Effective marketing starts with research. Specifically, it starts with detailed audience research. While this may seem obvious – you can’t market to a group of people unless you know who those people are – the step of building relevant and accurate personas too often gets deprioritized. Whether you’re a large B2B SaaS organization with a mature product or a Series-A B2B SaaS startup building your first SaaS personas set, this post will guide you through the process to begin targeting the right folks.
When it comes to B2B SaaS marketing, building personas – and in any marketing activity aimed at generating leads – we always start with the audience. Doing the upfront work of carefully identifying marketing personas will pay dividends for your marketing strategy by surfacing the decision-making funnel of your targets. You’ll become more familiar with your product and your buyers. How do they make decisions? What problems do they face that our product solves? And what goals do they have you can help accomplish?
What is a B2B SaaS Marketing Persona?
A persona in the context of a marketing plan for SaaS companies refers to the ideal customer, decision maker, and/or user of your software.
Business purchasing decisions are complex – each industry, company, and sometimes department has different protocols for buying new software. Because of this, any mixture of the following attributes and behaviors can factor into the definition of your persona.
Firmographic information relates to specific company characteristics common among the companies your prospective customers work for. Ask yourself: What makes a good customer for our B2B SaaS product?
- What industry or industries do we target with our software?
- What size companies are the best fit for us (employees and/or revenue)?
- What departments in each industry could benefit from our software?
- Do my software user/seat limits impact the size of department we target?
- Is there a preferred company location or locations to exclude in targeting?
- What business model does our software serve (B2B or B2C)?
Demographic information pertains to the specific people with whom your team interacts in the marketing funnel, sales funnel, and customer success process.
There are three key persona types B2B SaaS companies should always consider in a SaaS marketing strategy: The Decision Maker, The Influencer, and The User. Sometimes, depending on your software, these can all be the same people. That makes it important to not only identify each persona type among your target audience, but give each the amount of care it deserves.
Start with your product. Talk to your founder, product team, and sales teams. Ask them: Who was it built for and what problems does it solves for them?
- What are the job titles of the people who make buying decisions for our target companies?
- What about the job titles of the people who could influence the decision maker?
- What are the job titles of the typical daily users of our software?
- What are the job functions of the above three (decision maker, influencer, user)?
- Are there age, seniority, and/or education differences between them?
- Where do each go for industry information?
- Can we identify what motivates each level of persona?
Technographic information aims to identify the best technology environment or stack for your software. You should engage your developers again here and ask: Does our software stand on its own or do we have dependencies?
- Does our software implement and work more smoothly with certain technology suites?
- Is our software an improvement over existing common tools used by our targets?
- Should we focus on more mature technology stacks or companies building from scratch?
- If they exist, what roadblocks keep us from integrating?
Tips for Getting Started Building B2B SaaS Personas
Now you have a big list of questions. But how do you find the answers? While there are myriad tools and services you can engage, most of what you need likely already exists in your company’s knowledge base. It may not all be formally documented, but that’s one of the reasons we’re doing this exercise.
Talk to Sales
Your most tenured sales team members are a gold mine of persona information. They live and breathe the professional relationships with clients and prospects.
Ask your sales team for a list of job titles of the people they talk to in the sales process most often. In what order do they typically see each person introduced into the buying process? Who is added to the meetings later and why? Who makes the final buying decision?
Audit Your Current Customer Base
What makes a “good customer” for your business? Who are the current best customers and why? Why did they choose your product over competitors? You can engage sales leaders to get a feel for this information. Use the Firmographic questions above to prompt the relevant responses.
Identify top industries among your “good customers.” Based on your feedback from sales, your current customer base, and product details, what industries benefit most from your product?
There is a trap to avoid here – many B2B SaaS companies will insist their product in not industry-specific: “We built it to be useful for everyone.” But to repurpose an old saying, “If you’re targeting everyone, you’re targeting no one.” Do your best to narrow your industry targets to only the ones most supported by your persona research.
Identify Your B2B SaaS Persona Pain Points
What is a Pain Point, anyway? In the context of a B2B SaaS marketing strategy, pain points are recurring problems that persistently block efficient and/or effective operations.
Examples of B2B SaaS Persona Pain Points:
- Process bottlenecks
- Disruptions in market conditions or regulations
- Data access and/or visibility therein
- Workflow inefficiencies
- Client churn
- Insecure data and platforms
- Manual processes
- And many, many more
Pain points will be unique to SaaS verticals and even individual software. There are too many to list exhaustively, but that makes it all the more important to be intentional in identifying them for your SaaS product.
Your pain points are invaluable to inbound marketing efforts as they provide a problem for your product to solve for your prospects.
What to Do with Your B2B SaaS Persona Information
Now that you have identified the decision-makers and the funnel that leads to them (influencers & users), you can begin documenting your findings and building generic personas to target.
Create a Persona Reference Document
You’ve collected your persona information and identified the best targets and their pain points. Now it’s time to formally document your findings. This document should be used as a jumping off point for campaign ideation.
Your campaigns should be tightly focused on one persona. For example, if your decision maker persona is a Director-level Marketer in the B2B SaaS industry, it may be difficult to grab that person’s attention. However, you know how to connect with the Sr. Marketing Manager in that industry – the main influencer to that decision maker. Now you can design your campaign to influence the influencer.
Build a Customer Journey Map for Your Personas
Each of your personas will likely take different paths to conversion along your marketing funnel. You won’t be able to predict every possible path, but you can outline the preferred journeys of your prospects. This will allow you to configure campaigns in a way that naturally guides prospects through the marketing experience – building trust and familiarity with your brand.
For example, let’s say you create a top-of-funnel campaign that targets User-level personas. The pain points they are interested in will be vastly different from those of the Buyer persona. Therefore, you’ll need to develop a campaign that utilizes content that addresses those pain points, gives the prospect assets that speak to the Buyer and Influencer pain points, and guide them to a product tour they can share up the chain.
That journey map is very different from a campaign targeting the Buyer persona. The path is shorter but much more difficult to find and traverse effectively. You’ll want to create content and messaging that the Buyer persona will be interested in and then figure out how to get it in front of them. Then you can nurture them into a meeting with sales or a demo session.
Mapping out these persona customer journeys will give you common paths to urge your prospects down in the marketing funnel. You should also be willing to update these as you expand your market and/or learn more about the behavior of your personas.
Iterate and Improve Personas as You Execute and Learn
Now you’ve laid the groundwork to target the most relevant personas in your target market with unique buyer journeys and pain points. Awesome. Now plan and launch that first set of campaigns, document movement through your funnels, and analyze the data. As you identify bottlenecks and accelerators for your funnels, be sure to implement the appropriate adjustments to account for them.
You’ll also begin to get full persona lifecycle information as you experience churn. Go ahead and document as much as you can glean from lost customers. Why did they leave? Was it a lack of User-level features or a money decision? Assign these reasons accordingly to your personas to improve how you communicate these aspects in the marketing process.
As these processes mature, you’ll also begin to learn more about your initial personas and find additional personas to target. As it grows, your company will add more features and products that target different markets and personas. This is why your persona documentation should be a living set of documents that you update as you learn.
If you take the time to set down these marketing persona roots of your B2B SaaS marketing plan, you’ll see faster result and more relevant leads from your campaigns. It all starts with the audience and the audience starts with personas.