections.

We’ve just scratched the surface of what it takes to craft compelling personas, and for us and the businesses and brands we work with, we always start with a messaging matrix. This helps get everyone aligned on what your key positioning, selling points and benefits are, before we take a focused deeper dive into your personas. Find out more about our Brand Strategy services or take a look at all six of our impacts

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